Business employee working on his laptop remotely from home

Advice For Your Employees While Working Remotely

More and more companies are working remotely due to the pandemic and it doesn’t look like this trend is going to stop anytime soon. Companies are offering more full-time remote positions, which gives employees more flexibility to their work-life balance. However, this shift isn’t always seamless for the company; managing technology and people is very different while the whole team is working remotely. Today we will cover some technology tips to tackle ASAP and advice to give your employees to help them work from home as efficiently as they can!

Technology tips

Providing the tools, platforms, and apps your employees need to work remotely is a must. Depending on the type of service you offer, a laptop will be the very minimum of what they need in order to digitally transform their home office. You may also need to provide things like a second monitor or external hard drives.

It will fall on the IT department to equip every computer with the communication and workflow systems necessary for your employees to work effectively from home, so you need to be ready to teach your employees how to use communication platforms. Tools like VoIP phone systems or chat room applications will help your team communicate just as you would in person. And unlike a traditional office phone set, these digital communication platforms can be easily installed for employees who are already working outside the office. Hosting meetings to teach your employees how to use the new applications will be a helpful start, then you can continuously share tips about system updates and user training so they stay up to date with the changing technology!

Once all of the heavy lifting from the IT department is complete, you can still blast out technology resources and help your employees work effectively from home. General computer help and cybersecurity will go far while people aren’t working in the office.

In light of COVID-19, online phishing and other scams have become more common. Provide your team with a comprehensive list of ways to avoid phishing scams, viruses, and other attacks on your devices that come via email. It’s important to have individuals stay aware and vigilant of these attacks, especially while working remotely. Other, general computer tips like restarting on a regular basis, backing up data to an external hard drive, and closing out of unused tabs can be helpful for people who aren’t technologically savvy! This advice will keep their computers running faster and will result in fewer headaches at home.

Workplace advice

HR is another department that will have a heavy hand in getting your team working remotely successfully. They will be the main communicators of company changes and the ones willing and ready to offer additional support to remote employees.

You may have to offer resources on home-office environments, mental health, and childcare services. Some employees may be looking to create a home office space or even preparing to sell their home now that they’re working remotely full-time. This is a great opportunity to share information about home equity loans. This large sum of money can be used to upgrade their home office or make other changes around the house if they’re planning to sell.

Telehealth services have seen a large increase in usage over the past 6 months due to the pandemic. This is a great time to share a telehealth service that can be used by your team and covered by your insurance provider. Proper mental health practices will help keep your employees productive and happy while working at home.

Finally, share local childcare services that are still available and open during COVID-19. Parents who work from home may appreciate the break in their day that they were used to having while working in an office setting or while their kids were at school. Employees will value the advice you have to share about local happenings that can positively impact their family and home environment!

There is plenty of information and resources available to you to pass along to your employees while they work remotely. From cybersecurity to childcare, your employees will value that you are researching and sharing ways to help them do their jobs effectively and keep a good work-life balance while at home.

 

Business employee works on his computer from home

The Impact of Remote Work: Is it Here to Stay?

When looking at the sudden popularity of remote work, it’s easy to assume that it was a result of the coronavirus and the lockdown that followed. However, that would be ignoring the existing trend of remote work that had been growing years prior.

Is Remote Work Temporary?

Remote work was growing in popularity long before the Coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S. and forced businesses to shutter. Way back in March of 2019 research was already showing that 83 percent of U.S. businesses in the past 10 years introduced a flexible workspace or were planning to.

Another statistic that might surprise you is 16 percent of businesses hired remote workers exclusively.  When companies closed their doors in March of 2020, no one had any idea how long they would remain closed.

Some companies embraced remote work sooner than others. Companies like Facebook announced they would allow their employees to work remotely to the end of 2020. Others like Twitter stated publicly they would go remote indefinitely.

As we can see, remote work is nothing new. But it went from popular trend to basic necessity in almst no time at all.

So what is the future of remote work?

Where is this all headed?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that shows how different industries were impacted by COVID-19. While industries like Finance and Insurance managed to adapt pretty successfully, other industries like Tourism and Hospitality have suffered.

During the early periods of the COVID outbreak, 90 percent of employment decreases came from jobs that couldn’t be done remotely. This is according to a PEW Research Center analysis of the government’ data on labor.

It is true that barbers, waiters, tattoo artist and other contact dependent jobs were lost as a consequence, but another trend stated to arise as well.

There were other individuals—specifically individuals with college degrees—that could function remotely. Teachers, stock traders, financial advisors and accountants as we’ve seen before were able to adjust themselves to teleworking.

