In this article, Tony Holbrook helps you to identify the ‘Why’, the ‘Who’, the ‘What’ and the ‘When’ to help take your organization to the next level of a digitally cultured workspace. If you haven’t yet started, the time is NOW! He writes, “I can’t stress enough how important it is to start now. Begin with the team you have in place and assess current talent. Benchmark where you are, identify the personnel we talked about above and then do what you need to do to nurture them into more proactive roles in the right projects.”
Top 6 Tips for Effective Working from Home
With the outbreak of COVID-19, we are increasingly having conversations with our clients about working from home, so we thought it timely that we share some of our recommendations to help us all get through the next few months with as little disruption to business as usual as possible. While every business is different, here are just a few of our suggestions to help enable more flexible work places.
1. Make effective communication your top priority
This is more of a leadership issue than technical, but it is extremely important for your staff to know what is expected of them. Create a detailed list of what you expect from each team member working from home. List the activities required to do their job well, then have a discussion to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Once these are in place, use the collaboration tools mentioned below to keep things running.
2. Ensure that your team are ‘work from home’ ready
It is very easy to assume that everyone has fast internet and a quiet place to work uninterrupted. Not everyone has NBN just yet, and ADSL might not be good enough to collaborate on large files, so the tools and way we interact as a team needs to be considered. Home environments are also an issue. It might be the case their partner is at work and children are at school and they can work quietly and effectively from their apartment, but circumstances can change rapidly.
Is providing your staff member a laptop and using 4G a consideration? Do they need a second monitor, or an IP voice handset, or even a mobile phone? The way we managed this internally was to set up a shared spreadsheet, and asked everyone to update their individual situation to finalise the logistics of what each team member needs to enable them to work from home effectively.
3. Choose and implement the right communication & collaboration tools
Having a quick chat to the person in the cubicle, or quick team meeting is now going to have some challenges. Fortunately, there are already a number of collaboration tools to choose from. Email is great, but online chat, and video conferencing tools will help even more. Many vendors are also assisting by offering free access for the next few months. Some tools to consider include:
- Cisco WebEx free version with toll-free call-in options for 90 days.
- Google Hangouts
- LogMeIn Emergency Remote Work Kits free for three months.
- Microsoft Teams is free for six months.
- Zoom free version.
4. Think about how you will share files
Once we solve the team communication problem, the next challenge is how do we access our documents and file shares. Unless you already have a Remote Desktop or Citrix environment, this will pose some unique challenges. But there are options:
Option 1: Configure a dial-in VPN to the office and get your IT support team to map a network drive from your file server.
With this option, your remote workers will see their G: drive (or whatever letter you choose) from their home PC just like they would in the office. Only downside is that accessing large files can be slow, and is contingent on the internet speeds at the end users’ home, and more importantly at your office. If your office still runs on ADSL, this is probably not a viable option. Security is also a concern with this option as although the VPN ensures data transmission from home to office is secure, you cannot always guarantee that a user’s home PC is not infected with any number of malware or even worse – ransomware – that could easily impact the server data over the VPN. A robust business-grade anti-virus/anti-malware installed on home user’s PC is essential in this scenario.
Option 2: Use a cloud-based file sharing platform
Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business can help. They will keep a copy of your work files in the cloud and both Google Drive and SharePoint Online allow simultaneous user collaboration of files. Microsoft Teams also allows this (since it is built on SharePoint Online). If these tools are not already in place, have a chat to your IT team about getting it set up correctly to avoid problems in the future, especially when it comes to who has access to what files, as by default everyone will typically have access unless the structure is configured correctly from the start with specific permissions.
Option 3: Take a copy of the files and try to reconcile later
Our least preferred option would be to copy a batch of files to a USB drive and take them home. Obviously, this has major security implications if the company data is lost or intercepted, as well as the problem of merging back the changes at a later date (which would be an extremely time-consuming process). This should only ever be considered as a last resort, and not recommended.
With any of these options it is also important to consider how you will continue to back up company data once it has been dispersed outside of the normal server infrastructure to either a cloud-based platform, home PCs or a combination thereof. With cloud-based platforms like SharePoint Online and OneDrive, products like Datto SaaS are perfect for ensuring back ups continue no matter how many staff the company data is shared with. If the data is being stored directly on home PCs this becomes more difficult (but not impossible) however company data stored in this way is not recommended.
