People working remotely

Top 4 Microsoft 365 Benefits for Small Businesses

Starting in early 2020, small businesses were put suddenly to the test to keep their teams connected. While online collaboration tools were already around, adopting them proved to be more complicated than businesses had imagined.

On one hand, these remarkable tools were already popular for a reason: they worked. Once small businesses started to piece as many as a dozen solutions together to reach their former in-office productivity, though, their internal systems failed to keep up.

This piecemeal approach led to a bigger disconnect for most businesses the last two years.

Fortunately, the Microsoft 365 suite of tools provide all the solutions today’s teams need, nicely packaged in a family of apps that work seamlessly together.

What is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) is a suite of Microsoft applications and tools that work together under one Microsoft account. Microsoft 365 provides everything from the classic suite of Microsoft Office tools (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) to solutions that most didn’t even know existed, including:
• Cloud storage to create your own internal internet
• Customizable online forms
• A flowchart and diagram maker
• A newsletter builder
• And a couple dozen other apps

Top 4 Microsoft 365 Features

These are the top 4 features for small businesses:

1. The leading word processor, presentation builder, and spreadsheet software

Even organizations that don’t use Microsoft 365 will independently install Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on their machines. With Microsoft 365, however, you get these apps as part of the package deal without additional licensing.

2. Security

Not only does Microsoft provide market-leading security in data storage, but their OneDrive and SharePoint apps also enable you to store everything with user-by-user privacy customization. Each user gets 1TB of data storage on their OneDrive, and the organization has an additional 1TB of storage in SharePoint, Microsoft’s cloud-based shared drive.

The pinpoint precision with which businesses can share files and collaborate helps protect them from social engineering as well as hackers, too.

3. Remote and hybrid teams collaborate better than ever

If remote or hybrid work is still part of your business culture (or will officially be your business model moving forward), Microsoft 365 enables collaborative communication on platforms like Microsoft Teams as well as the robust email software Outlook.

4. Accessibility across devices

The degree of accessibility on Microsoft 365 apps is exceptional. Not only are there the browser-based and desktop apps, there are also iOS and Android mobile apps with strong user ratings and totally comprehensive functionality.

The icing on the cake is that each user can connect up to five devices under each account.

Small businesses no longer have to juggle multiple memberships and licensing to a long list of solutions, including Microsoft Office, Zoom, Calendly, Slack, and their choice of flowchart app or digital whiteboard. Instead, Microsoft 365 provides all these solutions and more, including a full migration of the company shared drive to the cloud.
Questions? Contact our team of proactive IT experts for a consultation.

Spam filtering

What is email spam filtering?

Everyone who has a PC or device of any kind can suffer at the hands of scammers, hackers and social engineers. Attackers are after user data, compromising their privacy and often their livelihoods.

When it comes to small businesses, organizations are targeted more often than most owners realize. Of those companies that do fall victim, 60% of small businesses end up failing within six months of the attack due to the financial loss and fallout.
Many of these attacks come in the form of email phishing attempts. Email spam filtering solutions are the number-one best way to stop the bulk of these fraudulent messages from ever coming in.

Email spam filters also block the obnoxious, unsolicited messages trying to sell everything under the sun. Even marketing messages that aren’t fraudulent can still be annoying, and blocking them altogether helps organizations stay on task in their day-to-day.

Defining Email Spam Filters

Email filtering solutions work to siphon off all inbound email traffic that has the highest likelihood of being harmful or an unwanted ad.

The filtering solution then classifies inbound and outbound messages into different spam categories that never even hit the recipient’s inbox. The filtering includes complex message classification to reduce the possibility of legitimate messages getting blocked.

Typical categories that an email filter uses include:
• Spam
• Malware
• Adult content
• Bulk message
• Virus
• Impostor
• Suspicious links

Two Types of Email Spam Filtering

Email spam filters can be implemented in a cloud-based service or in an on-premise device.

Some industries prefer on-premise email filtering solutions to meet strict compliance requirements or to keep their data storage totally internal.

