Employee being productive working from his home office desk

Boosting Engagement, Productivity, and Supporting Your Employees Inside and Outside of the Office

Due to the impacts of the pandemic and efforts to keep individuals as safe as possible during these uncertain times, many companies have adjusted their business structure, adapted to a remote workforce, and made necessary technology advancements to meet the needs of their employees. Although a challenging time, it has also brought about many learning and growth opportunities for companies, leadership, and employees alike. As a business leader, you can continue to modify your company to the best of your ability while taking measures to boost engagement, productivity, and take action to support your employees whether they are working in the office or remotely.

1. Invest in technology for improved communication

Especially with a partially remote or fully remote workforce, technology is the main factor when it comes to productivity and efficiency. When technology is not properly set up to help employees, it can hinder their performance and motivation. Especially if they are bogged down with manual tasks that can easily be simplified or made more efficient using technology solutions. It’s important to implement a communication and chat system for your employees to allow for collaboration or discussion. Investing in technology will improve the productivity of your employees and make their lives easier day in and day out. That initial contribution will provide you with more than enough return on your investment as your workforce will be better equipped to handle problems and improve daily output.

It’s also worthwhile to consider investing in IT solutions that can help with troubleshooting issues that your employees might not be able to solve on their own. Once again, this can save time and money by allowing your employees to find quicker solutions to problems with minimal impact on their workflow. In addition, it’s critical to be educating your employees on ways to prevent cyberattacks when working remotely or viruses that can be harmful to personal or company privacy. Technology issues are inevitable but having the appropriate tools and IT consulting action plan in place to help navigate these problems and will save your employees unnecessary headaches.

2. Optimize your employee onboarding experience

If you’ve had the luxury of taking on new talent during the last year, it’s more important than ever to have a well-developed workplace orientation program that can aid new team members in getting up to speed as quickly as possible. Again, if any of this process involves remote onboarding, it’s necessary to make sure new employees feel comfortable and connected with their new job and coworkers. Some ways that leadership and HR can deal with matters outside daily workflow is by explaining company benefits such as health, dental, or vision. Displaying plans for additional work perks, flexible spending options, and additional learning opportunities can be helpful information. It shows that your company is well-rounded and cares about the professional growth of its people.

3. Encourage employees to plan for their future

Another way to show your support is by encouraging your employees to plan for the future. Starting to contribute to retirement early on can have a huge impact on your financial future and the way you are able to support yourself in the years to come. As an employer, you can make it easy for your employees to contribute to their retirement by automatically taking a small portion out of their paycheck and applying it to a 401k or other retirement plan. Another protection that is helpful and necessary in this day and age for peace of mind is securing a life insurance policy. Having a plan in place has never been more critical and by taking the time to explore some of the best life insurance providers on the market, you can help encourage employees to secure their financial future and protect their loved ones. Taking the extra step to show you care about the well-being of your employees will go a long way in their trust for you and your business.

4. Implement a leadership or mentorship coaching program

Employee engagement is a key driver in creating a successful workflow and business structure. If you can count on your employees to deliver on time with quality work, you can focus your attention on bettering the business and improving the daily operations of your workforce. By implementing a program that trains managers and senior employees on how to be great leaders, you can further rely on others to provide necessary encouragement, support, and training that won’t take away from your responsibilities. Even your top employees can learn a thing or two about leadership and how they can improve their deliver to get better results from those employees underneath their supervision. Developing virtual seminars and providing programs to help employees further advance their leadership skills is a great way to improve your company by focusing on what matters most—its people.

5. Streamline or outsource business services

If you’ve been a hands-on owner who takes responsibility for managing the ins and outs of your business, you’re not alone. With that being said, there comes a time when you cannot effectively manage everything from business acquisitions to employees, to finances and relationships. It’s important that you streamline certain areas of your business to give yourself the time and energy to focus on tasks that need your attention. Especially for a small to medium-sized business, managed IT services can help you to accurately and easily handle your accounting, financial management, or logistics firm. Consider it a weight lifted off your shoulders as this forward way of thinking can help you organize your business and allow you to focus your time on your company leaders that require your guidance.