5. Think about how you access applications
Once we have access to the raw data, we need some software both for the documents and your unique line of business applications. For Microsoft Office documents, customers with Office 365 Business Premium or E3 may be entitled to download and install an instance on their home computer. Otherwise licensing might be a problem. Talk to your IT team about your options.
For your business applications, generally you won’t be licensed to run them from home and you probably have a server in your office where the database resides. So your options are: Use or create a Remote Desktop Server, or potentially remote control your office PC. There are a number of ways to implement this, with varying security considerations, so it is best to talk to your IT team about what the best option with the least risk is for you.
6. Think about your processes
Some roles are more suited to remote work than others so we might need to adapt the way we manage and allocate work. Line managers may need to have daily morning huddles with their team and potentially break work down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Goals and tasks might need to be tracked in a shared spreadsheet or an online tool like Asana. If you don’t have scorecards for your team now is the time to implement them.
With a bit of planning businesses should be able to get through the next few months without too much of an impact on productivity from your remote teams working from home. Keeping in mind government and health official advice changes daily and no one really knows how prolonged this crisis will be. However once this crisis is over the way we work may be changed forever. If you have any questions about the suggestions in this article please reach out to us. As always, at Greenlight we are here to help.
We have all come to depend on technology. Beyond computing, it has permeated our day-to day lives, with most of us using our personal tech to do essential things like pay bills, shop, do our banking, read the news, and so on.
For businesses of all sizes, the cloud has made it easier to operate leaner and smarter, enabling a mobile workforce and buoying what is likely the most significant disruption in the way the world gets things done. However, even the slightest bit of downtime is more than just an inconvenience when it translates to lost revenue and productivity.
What if it all went away tomorrow?
Recently, we have seen minor interruptions in important infrastructure and cloud services like AWS (Amazon Web Server), Adobe Creative Cloud, and Microsoft Office 365, interruptions that for some companies meant that their business continuity was at stake. In those moments, every single company whose servers and data resided on these systems were forced to cease operations, as these seemingly all-powerful and redundant services simply stopped delivering.
While these incidents are few and far between, they do happen. On average, if a site does suddenly become unavailable for some unexpected reason, the downtime is generally less than 30 seconds. While that doesn’t seem like much, it can mean a whole lot of lost revenue, and feed the frustration of customers who will undoubtedly turn tail and go elsewhere.
In order to maintain a promise of high availability, we need to understand the reasons why these services may fail, even if only for a moment. These reasons include:
Probably the most common source of downtime, hardware malfunctions can happen when there is a power outage, causing the entire system to fail. In a cloud environment, however, hardware is continually monitored, and risk can generally be mitigated quite efficiently.
Software or application failure is generally attributable to user error or mishandling of system resources.
Malware, DDoS, or other forms of malicious attacks can compromise a system in short order. Servers must make use of the latest security measures to ensure data is protected, and continually update servers to protect them from the latest threats.
So, all things considered, what kind of uptime should you expect?
There are plenty of providers who promise 99.9%, 99.999%, or even better, 100% uptime guarantees. 100% is the best-in-class solution, and is limited to dedicated cloud and virtual server plans, which often carry a marked difference in pricing. This is largely due to the fact that to be able to guarantee 100% uptime, they must have the resources, including strategic data centre locations, to back up their claims.
Even with a 100% uptime guarantee, this may not take into account scheduled downtime for maintenance, for example. Along with relentless efforts to deliver, the 100% uptime provider will have incredibly robust security, best-in-class hardware and support, and 24/7/365 monitoring to back it up.
The difference a 9 makes
A 99.999% uptime guarantee is often sufficient for many businesses. Also known as “5-nines or better”, it significantly decreases the downtime of its closest challenger, 99.99%.
To better illustrate the differences one 9 makes, consider these downtime stats per 30-day period:
99% = 7hrs 12 minutes
99.9% = 43 minutes 12 seconds
99.99% = 4 minutes 19 seconds
99.999% = 26 seconds
99.9999% = about 3 seconds
Trust a reliable host
If your hosting provider guarantees a certain level of uptime and is unable to deliver, you may be entitled to credits or refunds. It’s important to check this yourself, as you may be paying for a service guarantee that you are not receiving, and the more ambitious the guarantee, it is likely the more you will pay.