For an on-site solution, a physical appliance is used along with software installed locally on each device. These email filters require ongoing maintenance by an IT team.

Cloud deployment email spam filtering is a more popular option for most small businesses. These solutions are faster and easier to implement.

Deploying a cloud-based email filtering solution also means that an organization has access to the tech team that developed the solution itself, meaning the to-do is not on an in-house IT team to solve problems or perform regular filter maintenance.

The 6 Components of Spam Filtering

Whatever email filtering option an organization goes with, these are the six core components of the best email spam filtering solutions:
1. Reputation-based email filters that filter out known spammers and approve trusted senders based on worldwide reputation databases.
2. Safelisting, allowing an organization to indicate which senders are always trustworthy.
3. Blocklisting, allowing an organization to indicate which senders are definitely spam (or something more dangerous).
4. Temporary blocklisting (also called “graylisting”), allowing an organization to temporarily reject emails from senders.
5. Anti-virus components to protect against new and existing viruses that come hidden in messages.
6. Content analysis where the content of a message is used to determine whether the message contains certain words or attachments that an organization doesn’t want to let through.
Features like content analysis get smarter over time, too, the more messages a software analyzes.

The first step for any organization is to find the solution that works for its needs. Contact your team of proactive IT professionals to learn more.

What to Know About Social Engineering

Social engineering refers to the art of manipulating people into giving up confidential information. This type of fraud has become much faster-moving and creative since the internet.

Social engineering criminals are generally seeking information like passwords, bank information, or direct access to computers where malware is secretly installed to hold your computer hostage.

In a business setting, social engineering often has the purpose of collecting business secrets or massive swaths of client information in one fell swoop.

What does social engineering look like?

These are two common examples of social engineering:
1. An email from a friend comes in, directly from his or her email account. Any email that comes—even from a trusted source—that asks for anything out of the ordinary or requests personal information should be ignored. Contact the person whose account was used to email you (by phone, if possible) to verify whether the email was legitimate.
2. Emails from other trusted sources like your phone provider or a social network are another common source of social engineering attacks. If you’re ever emailed and told to click a link, divulge personal information, or download files you weren’t expecting, contact the company emailing you to validate whether the email really came from them.

Most social engineering attacks try to dangle something desirable in front of you, such as “click here to download this hot new song” or “surprise, you’re a winner!” These are called baiting scams.

Other social engineering will try to scare you with urgency, like a friend suddenly writing to say she or he was robbed while traveling and needs a loan to get back home.

Tips to avoid social engineering attacks:
• Slow everything down. Never act before you think. Any message you receive with urgency or high-pressure should be validated with the sender.
• Be suspicious of any unsolicited message.
• Don’t click on links in emails; instead, try to navigate to the webpage directly.
• Watch for inconsistency in writing (style and format) and sender email addresses.
• Beware of ANY download. Unless you personally know the sender and are expecting a file, don’t download anything before verifying its legitimacy.
• Never believe any offer or “prize” from abroad.
• Never provide ANY personal information about bank accounts via email; no financial institution will ever request that information in an email message.
• Secure all your devices from social engineering, too, including company PCs, laptops, tablets and other devices.

Work with your proactive IT services provider to keep your whole network and internet of things up-to-date with software and hardware updates. This will strengthen other security measures like your firewall and anti-virus software at the same time.

Ready to learn more? Contact us today.

7 Benefits of VoIP

Voice over IP (or VoIP) is the technology replacing old-fashioned telephones. This new kind of telephony has improved the standards for quality phone service, especially for businesses.

The cost savings alone are enough to pique interest—but before you rush off to start shopping VoIP providers, learn the top 7 benefits of VoIP so you can identify the benefit that’s most important to you. As you research VoIP companies, you’ll be empowered to make the best choice for your business with that priority in mind.

1. Higher quality of calls

VoIP uses an internet connection instead of a phone line, meaning high-definition voice is transmitted over the internet. This offers exceptionally crisp audio and noise reduction—and really, who wouldn’t want that?

