With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing employees to work from home, you and your staff can take advantage of Microsoft Teams to stay productive. Microsoft recently enhanced this already powerful tool’s capabilities, making it easier for more people to take advantage of its advanced features.

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams combines workplace chat, video conferencing, and file storage and collaboration. It also has extensions that integrate with third-party apps, even those not made by Microsoft. As a unified communication and collaboration platform, Teams is like combining Slack, Google Drive, and Zoom into a single app.

How do you get Microsoft Teams?

If you have an Office 365 license, then you can readily access Microsoft Teams. But that’s not the only way to access and take advantage of the platform.

Individual users can use their work or school email address to sign up through this link. You will automatically receive a license valid until January 2021. This license lets you take advantage of chat, screen sharing and recording, video meetings with up to 250 participants, and Live Events for up to 10,000 participants.

If you have a Gmail or Outlook email address, you can sign up for the freemium version by clicking on this link. This version supports chat as well as group and one-on-one audio or video calling. It also gives you 10 GB of team file storage and 2 GB of personal file storage.

The previous freemium version used to have various limits on users, but Microsoft opted to lift these restrictions on March 10. Another notable change is the inclusion of meetings requests, which Microsoft has committed to include in the freemium version in the future.

Microsoft also offers assistance to IT professionals looking to roll out Teams for their company. Microsoft offers a free Office 365 E1 for six months. All you have to do is to contact your Microsoft partner or sales representative.

If you work in the education sector , Microsoft recommends getting Office 365 A1, a free version specially created for educational institutions. This version is available for students, teachers, and administrative staff.

How does Microsoft Teams remain at peak performance during the crisis?

The sudden increase in remote workers is sure to put a lot of pressure on many platforms, but Microsoft Teams is more than prepared to handle the load. In particular, it is designed to anticipate problems on three core aspects:

  • Systems during a sudden surge in usage
  • Location during an area-specific event, such as a hurricane
  • People during an event that affects users, such as COVID-19

To address problems in these aspects, Microsoft implements what is called an Active/Active Design. This means that the system uses multiple instances in response to user request or input. These instances run in different datacenters, which means that an event that affects one cannot affect the others. This enables the system to isolate problems and resolve them without affecting performance.

Microsoft Teams offers a great opportunity for companies to remain productive in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you want to get started or understand how you can take full advantage of its functionalities, just give us a call.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Selecting a Wi-Fi router, much like selecting any other piece of equipment for your business, can be a complicated task. There are a variety of models available that it can be a chore to work out the best option. However, if you know what features to look for, it’s much easier to make the right decision.

Network type

Look at any router and you will quickly see that there are a number of different networks available. The four most commonly found are 802.1b, 802.1g, 802.1n, and 802.11ac. These designations indicate how fast the router can transfer wireless data, with 802.11ac being the fastest of these four. Those who want to connect multiple devices via Wi-Fi or cable may do better with 802.11ac router.

Throughput

This is closely associated with the router’s network type, and is usually one of the first things listed on router boxes and specifications. To spot the router’s throughput, look for Mbps. This indicates the speed at which the router is supposed to transmit data from your connection to users.

Keep in mind that if you have a 100Mbps internet connection, but a router that is only, say, 80 Mbps, then the total speed will be the lower figure. Therefore, it would be a good idea to get a router with a higher throughput to accommodate faster connections.

Range

This is particularly important for users who will be connecting via Wi-Fi as they will likely not be sitting right beside the router. The farther you are from your router, the slower and weaker your connection will be. Typically, 802.11ac will offer the strongest connections and greatest range.

Bands

On every single router’s box, you will see numbers like 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz. These indicate the wireless radios on the router. A dual-band router will have both 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz radios which allow devices to connect to different bands so as not to overload a connection. Those who connect to a 5Ghz band will generally have better performance, but the broadcast range will be much shorter than the 2.4Ghz radio.

Quality of service (QoS)

QoS is a newer feature that allows the router administrator to limit certain types of traffic. For example, you can use the QoS feature of a router to completely block all torrent traffic, or limit it so that other users can have equal bandwidth. Not every router has this ability, but it is a highly beneficial feature for office routers.

Beamforming

Beamforming is a recent feature that’s becoming a standard in mid- to high-end routers. It is a form of signal technology that allows for better throughput in dead areas of a business. In other words, it can help improve the connection quality with devices behind solid walls or in rooms with high amounts of interference.