Choose a hosting provider that delivers the kind of uptime guarantee you require is important, but before you commit, find out exactly what they mean by their uptime promise and what, if any, caveats there are – such as scheduled maintenance, for example.
Anything less than 100% usually refers to a specific time span, similar to those stated above.
If what they promise doesn’t live up to your expectations in terms of both service and price, you’re well within your rights to keep shopping. It’s your money, after all.
Greenlight ITC – Reliable IT Support for Businesses in Sydney and Melbourne
If you are concerned about your cloud server and hosting uptime, call Greenlight today. One of our technicians would be happy to speak to you about how you can get the best service and value from your hosting provider.
We all know that happy employees do better work. They are more engaged in tasks and tend to stay in their jobs longer. Keeping them happy is the key – but how do you accomplish this with so many other things on your plate?
It’s a fact: employee engagement is down overall. According to Gallup’s recent report on engagement in the workplace, only 32% of employees are actually fully engaged in their jobs, and most of these are actively looking for other work.
It’s a millennial phenomenon, really. Easily bored and joined at the hip to their smartphones, it’s a task in itself to pry them away from their devices in favour of something more productive. One of the ways employers can accomplish this easily is by outfitting their workstations with dual screens. If you think that two screens are double the distraction, think again.
Research shows that employees with two screens are 60% more productive each and every day. Going back as far back as 2008, there is plenty of culpable research to back it up.
Using two or more monitors saves time
It may be seconds here and there, but it adds up over the course of the day. Employees can save time going back and forth between browsers, tabs, and applications by being able to display them all at the same time. Instead of manually switching back and forth, all it takes is a glance one way or the other.
This also saves time when working with complex spreadsheets, as employees will be able to view the entire file rather than having to hide parts of it to get it to fit on one screen. In the study cited above, participants were given a series of tasks to complete. Some had one screen, some had two, three or even four screens. The groups with multiple screens completed their tasks much more quickly and made fewer errors in the process.
Two or more screens help you stay on task
Depending on the type of work you do, you may have occasion to have to compare files, such as from a graphic design standpoint, for instance. Any task that requires you to look at two or more sets of data will benefit from using two or more screens. If you are coding, for example, you can code on one screen and view the results on another. Data entry, data analysis, or research projects that require you to reference one data set to create another can also benefit. Having needed information at the same sight-line minimizes distractions caused by losing your place, or having to wait for a preview to render.
Less clutter, less distraction
Having two or more screens allows your employees the ability to keep communications apps open, eliminating the need to constantly look at their smartphone or another device for updates from colleagues or sales prospects. You can effectively eliminate their need for anything beyond their workstation, reducing distractions and cleaning up their desktop to make room for more productive tasks.
Boosted employee productivity saves you money
According to the University of Utah’s research, using two or more monitors can save an average of 2-1/2 hours per day. Multiply that by the number of employees you have, and then again for how many days they work in a year multiplied by their salaries, that number adds up to a considerable amount – at least enough to cover the cost of supplying your staff with an extra screen.
Greenlight-ITC: IT consultants in Sydney and Melbourne
If you are looking for ways to boost employee engagement and productivity, adding a second screen to their workstation might be the answer. If you are ready to supercharge your staff with the power to go further, call Greenlight today.
Because it is at the heart of every business, we have compiled some cost management tips your business use to save money.
Did you know that roughly half of Australian businesses that started in 2007-8 were no longer operating just four years later?
This data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows just how perilous the Australian small business landscape can be. It is for this reason that effective cost management is so important.
1. Reduce paper use
With so many alternatives to sharing information, reducing paper use can be one of the easiest ways to not only save money on technology, but also to reap efficiency gains.
Share your documents on shared network drives (hosted on a private or hosted server) to allow your employees to access and share documents easily.
Another option is in the cloud– cloud technology has vastly improved over the past few years, and is now a secure and extremely flexible approach to sharing documents both internally and with partners and clients.
