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Posts Tagged ‘it help’


What Nonprofits Should Seek in an IT Provider

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

While many of the technical needs at nonprofit and for-profit businesses overlap, there are still several key considerations for nonprofits looking for the right IT services provider. Nonprofits’ motivations may be driven less by the concept of “spending money to making money” and more toward avoiding unnecessary costs so that the organization can focus more of its time and money on its message.

For nonprofits, working with an IT managed services provider can offer the following advantages:

IT Providers Help Streamline Technology Growth Alongside Nonprofit Growth

In many cases, growing nonprofit organizations struggle with keeping their infrastructure up to capacity to handle increased staff and workloads. Some nonprofits may find it easy to use in-house staff to set up and prepare new devices for new employees, whereas others may find an IT provider’s assistance invaluable. Other businesses may find it very difficult to keep their network infrastructure providing reliable performance while the number of employee computers and mobile devices continues to grow. Infrastructure can become overwhelmed as your business introduces more devices. IT service providers can help keep a watchful eye on desktop and network management.

Protecting Nonprofits From Technology Threats

Nonprofits and for-profits alike need to make IT security a priority: Overconfidence in your organization’s ability to protect itself and recover from cyber-attacks can be a major security threat in itself.

Though similar to for-profit businesses, nonprofits place a little less emphasis on targeted attacks because nonprofits aren’t as likely to be working with the same level of financial assets or confidential information. However, desktop management, which involves keeping security software running and all applications patched, can easily fall behind if on-site staff doesn’t actively monitor it.

IT services can ensure a nonprofit’s computers are strongly protected from threats.

Additionally, hiring an IT services provider for help with disaster recovery and backup can help your business avoid otherwise catastrophic situations. Proper backup practices require continuous diligent work to minimize loss from events such as hardware failure and ransomware attacks. For nonprofits, it can be invaluable knowing backups are completed correctly without having to worry about it. Losing an hour’s work by restoring data from a backup is a much more desirable prospect than losing entire projects.

Budgeting and Cost-Saving Help for Nonprofits

IT providers can also help nonprofits both stabilize and lower their budgets for IT expenses. Additionally, IT providers can work with nonprofits to only provide needed services and keep as many services in-house as the nonprofit desires. Nonprofits may pay extra attention to keeping overhead costs down, so outsourcing expensive, infrequently used services can bring in huge savings. Additionally, IT providers can offer a flat-fee subscription-based agreement so a nonprofit won’t have to deal with as many possible “surprises” when determining its IT budget for labor and capital expenses. For example, a business might look to IT services to cover IT management, implementation, equipment, software, and maintenance while maintaining control of its own in-house help desk and customer service.

The IT providers at MPA Networks can help your Bay Area nonprofit by fulfilling your IT needs at a lower cost. Contact us today to learn more.

6 Can’t-Miss Tools for Innovative Presentations

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

It’s easy to grow jaded about presentation software. After all, each new version of PowerPoint and Keynote may feel like the equivalent of the same old room getting a new coat of paint. However, new tools and apps offer all sorts of fresh and clever ways to make better presentations. Encourage your employees to experiment with the following six tools in 2018 and see where they take you.

1. Collaborate with Google Slides

Google Slides may not offer PowerPoint- and Keynote-level features, but it’s free, widely supported and cloud-based. If you’re working on a presentation as a part of a team it’s easy to use Google Slides to work together. The program updates itself online in real time, so if one person on the team makes a change to a slide, the rest of the team will see it immediately if they are also working on the presentation. Google Slides also features automatic saving.

Additionally, your staff can use Google Slides as a tool to create a first draft of a presentation. When the draft is done, one employee can transfer the slideshow to another more capable program for revisions.

2. Exchange Ideas with SlideShare

LinkedIn SlideShare is like a social network for slideshows.

As long as the presentation doesn’t include confidential information, your staff can showcase their work and get feedback from other presentation experts.

Additionally, your staff can take a passive role in the social network: You can use it to look at other presentations from people across the world for inspiration on how to make a better presentation. SlideShare offers expert-taught presentation courses as well.