6. Create organized meeting plans and recurring check-ins

In a remote setting, it’s important to set recurring meetings and check-ins to help hold your employees accountable for their work as well as keep you informed about problems they might be facing. By coupling this with a mentorship program, you can encourage more senior employees to take ownership of these team meetings and create an open and encouraging environment. By setting clear expectations, goals, and initiatives, there is always a conversation to be had about successes and shortcomings—both of which are necessary for growth. You can rely on your IT solutions and advanced tech tools that can provide error-free virtual meetings, calls, and video chats. In addition, your employees will feel like they have a place to share their progress or talk through possible solutions.

7. Get to know employees on a personal level

One last piece of this puzzle towards growing a business in this unique way is gaining trust and connection with your employees. Getting to know your employees, their skillsets, talents, and their passions can help you assist them in their career progression. Knowing personal and professional strengths or weaknesses can help managers and supervisors provide the best feedback to help employees improve in specific areas of expertise. Inquiring about prior work experiences, education, or unique jobs is beneficial and it provides a level of connection. Encouraging employees to reach out with questions that might involve their job, technology, or career shows that your support goes beyond their daily production.

Technology adaptations and modern workplace solutions have allowed many businesses to transition to remote work quite seamlessly. With that being said, there are considerations for business leaders to continue to make modifications that can help improve their employee experience and productivity at the office or in a remote setting. By providing technology such as IT consulting, Managed IT services, and IT solutions, you can better serve your business and allow for a more streamlined approach to growth. Continuing to take steps to support your employees, improve your business structure and advance your technology, you will set you up for a successful future and business possibilities.

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Nerds Support named on CRN Pioneer 250 2021 List

Nerds Support Ranks Top 250 on CRN’s 2021 MSP List

This week it was revealed that CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, has named Nerds Support Inc. to its 2021 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 listing in the Pioneer 250 classification. The listing, released annually, acknowledges the leading North American solution providers that have demonstrated groundbreaking as well as forward-thinking approaches to managed solutions. These services assist end users improve functional efficiencies and also maneuver the ongoing intricacies of IT services, while maximizing their return on IT expenditures.

To read the full press release, click here.

About the CRN MSP 500 List

With advanced methods to delivering managed services, MSP’s have ended up being an integral part of the success of organizations worldwide. They empower companies in leveraging complicated technologies, maintaining a rigorous emphasis on their core industry without stressing their spending plans. CRN’s 2021 MSP 500 list identifies the industry’s essential managed solutions professionals who are setting themselves apart with best-of-breed solutions that offer the business results clients need.

The MSP 500 list is divided into 3 sections: the MSP Pioneer 250, identifying firms with company models weighted toward managed solutions and greatly concentrated on the SMB market; the MSP Elite 150, acknowledging substantial, data center-focused MSP’s with a solid mix of on-premises as well as off-premises services; and the Managed Security 100, recognizing MSP’s focused primarily on off-premises and cloud-based protection services.

“Effective MSP’s make it possible for firms to concentrate on their core objectives while strengthening the quality and integrity of their cloud computing functionalities,” said Blaine Raddon, CEO of The Channel Company. “The service providers on CRN’s 2021 MSP 500 list deserve acknowledgment for their innovative and also forward-thinking methods to managed services, as well as the ability to optimize functional efficiencies and systems to optimize return on investments.”

About Nerds Support

Nerds Support is consistently advancing the limits on what it signifies to be a Managed IT Provider, from offering special assistance to customers that were struggling through the uncertain months of 2020, to going so far as to obtain their SOC II certification last summer. This is evidence that not only do they have the technology, but the systems and also expertise in position to maintain businesses running even in one of the most unanticipated periods.