Nerds Support conducted its own poll asking how much the lock-down had affected their business. Of the 22 respondents that answered, 36.4 percent said they went fully remote and were considering a permanent remote option.

Nerds Support conducted a poll about the impact of remote work

Part Time vs. Full Time Remote Work

Will business owners and their employees learn to optimize their remote work capabilities? A survey by Salesforce and Tableau revealed that 69 percent of respondents agreed that the nature of work was going to change permanently due to pandemic.

A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. As organizations shift to more remote work operations, explore the critical competencies employees will need to collaborate digitally, and be prepared to adjust employee experience strategies. Consider whether and how to shift performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context.

Gartner research also shows the coronavirus pandemic will have a long term impact work.

More Remote Work

A poll conducted back in June showed that 48 percent of employees are likely to work remotely at least on a part-time basis. This was an increase from 30 percent before the pandemic began.

Offshore jobs

As mentioned before, there has been many job loses but many job opportunities created from the pandemic. Since telework has increased, so has the pool of candidates employers can choose from.

Initially, employers responded to the pandemic by furloughing or firing their employees to cut costs. However, as the months have gone by, a newer trend has revealed itself.

Employers are hiring more contingent workers to improve flexibility in their workplace.

Remote work for efficiency

55 percent of organizations redesigning their operations were more focused on streamlined positions. Doing so maximized efficiency but also created vulnerabilities in resilience. That means that they operate better at the cost of losing their ability to respond to disruptions.

Remote vs. Workplace

Since we’re going by the numbers, 57 percent of workers wanted to increase their remote work in the future. This number increases to 64 percent among those who are concerned about the coronavirus health risks. Even so, 80 percent of workers indicated that they would likely continue working from home partially. Those already working remotely full-time only 1 percent say they want to return exclusively to the office.

Workers who operate remotely are less likely to lose their job

Once again, job loss was associated with those who were unable to work remotely. From the months of Feburary to March, the unemployment in the U.S. decreased by 2.9 million. Employment among jobs that could transition remotely was virtually unchanged.  The number decreased by 0.5 percent.

Industries that are becoming more relevant

 Managed IT services companies are seeing an increase in popularity as more businesses transition to cloud based networks. The transition to the cloud indicates a concern for efficiency as we’ve discussed. Telecommunication is becoming more important as businesses learn to share and cooperate from longer distances. As a result, cloud infrastructures are needed  to accommodate for this change.

When choosing a managed service cloud provider, it's important to consider the consequences of SOC 1 & 2 compliance regulations

Why SOC Compliance Matters When Choosing An MSP

If you’re in a service industry, chances are you’ve run into the term SOC compliance. Some of you may have undergone a SOC I or SOC II compliance audit.

As remote work becomes increasingly more popular companies are choosing to adopt managed IT services and cloud based platforms.

However, even companies that undergo SOC compliance don’t consider how important it is when choosing a managed service provider.

What is SOC Compliance?

For those of you who don’t know or are wondering about SOC compliance, here’s a quick overview.

There are two main types of SOC compliance. There’s SOC I and SOC II compliance audits. There is such thing as a SOC III but it uses the same reporting as SOC II only it’s designed for public consumption.

A systems and organization Control audit I, or SOC I is a type of audit created to test the internal controls a service organization uses to protect sensitive client data. To be more specific, a SOC I audit tests the internal controls that could affect financial reports.

SOC II compliance audits were developed by the American Institute of CPA’s and exists to make sure service organizations controls like Security, integrity, confidentiality and privacy are up to standard.

Service companies like financial and CPA firms benefit from SOC compliance in the same way MSP’s do.

What are the Benefits of SOC Compliance?

A service organization goes through a lot of scrutiny in when it comes to compliance. SOC reports are among the most important pieces of information for a financial firm or CPA. They verify that the appropriate controls are in place and those controls work efficiently and securely.

For a financial firm it’s an invaluable tool and the same applies to an MSP. When you contract a Managed Services provider, you’re onboarding a new IT team. How integrated that IT team is depends on whether you choose a Co-managed plan or not. Either way, you’re making these service providers a part of your company.

Therefore, your firm is entrusting an MSP with highly confidential client information to one degree on another. That means your prospective provider should be able to comply with a SOC audit as well.

Benefits of SOC I Compliance

There has been a steady increase in SaaS adoption by a variety of industries. SaaS was predicted to grow 10.5 percent in 2020 by Gartner before the global pandemic of 2020. With companies forced to operate remotely, cloud and SaaS services became even more essential.

With a SOC I audit you can evaluate your provider’s policies and procedures, which is pivotal to running your operation. If they’re going to be the IT arm of your firm, they should be subject to the same regulations and systems checks.