3. Dump Dated Software for Slidebean

Slidebean is a popular alternative presentation program that’s built to create stunning presentations with minimal effort from the content creator. Slidebean is a cloud-based app much like a premium version Google Slides and offers seamless online collaboration. It’s built to work on just about any device that supports a web browser.

4. Make a Non-Linear Presentation With Prezi

Prezi is an excellent tool for presentations during which the presenter interacts with the audience and adjusts points based on the discussion. It’s excellent for non-linear presentations as well as Q&A-style conferences. It can also be a helpful visual aid for a Q&A session after another presentation.

5. Present From Your Tablet or Phone with ApowerMirror

ApowerMirror is an application that streams a presentation from an Android or iOS device onto a computer. This tool can be very helpful for presenters who prefer the freedom of being able to move around and control their presentation with a smart device rather than a clicker. It’s also helpful for making sure that all the necessary media files are accessible for the presentation because it can access the device’s storage.

6. Generate Website-Based Timelines with TimelineJS

TimelineJS is a handy tool for presenters who want to produce a timeline with relative ease.

The tool quickly generates a timeline for display on a website from data entered into a Google spreadsheet template.

Presenters can display the timeline through any web browser to guide a presentation outside of a slides program.

Empower your productive staff to become even more productive with the right tools at your disposal. The IT consulting experts at MPA Networks can help your business identify and utilize new apps and tools to increase productivity well beyond your greatest expectations. Contact us today to learn more.

What Changes in Net Neutrality Could Mean for Your SMB

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

The FCC net neutrality 3–2 repeal vote of December 2017 could lead to major concerns for IT staff at small and medium businesses. As of February 2018, the FCC is continuing to move toward the net neutrality repeal, but actual business changes will take a while to go into practice. That delay means IT staff is left with more questions about what’s going to happen rather than solid information on what will happen.

Understanding the Public Protests and FCC Defense

Opponents argue that the repeal allows services providers to create premium paid “fast lanes” that will give the paying customers a leg up on the competition when it comes to how quickly their content travels over the internet.

While big businesses can afford to pony up for fast lane service, SMBs will be less likely to afford the advantage.

Service providers say they just don’t want to be treated like a utility akin to gas, electric and phone service providers. Additionally, service providers argue the “fast lane” concept would be a step-up deal and wouldn’t mean slowing down speeds for non-paying businesses.

A lack of competition means that customers who are dissatisfied with fast lane practices can’t simply take their business elsewhere. According to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report, “Only 38 percent of Americans have more than one choice of providers for fixed advanced telecommunications capability.”

How Net Neutrality Changes Impact IT

As far as IT staff is concerned, net neutrality changes are related to internet performance. The rules could amplify existing concerns over how different services function and change some points of emphasis:

  • Customer-facing website and online application performance will be more important than ever. Businesses that aren’t paying for “fast lane” access will want to make sure their CDN is performing well and their platforms have efficient data footprints. Not paying for “fast lane” service could be considered a barrier to entry for new competitors.
  • Company website SEO could take a hit because longer load times on their sites mean more people will abandon the page load. Load time doesn’t play a role in search result rankings, but page abandonment does — and longer load times mean higher abandonment rates.
  • Growing SMBs that move a lot of data across the internet could be crushed by larger businesses entering the same space and paying for an ISP speed advantage.
  • IT staff will have to address unfair business complaints against service providers with the FTC rather than the FCC, which the Harvard Business Review argues is less equipped to protect consumers in those disputes.
  • “Fast lane” cloud services may be more appealing for business use, which means IT staff may be tasked with migration to other platforms.
  • Businesses may opt to change high-bandwidth services such as teleconferencing to competitors who are paying for “fast lane” performance, especially those who rely on those services to communicate with clients.
  • Cloud-based backups could run at less optimal speeds compared with the full potential of the internet package speed, which could mean more time between backups.
  • Location-to-location network traffic could run at less-than-optimal speed, which could turn into a problem down the line as the business moves increasing amounts of data.

The IT consulting experts at MPA Networks can help your business adjust to changes in net neutrality rules as they take effect. Contact us today to learn more.