“My team and I are humbled to accept this award that exemplifies pioneering technological development in South Florida! I could not have done this without my remarkable team as well as customers that we have indeed been so privileged to continue supporting throughout this unpredictable year.” Stated Nerds Support Founder & CEO, Scott Richman.

The MSP 500 list will be included in the February 2021 publication of CRN and online at www.CRN.com/msp500.

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Magnifying glass over a cloud computing symbol with a cyber security lock on it

Why the Cloud is More Popular Than Ever

Why Are Companies are Running To The Cloud?

As many of you may have noticed cloud computing is growing in popularity and use as more businesses focus on remote work. What you might not know is exactly how much money the cloud makes up in enterprise tech spending.

Public cloud spending is projected to grow 18.4 percent in 2021 to $304.9 billion. That’s an increase from $257.5 billion in 2020.

Businesses experiencing lock-downs, shut-ins, and who were forced to work remotely are the main cause of the increase. With these physical spaces closed, companies had to think fast and move to cloud-based solutions to remain productive.

Cloud based platforms allowed businesses to access files and data they couldn’t get to in a shuttered office building.

Migrating towards the cloud has a number of benefits for businesses. The cloud cuts IT solutions spending, improves security, increases productivity, and boosts efficiency.

The Pandemic Made Cloud Computing Inevitable

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted organization’s focus on optimizing IT costs, thus allowing them to support remote employees. They also needed to save money on operational costs and infrastructure spending as the lockdown impacted the global economy.

Companies like Capital One and American Airlines have adopted the cloud for precisely the benefits we’ve mentioned. Capital One moved to the cloud because they wanted enhanced security and to save money. American Airlines, on the other hand, switched over because they wanted to improve customer service experience.

Luckily, the cloud was a clever way of accomplishing those goals. It’s no wonder that over 70 percent of organizations using the cloud today plan on increasing their cloud spending, according to Gartner.

The largest sector that showed the most growth was Software-as-a-service (SaaS). Platform as-a-service (PaaS) is predicted to grow at a faster pace as well. PaaS provides businesses with application software that allows them to work from anywhere. Nerds Support, for example, provides its clients with the OS33 cloud platform. A reliable cloud platform allows remote workers a scalable, high performance, series of cloud-based applications that emphasize collaboration, security and practicality.

Managed IT services companies, better known as Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) are a good option for cloud services. Depending on the type of cloud experience you’re looking for you can choose a public or private cloud.

The Costs of Ignoring the Cloud

Businesses are investing in cloud and the trend will most likely continue as cloud solutions provide increased collaboration, mobility, and other technologies that enable remote work.
What’s even better about the cloud is that companies have seen huge savings as well. In recent years there has been a development in a new kind of discipline called Financial Operations or “FinOps” that monitor, evaluate, and measure cloud costs.

Maintaining on premise data centers is becoming expensive. An increasingly data driven environment means that companies need to put money into storage. Such costs could add up and the price might exclude any hidden costs and fees associated with repair or replacement components and hardware.

As successful as a business might be, if data storage goes up and server usage grows other costs go up as well. Electrical costs, floor space, and cooling just a few of the added costs you might not think about when you take on a data center.

As a result, businesses are turning to IT consulting services to learn how to properly utilize the cloud to maximize efficiency.

The Cloud Keeps Businesses Competitive

With so many companies now using the cloud to upgrade their existing services or take advantage of new ones, the cloud is essential to remain competitive. The cloud has become the new normal. No company is going to allow themselves to undergo a lock-down situation without having contingencies in place.

Furthermore, predicting how much money you might for data storage as your company grows is next to impossible.

Cloud hosting, however, has proven itself to businesses. Cloud-based solutions are scalable, on-demand, produce cost effective IT solutions as well as a reliable business continuity plan.

85 percent of enterprises plan on implementing cloud-first principles by 2025. This is according to Gartner research Vice President Sig Nag. In other words, businesses in the next few years will focus on freeing up their IT and resources to deliver effective cloud services.

