Productivity tools for the office

January 21, 2011

I have made several posts about Cloud services and the dangers involved with them. There are several services that are worth knowing about and how to use them that don’t incur significant or any risk. Here is a quick list of a few that I use with a description of what they do and how I leverage them to be more productive and effective both professionally and personally.

WordPress – This is the service that I use to create my blog posts. I tried another, blogger, which is a google tool but switched and like this one better. It is a great tool to use to get information to others. If you are a CPA you can let people know about tax issues. If you are in lawn care you can give tips to have a better lawn. You can become the subject matter expert and it keeps you top of mind when someone is looking for an expert in your field. I highly recommend blogging!

Linkedin – This is just like Facebook but designed for business professionals. I have used this tool to find sales professionals for our business, create connections with other business leaders and as a medium to let others know about my blog, charity work and alike. I am part of their open network where anyone can connect to me. Just click on my profile on the right side of the screen and link in to me.

Mozy – This is an online backup service. I have used it to backup my home system for a couple of years. Another similar service is carbonite… I have never used it but I understand it is good too. There is a corporate offering, Mozy Pro, that we offer as a “managed” service offering where we monitor and manage the operation. It isn’t recommended that this be the only backup process for your company and we have seen many make this mistake and pay for it later.

Snapfish – I store my digital pictures with this service and occasionally pay for prints. I have made photo books and calendars which make really great gifts and really not that expensive. It has a great interface that is easy to use even if you aren’t creatively gifted like myself. I have also seen corporations use this to show off pictures of them recieving awards and other news worthing events (i.e. company picnics, customer events, etc.)

Istockphoto.com – this is the service that I purchase all of my digial stock images from for my blog, website and other marketing material.

OpenDNS.com – This service is for filtering websites. I set it up on my home network for $10 per year and keeps my nephew from showing my son where to find naked pictures of girls. It also helps cut down on infections getting onto our computers. We offer the corporate offering as a “managed” service offering at a price point that is less than you could get on your own. It has proven worth the investment.

Google Calendar – I have used the free google online to keep schedules with different groups of people. It is pretty neat in that it is compatible with my new Droid phone so I can add these calendars and choose to view the events in different colors. The biggest problem is getting everyone to get on board with using it but if they do it really comes in handy.

Twitter – This is a tool that seems to me is more like an information overload but can be useful. It has helped with search engine awareness and could be used to quickly contact people kind of like a mass email. I have used it to direct traffic to my blog with some success. I could also see where our company could use it to alert customers of outages and other important information if our email system were to fail. If I could get everyone to “follow me” on twitter this could be possible. You can easily do this by clicking on the little bird on the right side of the screen.

If you have a productivity tool that you have used or still use and like let me know about it. I’m always looking for ways to get things done smarter, better and faster.

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Will my employees be productive if they work from home?

January 12, 2011

Yes! Our employee, Chad Andrus, works from home and on average he gets more tickets (service requests) completed than all of the other techs. He says he still feels part of the team and loves the fact that he didn’t have to forfeit his job when his wife’s company transferred them to the tidewater area. He doesn’t mind at all that he gets to spend more time with his family either versus looking at his windshield and I’m certain he has saved on his wardrobe because when he skype’s in for meetings he is usually sporting his Detroit sports t shirts.

Since signing up for the Telework program all of our employees, including myself, have only benefited from working from home. The reality is you don’t need to come to work to get work done and like in Chad’s case you will typically get more work done.


Reasons how your data will be compromised

January 11, 2011

If you notice all of these reasons have to do with your employees and their awareness (or lack there of). Firewalls, passwords and other popular security measures won’t stop your data from ending up in the wrong hands. Start a security awareness program within your organization, remind them often (at least quarterly) and make it a priority (or they won’t care).

  1. Employees taking information from the office to work at home.
  2. Failure to recognize and report adverse information about a co-worker.
  3. Processing data on unapproved computer systems.
  4. Employee reluctance to challenge strangers in restricted areas.
  5. Business travelers not reporting suspicious contacts or foreign travel.
  6. Employees falling for social engineering ploys for sensitive data (hoax, spam, etc).
  7. Cleared workers’ failure to recognize potential approaches from foreign spy services.
  8. Improper handling and disposal of sensitive data.
  9. Workers bringing unauthorized portable devices into work and opening up the network to hackers, spies and information thieves.