By utilizing this technology, routers can see where connection is weak and act to improve it. While this is available on routers with many network types, it is really only useful with routers running 802.11ac. Those who don’t mind paying a higher price point for an increase in network performance should consider this feature.

Multiple input, multiple output (MIMO)

MIMO is the use of multiple antennas to increase performance and overall throughput. MIMO-enabled routers ensure that more devices can connect to one router with less interference.

When it comes to real-world tests, there is often a slight improvement if antennas are configured and aimed properly. However, getting a high-end router with six or more antennae may be an unnecessary cost for small businesses.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to picking a router, which is why we recommend you contact us. We can evaluate your networking needs and help you find the best set up for your business.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Technology enables businesses to work remotely, collaborate more efficiently, and manage their time more effectively. But to achieve these benefits, you need to implement technologies that align with your business’s needs. Here are some things to consider.

Change office communication

To increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. This allows employees to communicate anytime, anywhere instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available.

Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Install video conferencing

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way, you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease.

Upgrade workstations

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. That’s why it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Implement ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a business process management software that allows organizations to automate processes and centralize data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and use. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralized database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

 

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

 

 

 

Businesses need technology to be profitable and productive. But not all technologies are capable of delivering on their perceived benefits. To make sure your investments are still worth keeping, you need to perform technology business reviews.

What is a technology business review?
A technology business review reveals the strengths and weaknesses of your company’s IT framework. It’s often performed by a third-party IT consultant who will give an objective assessment of your technology and provide recommendations to help meet your goals. If done properly, technology business reviews allow you to:

 

Save money
Every review starts with a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether a solution you’ve implemented is worth the continued investment. If there are technologies costing you a fortune in management and maintenance fees, consultants will advise you to cut them from your budget. The best ones will even recommend cost-effective alternatives so you can do more with less.

 

Increase productivity
System-wide reviews of your IT infrastructure show you what processes are hindering operations and propose solutions that let you work faster and smarter. For example, if employees are mainly sharing files via email, consultants might suggest cloud collaboration platforms like Office 365 or G Suite that store data in a centralized location for seamless file sharing.

 

Enhance security and compliance
Technology business reviewers also uncover security risks within your business. Consultants scan for missed patches, poorly configured networks, and other software vulnerabilities that make it easy for cybercriminals to hack your systems.

 

They’ll then compile their findings to create a more robust defense strategy, usually one that involves implementing advanced solutions like intrusion prevention systems, file access restrictions, and patch management software.

If you operate a business that’s subjected to data regulations like HIPAA or PCI-DSS, consultants will also pinpoint IT practices and solutions that are noncompliant and customize a strategy that ensures the privacy, integrity, and availability of your data.

Implement technologies that fit
Considering that new technologies are released at a breakneck pace, it’s important you pick the ones that make sense for your operation, its goals, and the bottom line. Technology business reviews keep you up to date on the latest technology trends and gauge the impact of implementing them, so you can make informed decisions.

 

Whether your goal is to increase profits, productivity, security, or all of the above, technology business reviews can put you on the right track. Our seasoned IT consultants can conduct these reviews for you and develop a strategy that gives you an edge over the competition. Just give us a call.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Blockchain is the rage. It’s on the lips and lexicon of every tech pundit, journalist and tech executive. What is blockchain? You can read all about it yourself here but in short, it’s a database of databases, a record keeping system that is shared by all, updated by all and secure.

Here’s why it’s not relevant for your small business today.

I was at an event recently, and the owner of a karate studio asked one of the expert panelists, how he could use blockchain in his business.

The “expert” said, well if you had a community of karate enthusiasts, you could use Blockchain for the community database. Something like this, the expert explained.

WRONG.

For a small businesses, such as this owner of a karate studio, he doesn’t need blockchain, all he needs is a simple database to keep track of members, hold discussions or etc. SQL or any number of other databases that have been around for years.

Companies such as Salesforce, Netsuite, Zoho, Infusionsoft, Hubspot, SAP, Intuit and Microsoft make all the tools you need to run a great business. With all the other supporting services such as Asana, Monday, and others, you have a full suite of tools and services to help you manage a growing business.

