There are many hands-on trades that haven’t traditionally needed technology. Yet modern tech tools help the plumber, carpenter, welder, or other trade improve productivity and competitiveness.
There are certain common tasks tradespeople face daily:
The Difference Technology Tools Make
Most of us carry small, powerful computers around in our pockets every day, whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet. Internet-connected devices give tradespeople access to tools to enhance productivity.
Let’s start with scheduling apps, as tradespeople are often on the move throughout the day. Signing up for a scheduling tool (e.g. Doodle) makes it easier to set appointments, and you aren't involved in the booking process. Customers simply go to your website or link to the app and choose an available time that works best for them. You can even set it up to ensure you have buffers between appointments or prevent someone from scheduling a new, big project to start at the end of your day.
Integrating the scheduling app with your website helps customers reach you. Also, connecting to a shared cloud calendar can help your team work together better. Everyone invited into the calendar can see who is out on a call, and where.
You can make changes to a cloud-based calendar on any connected device. Others will see the alterations in real-time. This helps you avoid scheduling conflicts. You can set a follow-up meeting with an inspector while you’re out in the field. The office secretary sees your availability in real-time to set up a new customer visit.
Your Trade Office On the Move
With cloud-based office software also available online, you can get more done out of the office. You don’t have to make a trip back to the office to enter your invoice slips and make photocopies of receipts. Instead, take pictures on your phone or tablet, and attach them to the project file in the cloud, or invoice directly from a secure cloud-based processing site. You won’t have to worry about any paperwork getting lost in the back of a truck or bottom of a toolbox.
The Microsoft Office suite, Google Docs, and cloud storage are available from iOS and Android devices. This lets you monitor project timelines, view budgets, and track invoices and payments in the field. Cloud-based accounting packages let you see cashflow or outstanding balances and pay contractors or suppliers on the spot.
Cloud-based software also gives every employee access to business tools in the office. With a virtual desktop, they can collaborate easily (out on a job or in the office) and make changes in real-time. For instance, a contractor could access software to edit a building plan, then actually see the new design in 3D modelling software.
The great news is that technology is ever more accessible and easy to use. Embracing modern digital tools can improve customer service and trade business efficiency.
Your skill set may not extend to technology, but that’s where we come in. We can help you find the right technology for your business needs. Contact us at 715-255-0325 today!
Small business owners are proud of getting everything done with few people. Every team member wears many hats. They are part of a family, devoted to the firm’s success. But that doesn’t make them qualified to handle IT. Really, you’re never too small to outsource your technology needs.
A small business may only have a few computers for its handful of employees. Having an in-house person dedicated to IT support would be overkill. But just because the technology is working fine today doesn’t mean your IT is performing at its best. That’s why it can be beneficial to outsource IT.
Having someone who knows technology working for your team can pay huge dividends. Your outsourcing partner will add value by:
· helping you avoid bad tech purchases or buying software you don’t need;
· identifying where you can be more efficient with tools you already have, which can save money;
· providing knowledgeable support and IT help;
· learning business needs and making recommendations about the best IT for your goals;
· protecting your business technology and ensuring computers are up to date with security patches.
Small Business Breaches
Cybercriminals don’t care about business size. In fact, according to Accenture, 43% of cyberattacks were aimed at small businesses, and only 14% of the SMBs were prepared for defending their networks and sensitive data.
In fact, a small business can be a particularly appealing target. Hackers will exploit a small business as part of a campaign to attack a larger business. They know the SMB is less likely to have the same level of security as the bigger target in their sights.
Accenture’s 2019 study found that more than half of all small businesses had suffered a breach in the last year. These attacks can be crippling for SMBs. According to insurance carrier Hiscox, the average cyberattack costs a business $200,000. That figure can be a killer blow for a small business. Some 60% of SMBs hacked go out of business within six months of the attack. Even if they can survive the financial hit, damage to brand reputation and customer goodwill is devastating.
Advantages of Outsourcing
You may not have a clear picture of your cybersecurity status right now, but by working with a managed services provider (MSP) you’ll get one. Your partner will conduct an informal audit of your current technology and learn your short- and long-term goals.
Your small business, for instance, may not have a data protection procedure. You might be thinking you don’t have a lot to backup and store. But the quantity may not be the primary concern. Can you recover if your business loses an email chain it was keeping for legal or compliance reasons? What would happen if the computer holding your accounting database died? An MSP can identify where tech changes can better ensure business continuity.
When you outsource, your partner will also inventory all your tech assets. They’ll need to know everything about your infrastructure and your business’s technology capabilities. Your current team may recognize the importance of securing the business’s intellectual property, but are they also protecting customer data and employee records? Your business needs to be intentional about confidentiality, availability, and safety. An MSP can help.
