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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.

 

A business owner thinking about choosing a Managed IT Service Provider

5 Mistakes When Choosing a Managed IT Service Provider

What is The Role Of A Managed IT Service Provider

One of the biggest misconceptions about working with a managed IT services company is the idea that you have to replace your IT department.

However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Managed Services companies are usually brought in to augment and assist existing IT personnel.

Small and medium sized businesses often hire a managed IT services company to provide the same support they would have with an advanced IT department at a lower cost.

Co-managed IT services are options as well. Co-management services are for businesses that already have an IT department but want to improve upon it while taking advantage of the cost savings and structure of an MSP.

The benefits of a managed services company are numerous. For one thing, they handle application and network security issues while lightning the workload for I.T. departments.

Every business wants to grow, but growing too fast comes with its burdens as well. Rapid, exponential growth could start putting a strain on your resources and time. IT is no exception.

But, should you make the decision of hiring a managed IT services company, you have to know what to look for.

Unfortunately, business owners fail to consider some very important factors when choosing an MSP that is right for them.

Here are 5 BIG mistakes businesses make when hiring an MSP and how to avoid them.

1) Letting Managed IT Services Handle ALL of your Problems

Outsourcing all of regular applications and security to an MSP doesn’t rid you of responsibility. It’s still very important that you develop a strategy alongside your IT department and review it with the Managed services provider.

Businesses have to stay in the know when it comes to IT solutions and requirements. An MSP might know your industry well, but only you know your company.

As a business owner you need to discuss compliance, security, infrastructure and strategy regularly and frequently. This ensures the MSP is doing their jobs according to your business goals and complimenting them.

2) Relinquishing Control

Some providers gain popularity simply because they are large. But that doesn’t make them right for your business. Especially since they are so large that establishing a point of contact is nearly impossible.

This is a big problem among large public cloud providers. Public cloud providers have so many clients that they don’t have the time to cater to a individual client’s needs. It devolves into a tenant/landlord relationship rather than a partnership.

You are sharing their services with other businesses and they don’t have time to review your concerns. There are even cases where support is sold separately from the cloud service.

At the end of the day an MSP is an extension of your business, not a business unto itself. They are there to consult and contribute but not control. Choose a provider that is transparent and easy to access.

Which leads me to mistake number three.

3) Choosing a provider that is indifferent about response time.

Downtime is a significant issue for all businesses. However, not all MSP’s act accordingly when it comes it comes to downtime.

Choosing a provider that fails to properly respond to down time is particularly horrible because it can be frustrating, agonizing and terrifying.

Imagine your business goes down and not only is the response time slow, but support is nearly unreachable. The average response time for a large MSP is 5.5 hours. They often market themselves in a way that de-emphasizes their response time in favor of their durable network and security. But, that’s just a trick.

A great MSP has multiple alert systems and responds to downtime in twelve minutes or less. Anything beyond that is negligence. It doesn’t matter how popular, “efficient” or “secure” an MSP is when during an outage or downtime they’re nowhere to be found.

54 percent of companies experienced a downtime event that lasted more than eight hours. That means over half of all companies, regardless of size, experience downtime of over a full work day. Furthermore, that could lead to massive hits in profit and revenue.

According to a Ponemon Institute Study, the average cost of an outage is $9,000 per minute. Let that sink in. Eight hours, sixty minutes an hour, $9,000 per minute.

4) Thinking all MSP’s are Essentially the same

All MSP’s are different. Managed IT Services companies have resources and tools that suite different companies. Don’t assume that all MSP’s offer the same services or have the same expertise.

For example, Nerds Support works with many financial services companies and CPA’s. As a result, we put a heavy emphasis on cloud compliance and regulations. Financial firms are heavily regulated due to the sensitive information they work with on a regular basis. So whatever MSP a financial firm hires has to closely follow those same regulatory guidelines.

To achieve compliance we had to undergo SOC I and SOC II audits to ensure our clients felt secure relying on us with securing their data and systems.

You have to make sure you ask any potential MSP the right questions. If you want to know exactly what questions to ask a prospective MSP, check out our e-guide “22 Questions for your IT Department”.