Several mainframe servers and computer monitor submerged underwater, with a red screen reading Threat Detected on the monitor

Florida Cyber Attacks and The Problem With Legacy Systems

Cyber Attack On Water Treatment Plant

On Friday February 5th 2021, a hacker broke into a water treatment plant in Florida and made it increase the levels of lye in the water to dangerously toxic amounts.

The hacker gained access to Oldsmar’s water treatment system at both 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. using the software Teamviewer.

TeamViewer is run by a German-based company with over half a million users world-wide. They say there was no suspicious activity to indicate a breach. The purpose of TeamViewer was to assist in troubleshooting any issue with digital or computerized sections of the water treatment system.

How Updated Are the IT infrastructure of Government Agencies?

Luckily those running the plant realized this and corrected the issue before anyone was endangered by the act. However, this puts close-call put into question the security or lack-there-of in internet based controls in government IT infrastructure.

The cyber attacker took over the computer system and managed to raise the acceptable levels of lye, or sodium hydroxide, from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.

This is an example of how weak infrastructure and outdated legacy systems are turning into a serious liability as cyber criminals use these systems to breach government facilities.

It’s almost a cliché at this point to mention that cybersecurity is overlooked. Both in the private and public sectors, there have been an increase in cyber attacks.

There has been a 715 percent increase in detected cyber-attacks in 2020 alone, according to Bitdefender Mid-Year Threat Landscape Report in 2020.

Legacy Systems A Big Problem For Government Facilities

Between December 2018 and August 2019 seven Florida municipalities were attacked by cyber criminals. Why?

Older systems, better known as legacy systems, have created problems for government. Not only are they expensive to maintain but they are incredibly vulnerable to hackers.  Agencies can’t accomplish critical tasks and have trouble getting personnel who even know how to use older computers and legacy technology.

The U.S. government was planning to more than $90 billion on I.T. spending and the majority of that money was going to maintaining legacy systems. This is a problem, furthermore, because hackers are getting more sophisticated. The technology cyber criminals use doesn’t have to be advanced to break through a system.

Governments, having the budget and resources to address these problems, often lack the foresight to see how neglecting cyber security is a problem in the future. As a result, we are seeing an increase in hacks, but more importantly, an increase in ransomware attacks.

A fair number of government agencies had plans to modernize their legacy systems. However, there were no documented plans for how to modernize their IT systems.

Looking ahead to the future, there are examples of successful modernization of IT systems within different government agencies. In some cases, agencies take legacy code and replace it with more modern code. Others though, have seen the writing on the wall and decided to migrate their legacy systems on to the cloud.

Businesses Aren’t Faring Much Better Either With Legacy Systems

These problems don’t just apply to government agencies. Businesses using legacy systems can’t sustain themselves successfully anymore. Especially considering the fact that operating remotely is becoming standard practice among many industries.

In fact, one of the biggest problems for companies during the 2020 pandemic was figuring out how to adapt to the lockdowns and continue running remotely. So many businesses put off transitioning over to the cloud because they took their networks for granted.

The problem with that was once the lockdowns began, companies went into a frenzy trying to migrate to the cloud and adjust. As a result, they sacrificed security for operational efficiency. That might have worked as a temporary solution but as the lockdowns extending past 2020 and many companies deciding to remain remote, security is once again at the forefront of the conversation.

Managed IT and The Cloud

Managed IT services providers, also known as Managed service providers (MSP’s), are growing in popularity because they provide cloud and other important services to businesses looking to work on the cloud.

Businesses with no cloud migration plan suffered and those who had already moved to the cloud were able to endure and even succeed in a newly remote environment. Conversely, the traditional 9-5 standard office hours are becoming more and more obsolete. But that creates a new opportunity for cyber criminals to attack vulnerable home network.

IT consulting services are needed in both the private and public sectors to successfully stave off new kinds of malware in a newly remote environment.