2. Cost savings on multiple levels

Both the software and hardware for VoIP are far superior to traditional land lines. The most competitive VoIP providers take it upon themselves to ensure you have the most current hardware and software, too.

Businesses don’t have to purchase their own phones and infrastructure using VoIP, either, which results in instant savings.

3. Easier conference calls

VoIP offers more than just voice calls. You can easily add others to a call on an impromptu conference, plus you can use conference calls to transfer other media formats like images, text, and even video.

4. Pandemic-proof

VoIP means total flexibility and mobility of your phone service. If an employee plans to move away and continue working virtually, that employee can keep the assigned VoIP phone number.

And when an employee does leave the company, transferring ownership of a given line is a piece of cake.

5. Reliable service

The claim of “more reliable service” comes from the competition in the VoIP space. With familiar names like Facetime and Skype pioneering the way, there are so many VoIP software today that the technology is advancing fast—and this makes it more reliable technology than the landline technology that’s been the same for a generation.

6. Scalable whenever you need it to be

Whether you plan on scaling now, this year, or in a more distant future, VoIP is as scalable as telephony gets. You don’t need to provision new lines when you grow; you just add another license to set each new employee up.

7. Easy maintenance

Installation, implementation, and maintenance are truly a piece of cake on VoIP systems. Most maintenance can be done 100% remotely by your VoIP provider, and the installation takes most businesses a matter of an hour.

Most VoIP systems, in fact, come in a “plug and play” format so you won’t even need help to get done.
There still might be other lingering questions you have about VoIP and the benefits that stand out for your business. Contact us to get those questions answered today.

Manufacturing employees working on a computer

Software Licensing: The Tricky Transfer

Even those colleagues on the outside looking in felt heavy-hearted for the team. Everyone liked working with Annmarie, and Annmarie liked working with everyone else.

It was time, though. She was going to retire.

Annmarie had been the head of client relations for twenty years. She was the go-to for how to handle every client situation, and she was also the local expert to get the most out of the company's CRM, shared drive, Microsoft accounts and other resources.

The "New Guy"

Fortunately, the new hire was promising. Sam was young and had a heart of gold. He was really into service, and his client-centric nature was sure to set the right tone for the team.

When it was time to get his desk and computer ready, the onus was on the local IT department to transfer all of the software licenses to Sam.

What is a software license transfer?

In most cases, an operating system license or software license is transferrable to another user. Each license costs the company money, so transferring an existing one is far more attractive than purchasing another.

Plus, for security reasons, it's important to withdraw the license credentials from any departing employee.

Types of Software Licenses

A software license can be transferrable if it's any one of the three common types:
• Single-user license: this is when a single user (and, sometimes, a single computer or device) is granted access.
• Multi-user license: this allows you to install a program onto multiple computers used by multiple users.
• Site license: this is a license allowing software to be installed on any number of computers or devices as long as they're within the business site location.

The IT Team Transfers Annmarie's Licenses

When the IT team got to work on the transfer, it was a volley match of extracting what each of the two team members remembered about how licenses work. Transferring licenses wasn't something either of them did often, or ever. They usually just set new licenses up.

Not only did they have to brush up on license types, but they also had to look into each program Annmarie used to decipher what license type it had.

Then, they ran into questions like how to get Annmarie's computer fully synced up to the new accounts and permissions.

The transfer took the better part of two days. The IT team saw holes in their own processes as they researched each license assigned to Annmarie.

The solution? They took notes and contacted their proactive IT services company. It turned out that license transfers could be done poorly or completely incorrectly, and they caught some of their own errors just in time with a little help.

Do you have questions about your software licenses? Contact us today.

How to Keep Your Line of Business Software Updated

A line-of-business (LoB) app is custom to your business or organization. These can be made available on the Microsoft Store for all users within your business to easily download.

The biggest advantage of LoB apps, of course, is that they’re internal and completely specific to your needs. Perhaps the optimizations you need are related to the size of your organization, or the structure of it. Or perhaps you just can’t find the app you need for your industry or market.