Indeed VERY big companies who want to enhance security, or sound cool, might consider blockchain – banks, Amazon, Walmart, GE and very BIG companies with massive datasets. But for the rest of us, we small business owners we don’t need to think twice about blockchain.

  • Focus on making a great product.
  • Focus on serving your customers.
  • Focus on generating awareness for the problem you solve.
  • Focus on better marketing and advertising.
  • Focus on treating your employees/staff/team well.
  • Focus on making a difference in other peoples lives.

Blockchain is nice, it’s cute, it’s the new buzzword, but you don’t need to worry about it for your small business.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

 

Published with consideration from SmallBizTechnology SOURCE

If you’re a small business looking to invest in web-based advertising, Google AdWords is the best place to start. Some campaigns can be set up in as little as five minutes.

However, for competitive industries with high value sales such as IT consulting, we typically recommend a minimum starting budget of $1,000/month. Yes, this is not for the faint of heart. This does require that you’re a financially sound business in stage four or five of the small business success model and that you can earn sufficient ROI from one sale or lifetime value of bringing on a new customer on board.

Or if you’re a fitness club selling CrossFit classes in a major US metro area, you may still face significant AdWords competition, but at a much lower starting rate — perhaps a $500-$750/month budget would be enough. (To learn more about how to budget for Google Adwords, here’s a great post about it by one of the vendors we use.)

Considering just how powerful this tool can be for your lead generation efforts, and how much traffic it can generate for your website — that’s not something you can ignore. When properly optimized and matched to your target audience, AdWords creates a steady stream of new leads and potential customers, but it can also be a black hole for your marketing budget when managed improperly.

Google makes it easy to spend money, but to do it successfully, regular time must be spent managing your campaigns. That means daily checks of keyword performance for the first couple of weeks and weekly or bi-weekly checks after this to ensure your campaigns are performing as expected.

When checking your keyword list, there are several factors you should evaluate:

  •  Keyword Relevance – Relevant keywords represent the specific phrases your prospects are searching for when they need what you offer. This usually means 3-5 words that mention your services, location, and possibly a specific problem you might solve. At the same time, when someone clicks a highly relevant keyword, where do they go on your website? Does your landing page contain those keywords? Is it relevant to the search they just made?
  • Match Types – With AdWords, you can set Exact Match to show only your ads when users type the phrases you’ve listed, word for word. Using this is more targeted, but at the risk of limiting visibility. Phrase Match tells Google that you want those words to appear in the exact order that you’ve listed but Google can add things before and after that. Broad Match displays your ads for the phrase you’ve listed, but can also add words onto that phrase or trigger your ad for synonyms or near variations.
  • Quality Score – Each of your keywords will be assigned a quality score. This is based on several factors, including the click-through rate of people who see your ads when searching for that term, the relevance of your landing page when they get there, and how long they stay. This can influence what you pay for each keyword, but can also send a signal that your campaign needs adjustment.
  • Cost Per Click – What are you paying for each click? It’s easy to look at high level statistics for your campaign and see a good conversion rate and ignore the fine details. But if you’re paying $3.50 per click for a keyword that converts at a rate lower than another that costs only $1.25 per click, you could be missing out on potential conversions.
  • Negative Keywords – There is a lot of irrelevant traffic out there. For anything other than exact-match campaigns, you should include negative keywords to keep your ads from being displayed in search results that don’t match your services. For example, if you have a campaign “server setup support,” you might exclude the word “videogames” if that’s not a clientbase you want to reach.

The number of options available in AdWords when you dig into the settings can be overwhelming, but if you focus on the items above and check in once a week, you can streamline your spending and optimize results over time.

With the right combination of time invested and careful addition of new keywords, you can ensure you get the best out of your AdWords campaign.

Ask yourself what your website is doing for you and whether it’s aligned with your business needs and objectives. The GCInfotech professional web design team is here to help.

Published with consideration from Pronto Marketing SOURCE

Today, Wi-Fi isn’t only crucial for your employees to get work done, it’s also a necessary amenity for your office guests. But there’s a right and a wrong way to set up guest Wi-Fi and the latter can result in a frustrating experience for users. So, how do you set up guest Wi-Fi properly?

Never give guests access to your primary Wi-Fi
While giving guests password to your company’s main Wi-Fi might be the easiest way to get them connected, you should avoid this at all costs.