The cost of outsourcing is often a stumbling block for the budget-conscious SMB. Managed IT services can often lower costs for clients by streamlining processes, managing vendor relationships, and ensuring that the business technology is best suited to current needs. And you'll pay a fixed regular fee for a technology team member who will help you avoid big, costly tech surprises.
No business is too small to outsource IT. Having access to a full-time IT professional via a managed service provider can improve your operations, enhance productivity, and lower cybersecurity risk.
In order to protect our customers while continuing to provide the highest levels of customer service, Yellowstone Computing is taking the following precautions:
1. Customers needing to drop off their devices are encouraged to use our online ticketing system on our Repairs page prior to bringing devices in for service. Pick up and drop off hours will be Tuesday and Thursday from 9am to 5pm.
2. All devices brought in for service will be disinfected.
3. Onsite service calls will be restricted to businesses.
4. Remote service calls are encouraged; we can fix many computer issues remotely via the Internet, please visit our Support Page for instructions.
Please note that repair times may be impacted, we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We greatly appreciate your patience and patronage during this time.
The executives of your company are the big fish in your sea. Yet cybercriminals think of them as whales. In fact, whaling is a new cybersecurity threat targeting the C-suite level.
You’ve likely heard of phishing attacks. Phishers use scam emails or spoofed websites to obtain user credentials or financial information. This might be an email that looks like it is from your bank asking you to log in and update your details, or a supposed tax alert needing immediate action.
A vishing attack is another fraudulent attempt to steal protected data, but the cybercriminals are going to use the phone to make contact. They might pretend to be a vendor needing to confirm account details for bill payment. There’s also spear phishing. In these cases, the attackers do their homework first and target a specific company. They scour directories and employee social media to gather information to gain credibility. Now, there are whaling attacks, too. The high-value target is a senior-level employee. The fraudster typically also impersonates one of the target’s C-suite counterparts.
What You Need to Know About Whaling
A whaling attack uses the same methods as phishing but focuses on top-level targets. The goal is to get “whales” to reveal sensitive information or transfer money to fraudsters’ accounts.
Whale attacks are intentional. Phishing can see attackers baiting hundreds of hooks to get nibbles. In whaling, information gathered in advance adds credibility to the social engineering. The target has higher value, so it’s worth their time to appear knowledgeable and make a request to and from someone important.
The sender’s email address will look convincing (e.g. from email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org). The messages will have corporate logos and legitimate links to the company site. Because humans want to help, the communications typically involve an urgent matter.
Whaling attacks are on the rise. In 2016, Snapchat admitted compromising employee data after receiving an email, seemingly from its CEO, asking for payroll information.
In another high-profile example, Mattel nearly transferred $3 million to a Chinese account. Company policy required two signatures, but the attackers (taking advantage of a recent shakeup) faked the new CEO’s signature. The second executive went ahead and added a signature. The only thing that saved the company was that it was a Chinese bank holiday.
Protecting Against Whale Attacks
As with phishing or vishing, the primary way to protect against whaling attacks is to question everything. Train your key staff members to guard what they share on social media. Encourage them to question any unsolicited request. If they weren’t expecting an attachment or link, they should follow up. If a request is unusual, they should trust their spidey-sense and proceed with caution.
It’s also a good idea to develop a policy for handling requests for money or personal information. By requiring that two people must always weigh in, you're more likely to catch a scam before it’s too late.
Also, train all your employees to look carefully at email addresses and sender names. They should also know to hover over links (without clicking on them) to reveal the full URL.
Security awareness is crucial. It’s also a good idea to test your employees with mock phishing emails.
Every time employees send or receive data online, they need bandwidth. Like time and money, bandwidth is a scarce resource in many offices. After all, computers and digital devices rely on bandwidth to complete tasks online. Bandwidth is the amount of information that can be sent or received per second. This might be measured in Kbps (thousands of bits per second) or Mbps (millions of bits per second). Many people think having a higher bandwidth will mean a faster user experience. In fact, it’s only one factor that affects response time. Bandwidth is actually about capacity more than speed.
Eight bits of information is one byte. A byte is the amount of memory it takes to store one character, such as the letter "Q."
You can’t drive fast on a one-lane road when there’s a lot of traffic. You also can’t navigate the information highway as quickly in online congestion. If you’re the only one in the office late at night, you’ll have no trouble trying to stream an online webinar, but you might struggle to stream the same webinar when the sales department is on a video conference call and your advertising department is sending a graphic-heavy email.
What Is Using Bandwidth?
There is greater demand on bandwidth every day. Your business migrated to cloud services for greater mobility and online consistency but sharing information in real time requires bandwidth usage to synchronize data.
Backing up to the cloud provides businesses with greater peace of mind, yet it can be a headache if that backup is happening right when you want to get on a video chat with a client – your connection can suffer. You’ll be that person who keeps dropping in and out of that important meeting!