5) Misunderstanding Service Level Agreements

The contract between a company and a Managed IT services provider is called a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. Make sure that the contract and the agreement are clear that all relevant staff knows the ins and outs.

That includes where and when these services are available, where their servers are located, how to contact support and what is covered in the terms of billing.

The MSP should provide you with a non-disclose agreement that needs to be signed before the provider gains access to your company’s confidential data.

There should also be an understanding of how to report and analyze resources and services. If something isn’t working to your expectations, know how to report it and who to report to.

Accountant working remotely from home accessing QuickBooks on his laptop

QuickBooks Hosting is The Solution For Remote Businesses

QuickBooks Is Perfect For Remote Work

As a result of the Lock-down in 2020, many industries, including financial services, are undergoing massive changes. The focus on executing virtual strategies and remote consulting has transformed the landscape of accounting possibly forever.

That  being said, there is a software tool that streamlines accounting processes and facilitates the transition to more permanently remote operations and that is QuickBooks.

QuickBooks is considered one of the most powerful accounting software for businesses across industries. Saving money, time and effort it introduces features that help track and report company finances.

Here are 9 Reasons why QuickBooks Hosting is Right for Your Business

1. Saving Time

Save time on bookkeeping and paperwork because many of simple bookkeeping tasks are handled automatically making it easier to run your business.

Bookkeeping paperwork has always been a hassle but with the emergence of remote advising, filing, sending and managing the appropriate documentation is more difficult and time consuming. QuickBooks automates simple bookkeeping tasks that would otherwise make running your business remotely more challenging.

2. Reports and Data are Easy to Access

Generate reports with the information you need, so you always know where your business stands. You instantly know whether you’re making money and whether your business is healthy.

You can generate reports that would require gathering resources and information not readily on hand. QuickBooks software contains assets that let you know where your business is in terms of finance. You’ll find information that tells you how much money your business is making and organize your financial strategy.

3. Cost Efficiency

Remote working could be seen as an opportunity to cut costs, or at the very least, reallocate resources. QuickBooks is an affordable application that runs at scale. Whether it’s a $6 million or a $46 million business, you can use this tool for a few hundred dollars. Achieving the most for the least.

4. Promotes Business Growth while Staying Complaint

Growth Is imperative and working remotely doesn’t change that. QuickBooks gives you the right tools and data to use when designing a business plan. Maybe you want to secure a small loan or open a credit line for your small business. You’re able to create a balance sheet, statements of profits and losses, and cash flow charts, all of which follow theU.S. Small Business Administration’s compliance guidelines.

5. Customization and Scalability

As I alluded to above, QuickBooks is designed for scalability. The tool is flexible enough to work for a large variety of small businesses across multiple industries. Furthermore, it has custom accounting packages for CPA’s, Health Care professionals, Retailers and more.

6. Broad Range of Tools for Almost Every Business

QuickBooks is expanding their services and plans to get to over ten million users by the decades end. There are currently 2.55 million subscribers to QuickBooks. Those are 2.55 million customers that leverage the tools and features QuickBooks offers to improve their businesses.

7. Automated Backups

QuickBooks hosted solutions has an automated backup service. This keeps important financial data safe. Partnered with the right cloud provider, data is guaranteed to stay secure and accessible.

8. Invoicing is Easier

Working remotely forces you to work with the digital tools you have in hand. When processing payments through QuickBooks, all that’s required is a simple email transaction. E-mail a statement or invoice, you’re able to process payments with credit card or bank account transfers digitally and in one central hub.

9. No additional hardware or Software Needed

Remote work is requiring businesses to restructure how they accept payment. Your clients will have to complete transactions digitally rather than in person and QuickBooks Merchant Account Services integrates with software to retain client data. In other words, returning clients won’t have to input the same information more than once. Card Scanning machines, or payment squares ineffective in a remote setting. QuickBooks allows for remote operations to continue without issue.

I.T. Doesn’t Stop There…

QuickBooks is an invaluable resource for a business looking to thrive in a remote environment. If you want a solution that protects your business infrastructure and Computer devices, I recommend looking for a Managed services provider that has QuickBooks integration. Nerds Support is a QuickBooks hosting partner and includes QuickBooks with all its other IT services and cyber-protection software.