Training Employees in Data Security Practices: Tips and Topics

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

While there’s plenty of technology available to keep your business’s data protected, the human element is still the most important piece to consider in safeguarding your company’s data. Properly training employees to understand and implement data security best practices works best when your business makes a cultural shift toward prioritizing IT security. Successfully training your staff is half about knowing how to train them and half about knowing which topics to train them on. Businesses that embrace a proactive approach to training employees on data security will have a much better track record than those that take a reactive approach.

Training Tips

Don’t just make a plan: Implement a program that focuses on training all employees. Have your business take an active role in implementing a data security program. This ensures training is far more effective than simply creating security practices, offering one-time training and hoping it works.

By implementing regular security training meetings on changing topics, your business can train your staff on a wide range of concerns.

In addition, your company can benefit from focused training while constantly reinforcing security as a priority. Hold multiple sessions that get into each topic in depth to help your employees better understand data security.

Training doesn’t end when the session ends — it’s an ongoing process. As an extension of training, your security staff should frequently send out reminders about security concerns to help employees remember what they’ve learned. Make your data security training materials easily accessible in the event staff members see a reminder and realize they should read up on a topic if they’re unclear of what the reminder is about. Additionally, C-level staff, IT and supervisors should lead by example.

Training Topics

The bad news is hackers will always create new threats for your staff to worry about — but the silver lining is that you’ll never run out of fresh topics to cover. Because of the fluidity of data security, your program will need to change which topics are covered in training and continually adjust strategy to address new threats. The following list covers just some of the many topics training sessions can cover:

  • Strong passwords and more secure authentication practices: This includes covering two-step authentication when applicable.
  • Secure Wi-Fi best practices: Explore red flags to look for when using public Wi-Fi and discuss whether public Wi-Fi should be used at all.
  • Physical device security: Cover topics such as encryption and disabling devices remotely to minimize data leaks for stolen/lost devices.
  • Use policy: Reaffirm that non-employees shouldn’t be using employee hardware.
  • Device security: Discuss the importance of keeping software patched and running security software on devices.
  • Popular methods of attack: Cover security best practices for avoiding popular phishing, man-in-the-middle and ransomware attacks.
  • Social engineering threats: Discuss the importance of the user as an essential line of defense when software can’t protect from threats.
  • Three-copy backup strategy: Explain that data is also at risk of being lost rather than stolen, and explore key backups to minimize these losses.

Hackers and thieves are known to exploit human complacency in security practices — and frequent training sessions will help employees stay aware. Is your business looking to improve its security practices? The IT consulting experts at MPA can help; contact us today to learn more.

Giving a Presentation: A Technology Preparedness Checklist

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Giving a presentation can be stressful, so dealing with technology issues at the last minute is the last thing you want when attempting a professional delivery. The following technology preparedness checklist can help you make a good impression rather than forcing the audience to sit through on-the-fly troubleshooting.

A presenter should test the presentation where they are going to deliver it in advance.

Here’s what to do:

Hardware/Software Preparation Checklist

  • Run a “dress rehearsal” by testing any new hardware against the presentation delivery workflow. If this is the first time you’ve presented in a particular environment, run through loading your presentation and making sure the whole thing works correctly.
  • Ensure you have working login credentials for the presentation device and network, and test them in advance. Some computers will run a time-consuming new account setup script the first time a user logs into a device with network credentials.
  • Be sure the presentation device is running the most recent software updates. This will avoid surprise “update needed” popups and forced updates that can derail presentations.
  • Disable screen savers, phone calling and background messaging programs to avoid unwanted interruptions. Turn off any other disruptive applications you can identify.
  • Ensure the presentation device is compatible with the screen mirroring monitor or projector, and make sure you have all the necessary adapters and cables. Check in advance to see if you’re using an AppleTV, Miracast, Roku, WiDi or direct cable connection for monitor/TV/projector access. Make sure your device is compatible with the connection platform. Don’t rely on the IT staff to have all of the necessary cables ready.
  • Know your device’s screen mirroring shortcuts. For example, Windows devices use “Windows Key + P.”
  • Make sure audio playback works on the presentation device if you’re using sound in your presentation. Working video does not guarantee working audio.