When you’re using an online meeting tool (audio or video), you can also slow things down for others.
Even email needs bandwidth to send and receive data. The bigger the files (e.g. images or spreadsheets?), the more bandwidth activity. Uploading a few PDFs can take up 20–40Mb of the total, which can choke a network with limited upload capacity.
All those personal devices your people are bringing to work can make a difference, too. Smartphones will often start backing up to the cloud when they are on a Wi-Fi network.
Bandwidth Usage Solutions
Often, there is no option for greater bandwidth because the infrastructure where you’re located won’t support greater bandwidth. You’re already getting the most capacity your provider can offer.
Still, there are ways to better manage bandwidth:
Far from a relaxing day dockside or on the boat, phishing is an effective means of stealing a person's information. The FTC has a good article on how to recognize and avoid phishing attempts. Click the button below for the full article.
Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. They may try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $30 million to phishing schemes in one year. But there are several things you can do to protect yourself against phishing attacks.
Unless you’re in the advertising business, you probably try to avoid ads. You pay extra to stream ad-free content online. You leave the room if you are actually watching live TV shows with ads. You filter spam out of your inbox. You immediately click out of ads on the Web pages you visit. But are you actively blocking online ads? You should be. They are more than an annoyance. They could be a security risk.
Cybercriminals are smart and savvy crooks. They don't advertise what they are doing, and it's not that easy to spot, but they do buy legitimate ad space to lure users to malicious sites.
Malvertising uses legitimate online advertising networks to target you with malicious code. Sites you know and trust that use legitimate ad networks can end up serving up the malicious ads. Cybercriminals have run ads on the New York Times, Spotify, and the London Stock Exchange redirecting to malicious websites.
Adware is another risk. Packaged with legitimate software, adware runs on your computer without your knowledge. It displays unwanted advertising, redirects search requests to ad websites, and mines your data.
The cybercriminal wants to steal your ID, or your financial and contact data, or to encrypt your information, spy on, or hijack your computer.
They can do this with exciting ads ($9 iPads?!) or alerts (often warning about infections) to get you to click. But they can also take a drive-by download approach. In these cases, you don’t even need to click on anything. You load the web page hosting the ad (or malicious pop-up window). You’re directed to a page that finds browser or software security vulnerabilities to access your machine.
Protecting Against Malvertising
Keep your software up to date and run antivirus checks to protect against downloads and malicious code. Avoiding Adobe Flash and Java helps too, as they are commonly exploited by malvertisers.
Cybercriminals mostly target Windows users, because the huge user base gives them the best return on investment. But Macs are just as vulnerable to malvertising attacks. — MalwareBytes
Installing an ad blocker plugin prevents the ad loading in the first place. These take away the annoyance of ads and help you avoid falling victim to a malicious attack hidden in an ad.
At the same time, you will enjoy cleaner Web browsing, and you won’t have to worry about distracting ads flashing at you while you read.
Your pages will also load faster. The ads often run a lot of code on top of the website code your computer needs to read and load. The images or video, for instance, can make a difference to data usage. So, the less you have to load, the faster you’ll get to the content you wanted. This can also help to preserve the battery life of your mobile devices!
There are some other considerations, though. For one, not all adblocker plugins can be trusted. Some will mine your data and sell it to advertisers, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen.
Also, some websites won’t load correctly without the ad code. You can turn off ads on a site-by-site basis. After all, some free sites that you frequent might rely on ad revenue, so there may be sites you trust that you want to support by turning off your ad blocker just for those sites.
Always think before you click. Updating browsers and plugins and installing ad blockers can also help.
How long have you had your home printer? Maybe you have a printer that came as a package deal with your desktop or free with your laptop purchase. Look in many home offices and you’ll probably see a less-expensive inkjet printer sitting beside even the swankiest monitor. Here’s why it’s time for an upgrade.
You should know that printers are often sold at cost or even as a loss leader (below cost to get your business). After all, once you get that cheap/free inkjet printer, you’ll pay for ink cartridges for the life of the printer. To make sure they get your money, manufacturers often sell new printers with half-empty ink cartridges from the start!
You’ve heard “you get what you paid for,” right? Well, that’s definitely true for low-cost printers. Manufacturers are cutting production costs to keep the price down. These printers are not built with longevity in mind. Printer owners encounter all kinds of problems:
Upgrading to An Office-Grade Printer
Our solution? High-performance commercial printers. Office-grade printers are designed as work horses. These robust printers are built to withstand heavy use with speed and reliability. Yes, they cost more, but they are also less prone to problems and more likely to be a long-term valuable addition to your home office.
