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.

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.

Cloud Words – IaaS, SaaS, PaaS – What Do All These Mean?

iaas saas paas what do all these cloud words mean

Many industries have a wide array of acronyms they employ in order to define certain industry-specific concepts, products, and services, and the field of information technology is no exception. While technology experts are typically well-versed in the meaning of the various cloud words, for the average layperson, they can present a definite challenge.

Of course, in order to determine which technology services will deliver the best results for a business, it’s important to understand all the various options available. In this post, we will discuss three acronyms used to define cloud services, specifically, IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS, to bring about a clear understanding of what these services have to offer to a variety of corporate settings.

Defining IaaS

IaaS is an acronym for “infrastructure as a service”

Companies who decide to select this type of service often do so because they don’t want to invest in substantial amounts of hardware in order to support their various software packages and apps. Instead, they invest in cloud services such as virtualization and server space to meet their needs. Buying hardware does mean more accessibility and control, however it also comes with a hefty price tag that smaller companies often find off-putting.

While IaaS provides the benefit of reduced costs and the time involved in maintaining hardware,  business owners are still responsible for maintaining their software. This means they either must have some degree of technological expertise to manage this on their own, or they need a dedicated IT person or perhaps a team to provide software support.

Defining SaaS

SaaS stands for “software as a service”

SaaS allows smaller companies to take advantage of pre-built cloud-based apps that have a defined purpose.  Rather than creating a custom software package to perform a task, smaller companies can simply incorporate third-party apps such as Dropbox for their file sharing requirements, or they can use Shopify if they need an eCommerce site platform. While outsourcing certain tasks does have certain advantages in that it may allow companies to get a certain project up and running faster, and they won’t be responsible for maintaining third party applications, there are some downsides.

Employing third-party software apps means a business will have little to no opportunity to customize the app to suit their specific needs.  They also have no control over third-party apps, which lessens their degree of control over potential security issues as well.  In addition, integration may be challenging with SaaS, since third party software may not work with a company’s current overall platform, or a new platform if they decide to change at some point in the future.

PaaS

Last but not least, PaaS stands for “platform as a service”

If a company wants customized software to meet their needs, PaaS  can provide them with the cloud-based tools they need to build their own customized software. With PaaS, developers are given access to a vast library of pre-built elements, so they don’t need to code every process from scratch. Developing, testing, and deploying all happen in one environment, making it generally faster and easier to pump out software applications.

A downside to PaaS is that it is not a good option for companies who work with confidential data, which they may be required to keep on-site by law. Also, for businesses who already have some existing frameworks they would like to keep, this may present a significant challenge when trying to integrate them into a new PaaS platform.  

We’re Here to Help

When it comes to cloud-based platforms and services, there truly isn’t one right or wrong solution. The beauty of having the options such as PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS, is that it allows companies to choose the best solution to meet their specific needs.

If you would like more information on how to select the right cloud-based services for your unique setting, please contact us.

Office 365 vs. Office 2019 for Business

office 365 vs office 2019 for business
Office 365

Microsoft is an essential part of many business’ operations. Businesses rely on Microsoft Word for their word processing needs, Excel for spreadsheets and PowerPoint for presentations. The cloud has become an integral part of Microsoft’s offerings, and this had led the company to offer two different versions of Microsoft Office: 

  1. Office 365
  2. Office 2019

 Each version can be used for business, but which is ideal?

Office 365: Cloud-based

Office 365 is cloud-based, so you pay for a subscription either monthly or yearly. Cloud-based, Microsoft worries about updates, infrastructure and security. You or your employees simply log into Office on your web browser and can make Word documents, spreadsheets or any other file under the Office suite of products.

What’s nice about Office 365 is that it can be accessed anywhere on any Internet-connected device.

You can work on a document in the office, go home, and then work on the document some more. Automatic saving makes the process streamlined. Office 365 for business comes with the following office applications:

  • Access (only on PC)
  • Excel
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Word

All versions come with OneDrive, but the higher version comes with a few extras:

  • Exchange
  • SharePoint
  • Teams

You will receive a desktop version of Office applications with Office 365. The maximum number of users on the business plan is 300, so everyone in the office can have access to Office 365.

Office 2019: Standalone Version

Office 2019 is a standalone product, so it’s a one-time purchase. You won’t have to pay subscription fees, but you won’t have the benefit of online collaboration on the cloud. Licenses are valid for one PC or Mac, and fully-installed versions will include the following:

  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Word

You’ll need to update Office 2019, and all of your files will be stored on your computer or server. A disaster recovery plan should be in place when using the standalone version of Office 2019, or you risk losing your data if your hard drive fails, you get a virus, or data becomes corrupted.

Which Office is Best for Your Business?

If you don’t have the budget for Office 365, Office 2019 may be the best option. In most other cases, Office 365 will offer the most flexibility. Not only does Office 365 come with its own version for your PC or Mac, but it will also offer:

  • Regular updates from Microsoft (you never need to upgrade)
  • Cloud-based data storage
  • Ease of collaboration for larger teams
  • Linking directly to files in the cloud
  • Access to all applications on multiple devices

Office 2019 will need to be updated when Office 2020 is released, but you can continue using Office 2019 for as long as you wish.

Contact us today to develop an Office 365 solution for your small- or medium-sized business.

Moving to the Cloud? Nail Down The Contract First

moving to the cloud nail down the contract first
Move to the Cloud Nail Down the Contract

Cloud computing has several advantages for small and medium-sized businesses. It allows easier access to company applications and software while on-the-go. It also frees up small companies to focus on growing their business, rather than getting bogged down maintaining their own technology resources. However, just because a business decides to hire an outside provider to manage their cloud resources, it doesn’t mean they are off the hook when it comes to protecting their most valuable asset — their corporate data.

When interviewing various cloud providers, there are several key points to consider before signing on the dotted line.

Physical Attacks

Just as any in-house servers would be vulnerable to fire, flood, power outages, or a natural disaster, so would the servers of any cloud provider managing a company’s cloud data. Since an organization’s data is the lifeblood of their company, it is critically important to feel comfortable with a potential cloud provider’s plan for protecting data in the case of these types of occurrences.

Security

Of course, it’s no secret that threats to external hackers and data breaches must be addressed, but there are internal threats as well. Just as it is important for companies to limit who is able to access what data within their own group of employees, so it is with any cloud provider they might hire as well. When interviewing potential providers, it’s important for both parties to clearly understand which provider employees will be given access to the client’s data.

A small business should feel comfortable that their cloud provider has strong measures in place to prevent unauthorized access, whether the access is attempted either internally or externally. If a breach or data loss does occur, there must be a clear understanding of what steps the provider will take to recover and correct the situation.

Costs and Flexibility

Of course, it’s very important to have a clear understanding of all the set-up costs associated with transitioning to a cloud provider, as well as long-term billing expectations. Another important factor to consider is whether a cloud provider uses any proprietary technology to service their clients. If they do, it could be difficult to transition to another provider if a small business decides their current provider is not a good fit.

For additional tips about signing a contract with a cloud provider, please contact us.