Anyone with a little technical know-how can potentially access everything on your company network, including confidential data. Not to mention, guests’ devices connected to your business network increase the risk of a malware infection or cyber attack since you can never be sure that they’re safe and secure.

Ways to create secondary Wi-Fi for guests
If you router has built-in guest Wi-Fi support (you can check this feature through a quick web search) you could use it to create a separate “virtual” network. This means guests will have access to the internet without connecting to your main company network.

If your router doesn’t support multiple Wi-Fi networks, you can implement a separate wireless access point that bypasses the rest of your network and connects directly to your Internet service provider (ISP) connection.

Both options will keep your guests’ connectivity separate from your company network so you’ll never have to worry about unauthorized persons accessing your company data.

Keep in mind that guest Wi-Fi still uses your ISP connection so you should limit bandwidth usage on your guest network. The last thing you want is a guest streaming videos that slow down the Internet for your employees. With that in mind, you can even have your employees use guest Wi-Fi for their personal devices too. This minimizes the chance of employees hogging company bandwidth for personal use.

Your guest Wi-Fi should only provide outsiders with internet access, nothing more. While proper setup isn’t rocket science, it can be a tedious process. Having said that, if you need a team of experts to take care of it all for you, or simply have questions about how else to leverage your hardware for better efficiency and security, just give us a call.

Published with Considerations from TechAdvisory SOURCE

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused millions of dollars in damages. Some of that damage was unavoidable, but hundreds of businesses managed to stay open thanks to innovative virtualization solutions. If you’re not already taking advantage of this technology, it’s time to find out what you’re missing.

Virtual desktops
In most offices, employees are still dependent on desktop computers. Their workstations grant them access to everything from customer relationship software to company databases and when these computers go down, there’s no way to get work done. Virtualized desktops allow users to access their files and even computing power from across the internet.

Instead of logging on to an operating system stored on a hard drive just a few inches away from their keyboard, employees can take advantage of server hardware to store their files across a network. With barebones computers, employees can log in to these virtual desktops either in the office or from home. Floods, fires and other disasters won’t prevent your team from working because they can continue remotely.

Virtual applications
Devoting a portion of your server’s hardware and software resources to virtual desktops requires a fair amount of computing power. If the majority of your employees’ time is spent working with just one or two pieces of software, you can virtualize just those applications.

If a hurricane destroyed your office and the hardware inside it, virtualized applications can be restored in minutes. They don’t need to be installed on the machines that use them, and as long as you have backups these applications can be streamed to employee computers just like a cloud-based application.

Virtual servers
If you use virtual desktops or applications, it makes perfect sense to use virtual servers as well. With a little help from a managed services provider, your servers can be configured to automatically create virtual backups. Beyond preventing data loss, these backups also make it possible to restore server functionality with off site restorations.

Virtualized servers are incredibly useful when clients need access to a website or database that you maintain in the office. For example, if you provide background checks on tenants to rental property owners through your website, an unexpected power outage won’t cause an interruption of service. Your virtualization solution will boot up a backup server away from the power outage and your customers will be none the wiser.

The benefits of virtualization extend far beyond disaster recovery planning. Your business can also reduce IT costs and increase hardware capacity — all it takes is some help from trained experts. Call us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

Not sure where to start? Give GCInfotech a call to discuss the available solutions that would work best for your company. Together, we can make your business work smarter, faster and more efficiently.
Published with consideration from TechAdvisory SOURCE

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have already caused billions of dollars in damages, but hurricane season is far from over. Experts are predicting that there will be five more major tropical storms through October, and if they present risks to your business, it’s time to establish a watertight disaster recovery (DR) plan. Here are a few things you need to consider.

Pay attention to location
First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your offsite facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 mph (as fast as Category 5 storms), and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage.

Determine recovery hierarchy
Certain parts of your IT are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days to get your business back to running efficiently.

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and e-commerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Use image-based backups
Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in it. From here, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud
The cloud allows you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently
Back up your data often, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on the 15th of September and the next storm, Hurricane Jose, makes landfall on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Get in the habit of replicating your files at the end of each day, which should be easy if you’ve opted for image-based backups.

Test your DR plan
After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after disaster strikes. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during this time, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience little-to-no disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company must have.

Not sure where to start? Give GCInfotech a call to discuss the available solutions that would work best for your company. Together, we can make your business work smarter, faster and more efficiently.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory SOURCE