Keeping LoB apps updated on the backend is the responsibility of the developers who developed them. Whether that’s a third-party team you hired or your own internal programmers, there will be ongoing maintenance and bug fixes they do.

As soon as any changes are made to the source code, though, the app needs to be updated on every computer and device it’s been downloaded to. Here’s how.

Keeping LOB Software Updated

Keeping Windows OS apps updated is easy because they’re built into the bigger Windows updates. For LoB apps or any other third-party software, though, updating isn’t as easy. And it certainly isn’t automatic.

One fail-safe option that will ensure you have the most recent versions of LoB apps is to work with our team to configure a plan to have consistent processes that check all third-party software to ensure every aspect of your business software is being updated.
Third-party platforms have their own due diligence when it comes to fixing bugs, yet businesses must always be aware of when new updates are made, to integrate the changes in order to stay current with fixes that have been instituted.

Users from across the industry are constantly submitting trouble tickets and ideas, probably just like you have in the past, and it is important that you take advantage of the most recent, most secure option that your software has available.

LoB software platforms have tech teams strategizing how to keep the software current in order to keep your business, however the latest bug fixes are only as good as the implementation you have on your network and your user devices.

Still have questions about LoB apps and how to update them? Contact TimbukTech, your proactive IT provider.

5 Steps to Wireless Security in the Workplace

Wireless connectivity is great. In fact, in today’s world, it’s a mainstay. Connected devices can go online anytime with reliable speed and at low cost.
If your wireless network at work isn’t properly protected, however, you’re opening your employees and your clients to the risk of hacking, downtime, the loss of intellectual property and more.
Sensitive data can be siphoned right off an unprotected (or inadequately protected) wireless network. But you know this already. Do you know how best to protect your business, though?
Take these 5 steps and you can rest assured that your wireless security will provide the best protection you can get.

Step 1: Change the router login information

This is one of the basics that hackers take advantage of daily, because most businesses skip this step entirely.
Routers come with a default username and password like “admin,” and these credentials are fast and easy for a hacker to figure out.
Set a quality password for your router right now and continue to change it frequently.

Step 2: Update your firmware and software

It’s never at the top of your list, but it’s critical to your network security to update firmware and software regularly on your router.
If you didn’t even know there were updates for routers, yours could be years overdue.
Firmware updates usually self-install once they’re downloaded, so you can take this step in a matter of minutes. Set reminders to check again each six months.

Step 3: Use WPA

To start getting into more technical steps, make sure you use the default encryption protocol “WiFi Protected Access” (or WPA) on your router.
Double check your network settings to update this setting, which is more secure than “WPE” standards on routers from even a few years ago.

Step 4: Set up both private and public access

If you have both employees and clients on your network, you’re in a precarious situation for network security. It’s safer to keep traffic separate so you can make your business connections to the network more robust.
To split the traffic now, use a Service Set Identifier (SSID) to make two separate points of access for your network:
1. One business-grade access point for your employees
2. One public access point for customers

Step 5: Turn Off WPS

WiFi Protected Setup, or WPS, is another acronym you should know. Turn this off on your router, because this setting allows one-push pairing of devices with an encrypted network. Anyone with even a moment of physical access can connect permanently.

When there’s a breach of clients’ personal information and sensitive business data, businesses suffer lost reputation, lost productivity and lost business.
Protect your company by taking these 5 simple steps to secure your network right away.
There’s more than can be done, too, like disabling DHCP and eliminating rogue APs. If that’s starting to sound too technical, contact us for help securing your wireless network.