Building Trust

Being able to check and validate a company’s security controls creates trust between you and your provider. A SOC I audit is proof that your MSP has the proper tools to protect both your and your client’s data.

Establishes Organization & Accountability

SOC 1 compliance audits can be costly and rigorous. However, if your MSP has multiple client organizations with a multitude of users, it can generate difficulties when keeping track of the right data. Conducting a SOC I audit provides, you the client, a report for review that saves time, money and makes your MSP’s process transparent.

Opportunities for Identifying Weaknesses and Improvement

Managed Services Providers are like any other company. Companies are subject to inefficiencies and faulty processes that can bring the quality of their services down. There are plenty of MSP’s that believe their controls and systems are enough and don’t need improving. However, as a potential client, it’s difficult to determine the security and efficiency of an MSP until something goes wrong.

An independent audit of your MSP will undoubtedly optimize your company’s internal processes because you don’t have to waste time searching for documents and paperwork if anything goes wrong. Moreover, if there are any security protocols that are not on par with SOC I standards the MSP should be proactive enough to adjust and improve where necessary.

If there is a malware attack, for example, you can rest easy knowing the proper controls are in place to prevent it from causing damage.

Cyber Security Protection

Cyber attacks have increased in both volume and breaches in the past 12 months, according to a VMware survey. 88 percent of North American respondents said they saw an increase in overall cyberattacks resulting from employees working from home. In other words, cyber protection has become more important than ever as companies learn to maneuver through a remote environment.

A SOC I audit gives you an understanding of your MSP’s business and security processes and your clients will have greater confidence in your firm. Don’t be fooled by a provider that promises complete and reliable cyber security when they’re unable to  provide evidence to support it. Ultimately, it is your firm that will end up paying for the wrong MSP’s cyber security deficiencies.

 

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What is SOC 1 & SOC 2 Compliance?

What Are SOC 1 and SOC 2 Reports ?

Service organizations, like financial advisers and accounting firms, are required to meet compliance requirements. The two most common compliance frameworks are SOC 1 and SOC 2. But what exactly are they? More importantly, how does SOC I and SOC II work exactly?

SOC 1

Service Organization Control 1, or SOC 1, reports are for businesses that handle financial information for their clients, also known as service organizations. This report ensures that financial information is managed securely by the business itself.

In other words, SOC 1 reports assure customers that your business has the appropriate controls in place to protect their financial information. Furthermore, SOC 1 features Type 1 and Type 2 compliance reports.

This report is conducted by a third party SOC Audit service and usually applies to businesses that provide financial related services.

The SOC 1 report focuses on the service organization’s controls and key control objectives decided by the organization.

A SOC 1 report is part of the SSAE, the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) 18 AT-C Section 320. SOC 1 reports were established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

The purpose of SOC is to evaluate service controls. However, a service organization is responsible for deciding key control objectives for the services they provide clients. Control objectives refer to business processes (controls concerning processing client information) and IT processes ( controls concerning the security of client information).

A service organization that needs a SOC 1 report can be companies that offer payroll services to clients. Typically, outsourced services provide their customer or client with a SOC 1 report as proof that they have reliable internal controls in place.

Type I Reports vs Type II Reports

Now that we’re clear on the difference between SOC 1 and SOC 2, we can go into the types. A type 1 exam evaluates the design of controls as of a particular date.

A type II exam also evaluates design of controls, however it also includes testing operation of controls over a period of time. The type II exam covers a minimum of six months.

Type I reports

Essentially, Type I reports allow auditors to perform risk assessments and let businesses know they can perform critical assessment procedures. The report describes an organization’s system and how it works to achieve goals clients and customers. These reports also test how controls achieve specific objectives on a chosen date.

Type II

A type 2 report demonstrates the effectiveness of those controls over a period of time. Moreover, type 2 reports are a review of an organization’s internal controls over a period of 6 to 12 months and includes an in-depth review of those controls.

When an organization undergoes the audit, they are continuously audited either annually or semi-annually. Additionally, a type 2 report analyses an organization’s environment to evaluate if the organization’s internal controls design and functionality are effective.

SOC 2

The difference a SOC 2 report have from SOC 1 are that the SOC 2 report addresses an organization’s controls pertaining to operations and compliance standards. The AICPA developed Trust Service Criteria, or TSC, which determines the standards for trustworthy controls.

Things like security, integrity, availability, privacy, and confidentiality are all aspects of TSC. However, the only TSC required in SOC 2 is security.

So, if a service organization chooses, they can take a SOC 2 report that focuses solely on security or all five TSCs depending on their specific requirements for audit.