Questions and concerns facing CPA businesses in 2011

December 21, 2010

Last week we spent a few days at the Don Farmer CPA event in Richmond. We hosted a booth and after-hour party for the attendees. In speaking with many of the business leaders that we met several had the same concerns . Since we specialize in helping CPA firms most of these were similar to the concerns we have heard in the past.

1. How can we ensure our data is secure?

2. How can we minimize down-time and data-loss if our system experienced an unexpected failure?

3. Should we consider moving our data into a hosted or “cloud” providers data center?

4. How can we make sure our systems will perform optimally during this critical time?

5. Can we setup our system to be securely and easily accessible from our home systems?

6. How can we be sure home systems are secure if they belong to our employees and not the firm?

7. I heard about the TeleworkVa grant, how do I learn more about this?

8. How can we control and monitor internet usage on our systems to ensure our employees aren’t getting trapped in time wasters like Facebook?

Most of these questions have been addressed in my previous posts and I will continue to address these concerns as they exist in most businesses that we work with.


Telework Va Grant – How to get funding

December 20, 2010

If you haven’t heard about the Telework Virginia Grant then I strongly recommend you learn more about this fantastic opportunity and see if it can fit into your business. The process to get funded is simple and if you call us and ask for assistance, we will take you by the hand and step you through the process one step at a time. If you would like to go at this alone here are the steps.

1. Go to www.teleworkva.org and download the application. There less than 10 questions and will likely only take you 10 minutes to complete.

2. Write a one paragraph explanation of why and how your business will benefit from teleworking, again we can assist you with this step.

3. Fax or scan / email the information to the telework team. The contact information is on the form.

4. Find a partner to provide proposals for the implementation. We would be honored to help!

5. Find a leasing partner. A lease agreement is required by the grant.

6. Place your order. Implement the technology and start submitting your lease payments for reimbursement.

It truly is that simple!

Take a look at some of our success stories when we worked to implement a solution to improve business processes, secure data and saved thousands of dollars by leveraging the TeleworkVa grant. Thanks again to John Graubics of Tuckaway Child Care Centers, Rich Chandler of Exhibits for their time creating these videos!


Security on home computers

December 17, 2010

As time evolves businesses will likely decrease their brick and mortar office space, move into a more virtual atmosphere and employees will work remotely from home. When this becomes more of the norm these employees will either have two (or more) systems or they will consolidate all of their personal and business information onto one system. Your employees will probably not want to have one computer for business and one for personal, they will want it all on one. So how can business leaders enforce security measures if they don’t own the equipment? Can we enforce policies that state they are not allowed to use business systems for personal use? This certainly is going to create all types of issues as we move forward. Building a security mindset will be the best way to make sure your corporate data will stay safe because it is going to be left up to the employee to make good decisions on how they use the system that has access to your corporate data.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts there is a grant provided by the state of Virginia to help businesses make the investments necessary to allow employees to work remotely, www.teleworkva.org. Take a look at their site as there still funds available, we are very familiar with this grant and we are experts at helping businesses receive the funds. Check out my previous post (or click on the “working from home” category) for more information.


No more snow days

December 16, 2010

Last night the report came through that school would be closed due to a batch of snow dumping on our area. My kids were ecstatic! Funny thing is that when I woke I decided to dress down… jeans, long sleve polo and of course my snow boots replaced my dress shoes. Even as adults our minds are programed to want to take the day off. As a business leader you already expect several employees to call in with a variety of reasons why they can’t make it in, there is always one. Well thanks to the state of Virginia and the Telework Virginia grant that they have to offer you can have your cake and eat it too! Tell them to stay home! It is fine, in fact it is very possible that working from home will make some of your employees even more productive. We have experienced that with our employee Chad that works from Norfolk Va 4 days out of every week. His productivity levels have always been very high and those who know Chad know that he is one of our most skilled and personalable employees. Since he started Teleworking his productivity levels have increased even further and he still feels like he is part of our team. We all love Chad!

Rethink your corporate strategy of thinking employees can’t, won’t want to or will be less productive working from home. I also posted on this top previously “No more sick days” and the concept applies the same here.

For more information on this fantastic grant you can visit their website www.teleworkva.org and you can always contact our office, we’d be happy to assit.

Enjoy the snow! 🙂


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