Person checking their online banking with a password

4 Reasons Your Business Needs Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Your IT plan already has many moving parts. You try to prioritize, but when it comes to how each part of the plan relates to the next, you prefer to leave that to your IT service provider.
Then, there are those to-dos that your IT provider recommends, but fall to you to do. One of those is to set up multi-factor authentication, or MFA.
This is a recommendation you’ve heard before. It’s still not done, though. You either think you’ll “get to it” or you haven’t really mentalized it as something that has to get done.
The sobering reality, however, is that if MFA isn’t in place, all the rest of your security measures can be completely bypassed.
If it seems like too much to add to your plat to set up MFA for every account you have, start by identifying the systems that grant access to business-critical data. Add MFA to those first. MFA is an easy addition, so it can be rolled out quickly without any cost in most cases.
Why wouldn’t you do it?
If you still aren’t moving to take care of it right now, here are the 4 reasons why MFA is absolutely essential for your business operations.

1. It reduces the primary source of risk

Weak credentials (or those that have been compromised) are the principal way hackers gain access to your data. More than 95% of web application attacks come in through a compromised password.
Credential theft is the lowest-risk and highest-reward type of cybercrime, and not using MFA makes it even more profitable for hackers.

2. You want your anti-virus system to do its job

You want your anti-virus system and advanced firewalls to be worth the investment, right?
If you leave your system vulnerable to password theft by not using MFA, you’re leaving the front door wide open to intruders. Once hackers are in, they easily disable anti-virus systems and firewalls.

3. Your employees’ passwords are lousy

Think how many employees of yours have passwords like “123456” and “password.” Those, along with “qwerty,” continue to be the most popular passwords used in the business world.
Even 50% of today’s IT professionals reuse passwords across different workplace accounts. The temptation is there for everyone—it’s a drag to remember multiple passwords, so we find shortcuts.
MFA makes this risk less pronounced. Implement it and you can ease up on employees, stop running like a broken record about password security, and beef up the protection without having to count on a mass movement.

4. It increases employee flexibility and productivity

We look for shortcuts like easy-to-remember passwords because it’s a burden to remember multiple passkeys. Even organizations that enforce password policies still leave the door open to lazy password selection if an employee is too busy to get creative.
MFA allows users to sign in by fingerprint scans or single-use codes generated by an app, and it also enables secure remote access. These two aspects of MFA mean employees can work more securely from home and devote less brain power to better passwords.

MFA uses at least two of several checks to verify and authorize user access attempts. It’s natural to see why this is important to the integrity of business data.
Above are the reasons why this simple step is even more important to take now. Contact us for help setting up MFA at your organization.

Best Budget 2022 for IT

After almost two years of pandemic, many of us are looking with greater interest to the aspects of life that we can control.
In business and in our personal lives, budgets are one of those things.
According to Gartner’s latest analysis in Q3 2021, IT spending was slated to total almost 9% more in 2021 than it did in 2020. They expect it to rise at least another 5% in 2022.
Why the rise? And how should businesses account for that in their own IT budgets?
And come to it, what’s the best way to build an IT budget in the first place?
New technology, the push for the “digital transformation” and new standards of service have required companies to scale their IT game up fast. In all that scaling, there’s new opportunity to be had, too.
For instance, rapid digital transformation has helped companies become more flexible. It’s also made them more resilient. Both are qualities your company will need to be on solid footing for the future.
Here’s what to factor into your IT budget this year.
New Tech Will Change Your IT Budget
One of the age-old business lessons that most have heard is that to make money, you have to spend it.
Generally, this logic is applied to marketing. Without marketing, you won’t bring in new business. And the only way to bring in more revenue is with new business, whether with new clients or through remarketing to your existing clients.
The same logic is increasingly true for IT investments. By investing in software, apps, infrastructures and IT services that save us time, we decrease the cost of operations.
With that new tech, we also open up new doors to new service offerings and products.
Here are two of the core IT investments to ramp up this year as a solid operational foundation:
• Secure cloud storage
Updating your office tech
Software and hardware requirements will both be part of a smart 2022 budget. These new solutions sometimes carry sticker prices that might leave a lump in your throat, but the improved operations they bring will have measurable rewards.
At a bare minimum, with so many remote workers and hybrid employees, you’ll have to factor more virtual collaboration tools into your 2022 IT budget.
In fact, even for employees in the office, keeping everyone at their desks to jump into a shared document is still more attractive than casting one document up on the wall in a conference room. Remote collaboration tools are truly the way of the future.
New Security Needs Will Change Your IT Budget, Too
More data in the cloud in more apps and software will mean more vulnerabilities to your business.
This sounds like a solid reason not to invest in new systems, but don’t be fooled—a stick in the mud might be safer than a tree growing high into the sky, but which would you rather be?
In fairness, IT risk won’t have to be your headache, anyway. That is, if you factor security needs into your IT budget, then it certainly won’t be.
There’s new malware out there, for sure, with more popping up every day. There’s also the reality that an interruption to app access—due to malicious causes or not—is another risk to your business. Get a technology contingency plan in place for the times your team is offline for any reason.
Work these top security considerations into your 2022 budget, and you’ll be in good shape:
Better backups
Better email security
Secure passwords
Device and gadget security