SOC 1 & 2 AICPA Regulations values security, privacy, confidentiality, processing integrity, and availability.

In Summary

  • SOC 1 reports deal with internal controls pertinent to the audit of a service organization’s client’s financial statements.
  • A SOC I audit allows service organizations to report and examine internal controls that pertain to its customer’s financial statements.
  • SOC 2 reports deal with  service organization’s controls pertinent to their operations and compliance. This is detailed by the AICPA’s Trust Service Criteria (TSC).
  • A SOC II audit covers a combination of five distinct criteria:  Security, availability, process integrity, confidentiality and privacy.

For more content regarding Compliance, cyber security, Cloud technology, news and more visit our blog.

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Hurricane destroying a business with no backup data, files, and continuity plan.

How to Prepare your Business for a Hurricane

ACCUweather, which provides global forecasting services,  predicted 12-14 storms in 2019. Of those, only about two to three strengthen enough to become a major storm (category 3-5). In 2020, hurricane season is projected to be “extremely active”. A research team at Colorado State University predicts 24 named storms, 12 total hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes.

It’s important that business owners understand what they can do to protect themselves and their workplace.

Preparing Your Business For A Hurricane

Storms can devastate homes, families and entire communities. For small businesses, recovering from hurricanes and tropical storms can take years. Sometimes, they don’t recover at all. The Golden Corral franchise restaurant in New Orleans suffered considerable damage after Hurricane Katrina.

Natural disasters can negatively affect businesses in a variety of ways. There are other kinds of disasters called operational disasters, which occur when a business loses an important manager or director, the conditions within the business become far too unfavorable to maintain productivity. Large and small businesses deal with the effects of disasters differently, mainly because larger businesses have more resources at their disposal for restoring their operations.

Create A Business Continuity Plan

The first thing to do before anything else is to create a business continuity plan as soon as possible, preferably long before hurricane season starts. A continuity plan can greatly improve your chances of a timely recovery after a hurricane, storm or any other natural disaster. Plans include detailed instruction for restoring operations after a natural disaster. Protect the components that are most responsible for sustaining operations first. It is important to make an appraisal of key elements within your business to really determine how you proceed.

51% of small businesses surveyed said that damage from a hurricane would be “extremely damaging” to their operation, according to survey by Womply. This is due to the damage that a hurricane deals to business assets during a storm. Networks, technology, equipment and data are among the litany of assets that are at risk during a hurricane. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a Continuity Resource tool kit which gives businesses insight into how to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and make quick recoveries from operational disruptions.

Back-Up Your Data As Soon as You Can

Where are your assets located? A software company, for example, may have servers that operate within a warehouse away from the office. In that case you would have to ensure there are protections put in place to secure them. Back-up your data as soon as possible. Make sure your data is secured off-site.

For example, Nerds Support data center is located in downtown Miami in a secure building that can withstand a category 5 hurricane. If a catastrophic hurricane, more powerful than a CAT 5 were to hit, the servers would be moved to another secure location away from danger with the uttermost care. With today’s technology this is easier than ever. Cloud based services function as a way to secure data and ensure functionality for businesses so that they can work remotely or recuperate necessary digital tools to continue their operation.

Establish A Plan of Communications

Hurricanes can severely impact communication with staff. That’s why it’s necessary to plan accordingly should a storm cut off your lines of communications. 

  • Build a reliable communication tree between you and personnel. Even you’re working remotely, power outages can create a chaotic environment for your business processes. Communication is essential to keep a business running during or after a storm. Also communicating after the storm will give you insight into what employees are dealing with. That will help you manage your business more effectively overall and resolve these issues appropriately. 
  • Prepare for interrupted computer lines, cell phones, emails and landlines. Give employees resources where they can learn about closures and updates regarding the storm. Share as much as possible so that no one member of your team knows more or less than another.

No Office No Limitations: Working From Home is No Hassle At All

You can work from a different location regardless of the weather conditions or circumstances. Your workforce will also need to adapt and work with you to expedite recovery, but that will necessitate effective leadership on your part as a business owner. Many companies now have a mobile workforce that often have to move from the office to the field or work remotely from another location.

You need a system of communication that allows you to access the bulk of your workforce if not everyone simultaneously. It is important that you keep track of everyone’s location in real time and establish a plan of action. Look into who within your workforce travels most frequently and where they travel to. Establishing clear communication from within your team is essential to preserving organization and even moral. Confusion and miscommunication can lead to exacerbate tension and anxiety and create a perception that the storm is more severe that it is.

Download our FREE e-book for more information on how to prepare for a storm and how to weather any natural disaster this hurricane season.  Or contact us today at 305-551-2009, there’s still time to get prepared.

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