 

Financial employee working from home on his company holding a security checklist

5 Cyber Security Lessons for Businesses In A Pandemic

Cyber security has been an issue for a long time. In recent years it’s been a hot topic of concern. Since more businesses are migrating to the cloud or moving to a remote work environment. Cyber security might seem confusing or intimidating at first glance, but in reality it’s not as complex an issue as you may have been led to believe.

There are lesson both in life and in history that you can use to make safe cyber security choices in the future. You don’t have to leave everything to an IT consulting specialist or expert.

Ebay, Marriott, Equifax, even LinkedIn have all been subject to cyber-attacks. These attacks have only gotten more sophisticated over time but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to avoid. The problem most businesses have is that they don’t practice cyber hygiene and avoid cyber security best practices.

But now during the pandemic there are a whole new series of cyber security challenges to consider.

Lesson 1: Help employees understand risk

In spite of strong organizational controls employees working from must practice strong cyber security hygiene. Being cooped up at home has created a lot of stress for employees and employers alike. As a result people are more susceptible to social engineering attacks.

Employees might find themselves in positions where they aren’t being monitored as much as they would have been in an office setting. They might open up emails or click on links, engaging in activity that makes them vulnerable to other types of attacks. The best firewall against social engineering is a human one.

Communication is key in this case. Cyber security teams and IT consulting specialists have to do their part set up channels where employees can review email chains, malicious links, or suspicious requests from senders. This can mean anything from chats where employees can send questions and concerns. Even setting up periodic cyber security training sessions with employees.

Lesson 2: Expand monitoring

We mentioned earlier that because of lax monitoring policies in a remote environment creates the opportunity for cyber- attacks and social engineering scams.

Mechanisms put in place like proxies, network intrusion detection, or web gateways don’t work in a remote setting. Businesses that don’t require the use of a VPN might remain largely unprotected from malware attacks or man-in-the-middle attacks. These kinds of vulnerabilities only increase in a remote setting. Therefore, many network based IT solutions won’t be very useful in securing your operation.

Part of expanding your monitoring capabilities might mean hiring more IT consulting experts and professionals to compensate.

Lesson 3: Secure physical documents

In an office setting employees have access to paper shredders and bins for disposable print material. However, in a remote or home environment, that might not be the case. Sensitive information might end up in a trash bin. So establishing policies regarding sensitive data is vital. Even if it means no documentation can be disposed of until everyone returns to the office.

Lesson 4: Support Remote Tools

Businesses should look to their cyber security team to install and manage secure digital platforms, tools, and protocols. That means ensuring multifactor authentication when logging in to any device containing sensitive data. A practical option might be to hire more cyber security personnel to provide additional support when adapting to the technology. Hiring an Managed services provider with co-managed IT solutions could also be a helpful in confronting these tasks. Co-management would contribute to your IT team without completely outsourcing your security.

Lesson 5: Clarify Incident response protocols

Should an incident take place, SOC compliant teams must understand how to report them. It is recommended that cyber security teams build in redundancies into protocols so that response time doesn’t lag behind if your business make appropriate decisions regarding the next steps to take. Or maybe traditional protocols are disrupted as a result of a remote work environment. Cyber security experts need to be adaptive in developing a business continuity plan for their company.

 Finally, expect the best and prepare for the worst.

As a prize for getting to the end we’re giving you a bonus.

In cyber security circles, the most commonly used phrase is, “When not if.” Don’t think about if you get hacked. Your mindset as a business leader is to accept the probability that you will be hacked at some point. This framework changes the way your business will approach cyber security altogether. Assuming the worst case scenario allows you to test your security procedures effectively. What are the protocols for responding to an attack. What is the chain of command? What are the actionable steps necessary for me to mitigate the damage? Is there a disaster recovery plan in place, if so how practical is it?

These are questions best answered by IT experts and IT service professionals. Discuss these with your team. If you’re looking for a Managed Service provider bring up these points as well. There’s no telling when the pandemic will end but you can definitely take action to prevent an attack.