Have questions about your IT budget? Get in touch with us, we’d love to help!

5 IT Trends to Come in 2022

In 2022, the impact of the global pandemic will continue, though we all hope it will be in less disruptive ways.
Unsurprisingly, those trends will often show up in new technology and IT for consumers and businesses alike. It’s been our key answer to the changing environment.
Life feels like it’s getting back to normal for some, but that normal is definitely a fresh look at how we live.
Maybe that’s a “next normal?”
“New normal” was what we faced in the transition from pre-COVID life to the last two years. But now, close to the other side, we’re taking all aspects life into the metaverse along with new expectations for how to live and work.
Here are the top 5 IT trends we want companies to be aware of in 2022.
1. Automation
Automation has entered everyone’s life in new ways since 2020. From smart home notifications to chat bot customer service, automation is one of the biggest potential business improvements that most companies today have at their disposal.
In fact, about half of existing work is theoretically going to be automated in the next few decades.
McKinsey predicts that by 2025, more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), too—not to mention consumer devices!
2. AI-Powered Insights
Artificial intelligence (AI) has a limitless ability to learn. It detects novel patterns and accelerates the detection of established ones. It eases the burden on businesses to analyze just about anything.
How will businesses use more AI in 2022?
Predictive analytics is what companies are using now to forecast future trends. According to recent reports, the predictive analytics market is growing at almost 25% a year and is expected to reach over $22 billion by the end of 2026.
3. Life Science Technologies
Technology has kept many of us happier and healthier through the pandemic. We’ve been able to continue working in many cases and we’ve continued maintaining connections that were essential to our mental health.
Life science technologies include biotechnology, nutraceuticals, environmental sciences and more. The pandemic itself—and the response in vaccine development and the required science—did its own part to accelerate this tech. That trend will continue in 2022.
On an individual level, biometric devices are giving us more data than ever to keep an eye on our well-being. Perhaps this isn’t a business technology, but the overall health and connectedness of your employees will benefit from adopting this tech in some way.
4. Data Visualization
Data visualization is a “must” for organizations in 2022.
Today, we have access to more data than ever. Every app and software you use produces reports for you that theoretically help you do everything better, yet businesses are feeling increasingly overwhelmed by the numbers.
Data visualization is customizable to put the right data into the visual context that easily discerns its patterns, trends and correlations—and clearly tells you what your next steps are.
Data visualization will account for $4.9 billion in business spending by 2026.
5. Blockchain Technology
Ah yes, the buzzword of the decade: blockchain.
Blockchain is the distributed ledger that first made its appearance in powering decentralized cryptocurrencies.
In business today, blockchain solutions are accounting for faster and more secure processing for contracts, governance, finance and even gaming.
The International Data Corporation says that company spending on blockchain technology was around $6.6 billion in 2021 and will grow well beyond $15 billion in 2024.

The future of business technology is far from certain. Still, these leading technologies have already kicked 2022 off with a bang.
From new needs in technical support to new consumer expectations and more remote and hybrid work, which of these technologies will your company get the most out of?