2. Protect your data
The cost of data loss can be unfathomable. According to Acronis’ Global Disaster Recovery Index 2012, 33% of Australian small and medium businesses were not employing means of data redundancy. The cost of environmental disasters alone tallied average financial losses of US$366,363 a year, causing close to 80% of businesses impacted to fail in the following year.
Add to this the costs of spammers, hackers and other illegal digital intrusions, and the importance of data security and data redundancy is plain to see. We strongly recommend that someone be assigned responsibility for backups, firewalls, anti-spyware and keeping your security software up to date. It could just save your business. If you are unsure whether your data is at risk, we are happy to provide an obligation free assessment.
3. Advertise online
Whether you have an internal marketing department or outsource it to one of the (many) agencies out there, there are many compelling reasons to choose online over traditional advertising. One of the key features of online advertising is that there is a wealth of data available, with real accountability placed on agencies to deliver results.
Great agencies will be able to deliver reports that outline the Return On Investment (ROI) of any given marketing budget. Compare this with the costs and uncertainty in advertising in newspapers, magazines or even television and radio– sure, you may get an influx of business for a few days, but how can you measure whether it was worth the expenditure?
Be careful who you partner with. Look for guarantees and testimonials, and ask to see proof of prior work. The best way to select a great agency to help you with online advertising is through word of mouth or checking the list of Google Partners. Google tend to only work with competent and proven agencies, so your time and money are more secure.
4. Forget the landline
Landlines account for significant costs to small businesses every year, and are one of the easiest cost management tips using technology. Being able to communicate is crucial in reaching out to your suppliers, customers and prospects. Landlines are, however, extremely inefficient in both cost and flexibility when compared to VoIP solutions.
Most businesses who move to a hosted voice solution see cost savings of between 30-50% over traditional phone costs. There are many perks to hosted voice, but the most popular ones are the ability to easily integrate phones with CRM systems and only pay for features and phones that you actually need. We have listed the other benefits of hosted voice here on our service page.
5. Buying refurbished equipment
When equipping your workforce or office, buying refurbished items is a great approach to cost management. The perception seems to be that refurbished items are low quality or a risky investment, but in the majority of cases this simply is not the case. Manufacturers often offer refurbished desks, chairs and white boards that are usually in near pristine condition. Do you really need that shiny look that only lasts a few weeks anyway?
In terms of computing hardware, refurbished can be a liability given the business critical nature of laptops and computers– and servers are definitely a big no in terms of purchasing refurbished equipment. However, one significant opportunity to reduce computing hardware costs is to move application hosting to the cloud, in which case hardware normally considered as ‘old’ will simply act as a terminal, with all the resources being provided by high end computers in the cloud. See the next point for more on this.
6. Reduce capital expenditures
Depending on your business, technology infrastructure costs can rapidly end up impacting your cashflow. The costs associated with server hardware, licensing, labour, monthly maintenance and upgrades can easily begin to add up.
As an example, if your business software requires a local dedicated server, cloud application hosting solutions such as inCloud Application Hosting can save businesses up to $12,408 over 3 years. That is money that could be spent on marketing or sales, helping to grow your business. If you were to invest that money into advertising online (as seen in Point 3) that money would go a long way in terms of adding to your bottom line.
Other options exist of course, such as seeking equipment financing to better manage your cashflow, or cloud infrastructure. Cloud infrastructure allows you to leverage high-end hardware stored in secure data centers rather than manage it all in-house, with a variety of options based on your individual needs.
7. Accounting Software
There are few business decisions more important than investing in a good accountant. This is one of the key areas you will be thankful for later in your business, as managing your accounts can be a nightmare for any business owner. Furthermore, there is often a wide range of ways to offset expenses in order to keep the money you and your business work so hard to earn.
Accounting software can be expensive, and income and expenses can be hard to track. Luckily there are a number of cloud based solutions designed for small businesses that are cost-effective and very user friendly. Some public cloud software we recommend (and have no association with) include Saasu, Xero, and Freshbooks. If you are hesitant in storing your business details with one of these smaller players, you can always refer to our earlier point on application hosting and store your MYOB software on a secure private server. Your accountant will thank you for it.