Finding a managed IT provider that comes with QuickBooks hosting will save your business even more money. Instead of having QuickBooks separate from your IT and cyber security needs, you’ll have everything set up in one place. And with the amount of phishing and cyber attacks targeting remote businesses it’s a good idea to focus on your IT infrastructure as well.

FINRA updates with a cybersecurity alert COVID-19

FINRA Announces Security Measures for Financial Firms

Like other businesses, firms have taken measures to mitigate COVID-19 related risks. These include,  employees and associates working remotely or video conferencing to maintain efficiency while social distancing policies are in place.

Although focusing on the health of members and associate is important, it is also imperative to be aware of the cyber security vulnerabilities that are manifesting as well.

As workers accustom themselves to remote processes, financial firms should take steps to protect themselves and their clients from an influx cyber-attacks on home networks.

FINRA Alert

In March 2020 FINRA released a notice that firms should take appropriate measures to protect client information on business and home networks as well as mobile devices and tablets.

Cyber Attacks On The Rise

Cyber attacks related to financial relief checks went up in the last few weeks, while hackers continue to target vulnerable individuals.

Cyber security firm Check Point reported an average of 14,000 coronavirus-related cyberattacks per day in the past week, six times the average daily attacks in the second half of March. Additionally, this recorded number shot up to 20,000 daily attacks since April 7.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) related scams are growing exponentially as job loss, social distancing and unsecure home networks provide the conditions for hackers. Phishing scams, investment fraud, and fraudulent CDC emails are just a few ways cyber attackers are leveraging the virus.

According to a recent article by The Hill, the FBI saw a spike in reported cyber crimes on its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), as hackers and cyber criminals take advantage of Americans’ move towards primarily online activity.

Home and Office Networks

Establish a secure connection when accessing your firm’s work environment. This can be done by setting up a VPN Virtual (Private Network) or partnering up with a Managed Services Company that can secure your network.

When using a Wi-Fi connection, secure it with security measures like WPA2 or HTTP strict transport security. These measures prevent hackers from accessing your network or infiltrate your site with man-in-the middle cyber-attacks.

Update software and patches regularly. Cloud security and compliance platforms like Workplace, which is used and integrated by Nerds Support as well, automatically run a diagnostics on potential security vulnerabilities on work devices.

Make changes to the user names and passwords of home Wi-Fi routers if they use default user names and passwords.

Always lock your screen when leaving your devices. Whether you are in a shared work environment or alone, it is never a good idea to leave your devices open when unattended and out of sight.

File and back-up your data frequently. For example, Nerds Support backs up all of our client data and store it in an offsite data center that can be accessed through our cloud network. This means that data can never be lost and guarantees all personally identifiable information (PPII) is safe and accessible by the firm.

Common Attacks

Although we’ve gone over COVID-19 related cyber attacks in another blog, we’ll briefly review them here.

Common COVID-19 Cyber Attacks include phishing & vishing scams offering false information or asking for personal information.

Continuity Planning

Understand your firms policies and establish a business continuity plan. In the event of a security breach, an outage, a stolen or lost device, or phishing attack, what steps is your firm taking to remediate the issues?

Contact Information

When using a video conferencing app or service, ensure the appropriate security measures are included in their policies.

Develop a structure for access to sensitive data and systems.

Provide staff with all the necessary contact information. Establish a plan for communication (where and how). Are you communicating through a VoIP system or Video conferencing application?

Assess and Verify

Do not hesitate to alert your IT department or team when confronted with any of the issues we’ve discussed. It is not uncommon for remote workers to overlook these points. Keep constant communication with everyone in your IT team to ensure all protocols are being followed and your systems remain aligned within regulation standards.

If you want a free IT Assessment to verify your systems are secure you can always contact us.

Now is the perfect time to assess your technology. Check if your existing IT is up to standard or consider c0-managed services to strengthen your IT capabilities.

Do you know if the computer you use to access client data is safe? Don’t compromise your firm by leaving security vulnerabilities unchecked.