Software Compatibility Checklist

  • Ensure your presentation files are compatible with the presentation device’s software. For example, if you’ve prepared a speech in Keynote, you may need to convert it to PowerPoint.
  • Check for embedded media file compatibility. For example, an embedded .MOV file may work on the PC on which you created the presentation, but it might not work on the presentation device. If you’re sure you’ll have internet access, you can link to or insert the videos from website sources to remove compatibility issues.
  • Run through the presentation and check for formatting issues on the presentation device. The presentation device may be using a different version of the software and thus may display differently. Avoid using custom fonts, and stick to the five-by-five text rule to work around formatting changes.

Presentation Access Checklist

  • Make sure you can load your necessary files onto the desired presentation device. PowerPoint files may not embed all linked content, so be sure to move all the necessary media files with the presentation file. Test it on another device if you can.
  • Have two data copies of your presentation ready in case one fails. Store copies on a flash drive and external hard drive, an optical disc and a portable drive, or a flash drive and cloud storage. If you’re bringing your own device, have a copy on external storage just in case you need to present on a different device.
  • Avoid internet dependencies if at all possible.

The more familiar you become with a given presentation environment, the better able you will be to pinpoint the most important factors to check on before a presentation. The experts at MPA can also help your business streamline its presentation hardware and software configuration through productivity consulting and desktop management. Contact us today to find out more.

Do You Have a Crisis Management Plan for a Cyberattack?

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

A cyberattack crisis management plan is your business’s best defense for minimizing cyberattack damage after technology-based preventative measures have failed. Unfortunately for most businesses, cyberattacks are not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Establishing a crisis management plan can help your business minimize data compromise, limit attack scope, decrease recovery time and reduce harm to your reputation. Having a plan in advance means your operation can immediately get to work on containing the attack when it occurs rather than allow it to incur further damage while you scramble to develop a plan during the breach.

What Threats Do Cybersecurity Attacks Pose?

Cybersecurity attacks aren’t going away. According to CBS, as of 2015, criminals contributed to 1.5 million annual cyberattacks. These attacks can have major repercussions for a business.

According to IBM, the average breach costs a business $3.6 million.

Some attacks can lead to massive fallout that can put a business in financial trouble. In 2016, there were 15 breaches that exposed more than 10 million identities, Symantec reports.

The technical side of preventing cyber-attacks is an ongoing cat-and-mouse game. The tech industry pushes to close security holes as soon as — if not before — hackers find and exploit them. Hackers like to take advantage of businesses that haven’t applied software patches to close established security holes.

Malware, ransomware, botnets, IoT vulnerabilities and email phishing were all major threat sources in 2017. In particular, ransomware is a growing problem because businesses are paying more than $1,000 on average to recover “locked” data. Many of these payouts could have been avoided by implementing proper crisis management and disaster recovery plans in advance. While big businesses offer big targets, SMBs still need to protect themselves from attacks.

What Your Plan Should Contain

A cyberattack crisis management plan revolves around three main elements: preparation, response and recovery. Every step is crucial, because a poor response can actually make the situation worse. According to WIRED, Equifax’s management response could have stopped the problem before it started in their major 2017 breach, if they had not done such a poor job. Here’s what to consider:

  • Prepare: Your business should prepare for extreme-level attacks in advance. Part of this process involves creating a response team with key players from all necessary departments. The plan should include what each group needs to do in the event of an attack. The crisis response team should take action to plug major known security holes as they are discovered to prevent a breach.
  • Respond: The response team should identify the attack, secure the compromised systems, and investigate the cause of the breach in that order. Next, the team should take action to prevent further attacks that exploit the same or similar security holes.
  • Recover: The cycle continues after your business contains the threat. The response team should next work to minimize public damage and repair customer trust. According to a 2011 Ponemon Institute study, larger businesses say they averaged $332 million in diminished business value following a customer data breach.

The disaster recovery experts at MPA Networks can be a vital part of your business’s crisis management plan. Our experts can help your staff gets back to business as usual as quickly as possible. Contact us today to find out how we can help.