You’ll have many printer profiles to choose from. You might select a printer based on its pages-per-minute printing speed. Or maybe you want a larger paper tray capacity and bigger ink cartridges. Depending on your needs, you might want a printer that allows for simultaneous operation. That would let one person print while another is able to scan or copy. Built-in Wi-Fi could also be useful in small home offices if you’re tired of tripping over so many unsightly cords.
While you’re in the market for a new printer, know that we recommend laser printers over inkjet. Laser printers use a dry toner rather than wet ink. The toner cartridges are more expensive, but they print more sheets per cartridge than inkjets, plus, toner doesn’t dry up like ink. And you don’t have to worry about the printer heads getting blocked. Lasers print faster, and you’ll have fewer problems, which means these printers are typically less expensive to operate long-term.
Inkjet printers typically have a minimum life span of three years, whereas you can expect a laser printer to last five years, although this will depend on frequency of use, of course.
When looking at laser printers, give serious thought to whether you need a color printer. How many times do you actually use color? Does it merit the added expense of that option? People who are printing photos at home only occasionally could probably get their images printed professionally for less overall cost.
Prioritize Your Printer
Even in our increasingly digital world, there are still times when we want to print. Whether it’s a family photo, school report, resume, or slide deck, you want to count on your printer for high quality and reliable performance. There are many, many office-grade printers to choose from, and it can become overwhelming. What and how much you print should factor into your decision.
By Emporia State University | The Bulletin
The PCs you choose to power your small business can dramatically impact your company's productivity and competitiveness. However, many small businesses fall for common myths about computers, leading to poor purchasing decisions. Here are four myths about PCs – and realities to help you make smarter technology decisions for your business.
Myth 1: Consumer PCs Are Interchangeable with Business PCs
Reality: Because they're built for activities like watching videos, checking email and surfing the web, PCs for the consumer market will not always have the computing power or security features sophisticated business applications demand. If a family laptop reluctantly boots up or crashes, it's annoying, but not serious. PCs for the consumer market will not always have the computing power or security features sophisticated business applications demand. For a business, however, computers are mission-critical. Employees are more likely to run multiple applications simultaneously, use resource-heavy applications or use software as a service (SaaS). PCs built for consumers often lack the computing power to handle these tasks – resulting in lost productivity. Consumer-level PCs may also lack built-in security features of computers designed for businesses, which could make your business – and sensitive customer data – vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Myth 2: RAM Is the Top Factor In Computer Performance
Reality: Adding more random access memory usually allows a computer to manage more data. But RAM alone won't improve a computer's performance – unless the PC has sufficient processing power. To make a PC faster and more efficient, you need a powerful central processing unit to optimize the RAM. While RAM is the memory, the CPU (or processor) is the computer's "brain," receiving instructions, performing calculations and processing information. To run today's resource-intensive business software efficiently, look for computers with plenty of RAM, plus processing power.
Myth 3: You Can Wait Until PCs Fail Before Replacing Them
Reality: Long before a PC fails, its performance may suffer, costing your business time and money. Waiting for an older PC to start up every day can waste up to 11 hours a year. Crashing, freezing or slow computers can keep your employees from working efficiently, and may appear unprofessional to customers or clients. Sluggish, malfunctioning PCs can reduce employee satisfaction, as workers become frustrated with outdated technology.
Don't wait until your business PCs slow to a crawl before upgrading. Be proactive. Look for hardware that exceeds your software vendor's recommended system requirements. This will help ensure your PCs can handle future software upgrades. Then set a regular schedule for upgrading your hardware.
Myth 4: You're Saving Money by Repairing Old PCs
Reality: Repairing or adding RAM to squeeze more life out of older computers may seem economical. But the cost of keeping older PCs running quickly adds up. According to research from J.Gold Associates, repairing breakdowns of a five-year-old computer costs an average of $662 per year. The same research found 43 percent of the small businesses surveyed had PCs that were over five years old – and malfunctioned each year. At that rate, you'd soon be spending more on repairs than on a brand new, more powerful computer. Besides losing productivity during breakdowns and repairs, older computers are also slower. Using five-year-old PCs can make your employees up to 29 percent less productive, potentially costing your business up to $17,000 per year, per worker.
Older PCs can also put your business at risk of cyberattacks. Per the J.Gold Associates survey, small businesses estimated that 34.47 percent of their computers over five years old had been hacked. With the average cost of a single data breach worldwide estimated at $35,745 per employee, an older PC rapidly becomes an expensive liability. In the same survey, small businesses reported that just 5.92 percent of their PCs newer than one year old had experienced cyberattacks. Newer computers frequently offer built-in security features to reduce risk of cyberattacks.
Blindly accepting myths about PCs can be expensive for your small business. Upgrading to more powerful computers can optimize the performance of your business software, enhance your cybersecurity and boost employee productivity. The next time you're making decisions about computer purchases, be sure you base your actions on reality. Then choose the right PCs to make your business more competitive.
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