Tip of the Week: Prevent Phone Calls From Interrupting Your Meetings With Volume Scheduler App

It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: you’re sitting as an audience member while the demonstrator–be it your boss, a coworker, or your child’s school chorus–is suddenly interrupted by the sound of your phone going off after you forgot to kill the volume. Or, you miss a crucial phone call from your boss or coworker because you remembered to silence your phone when it was appropriate, but forgot to reactivate the sound later. Either way, you don’t look very good, and your professional reputation and performance could suffer as well.

However, there is an app available for download that can help to avoid these issues automatically: the aptly-named Volume Scheduler.

This free app allows Android users to preset their volume adjustments based on the time of day. As a result, if a user knows that they will be in an important meeting from 1:30 until 3:45, they can tell Volume Scheduler to silence their phone between those times. On the flip side, if they know that they’ll be in a crowded terminal between 9 AM and 3:45 PM where they can answer their phone at any time, a user could make sure their phone was scheduled to be at full volume.

What makes this app an excellent option is how budget-friendly it is, in all senses of the word. Not only is the app free to download, but since it works based on time, it will not eat up data charges or even battery life. As a result, a phone can be set to a pre-established schedule and relied on to be quiet when necessary.

What are some of your most embarrassing phone volume-related stories? Feel free to share some in the comments!

Tip of the Week: Shop Safe While Online With These 3 Common-Sense Tactics

Stick to What You Know
When making an online transaction, well-known websites can safely be considered to be more secure than the smaller, never-heard-of-it sites that a search engine may bring up, or than the opportunities search engines present to buy the item directly from the search. Large retailers, like Amazon, Walmart, and other recognizable brands have a large incentive to protect their customers from financially-motivated cyber crimes like identity theft, and so they are more likely to have considerable capital invested in their customers’ data security. The smaller sites don’t have nearly the resources or the public-opinion-driven incentive, and may even rip you off.

However, be careful that the web address is spelled properly and is using the correct domain in the URL. Hackers will generate these sites to trick their victims into falling for a phishing scam. The “great deal” they just tried to snag may ultimately allow the site to snag their credentials and financial information.

Look for the Padlock
The next time you visit a website that asks for your credit card information, check the URL again, but this time, check to see that it begins with HTTPS. HTTPS signifies that the usual HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, has added security (hence the added S) thanks to an added secure sockets layer of encryption. There should also be a padlock icon displayed in your address bar.

These are indications that the site has been encrypted in order to safely process payment information. Sites with just HTTP and without the lock are inherently more susceptible to have their information hijacked during transit, including the information a customer inputs. Naturally, these sites should be avoided.

Be Mindful When Mobile
Many people are known to visit a store only to determine if an item is indeed the one that they want before ordering it online. Be wary if you are connected to a public Wi-Fi when doing your online shopping. Due to their high susceptibility to cyber attack, your activity while connected to these digital minefields should be limited at most, and should never include anything that involves sensitive personal or financial information.

If your online shopping ‘trip’ is informed by these tips, you should be able to remain safe and sound while you make your purchases.

What’s on your wish list this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!

Tip of the Week: 4 Ways to Resolve the Blue Screen of Death

The BSOD is the result that Windows resorts to when it experiences an error critical enough to require a reboot. This is what makes it different than a simple application crash, which will usually only require you to restart the application, not the entire computer.

Typically, a BSOD will occur if your computer encounters a problem in its hardware, a driver or software issue, or is infected with a virus. As a result, a STOP Error is thrown up, Windows crashes, and the only remedy is to perform a complete reboot–at the unfortunate cost of any unsaved data that the user may have been working on.

However, not all BSODs are caused by the same problem. Some are legitimate errors, but others are clever attempts by scammers to infiltrate a device more completely. An easy way to spot the difference between real and fraudulent BSOD messages is to check for a phone number. If one is provided, someone is trying to scam you. Microsoft has never provided contact information on their Blue Screen message, only the error code and instructions on how to reboot.

If there is no phone number provided, you’ve managed to incur a real BSOD. Fortunately, the steps to resolve it are pretty straightforward.

System Restore: If you’ve been encountering the BSOD fairly regularly, it could very well be a software problem causing it. If restoring the software to a previous version resolves the issue, you have confirmed that the BSOD was software-related. This is something you should have IT handle for you, since you don’t want to backtrack over something critical.

Malware Issues: Unsurprisingly, malware can often be the cause of this particularly irksome problem. Running a quick scan should quickly root out any malware floating around on your workstation that is causing your problem. Of course, it’s best to be proactive and have a properly managed antivirus that is kept updated and ran regularly.

Boot Up in Safe Mode: By eliminating all but the essential drivers to boot your PC up, it will allow you to determine if a certain driver is causing the issue. Safe mode will allow you to work towards resolving the cause of the BSOD. You might not be able to get much work done in safe mode, but it allows a technician to access event logs and other tools to help determine the problem.

Reinstall Windows: This should be your last-ditch option, as it will completely wipe your existing operating system and replace it with a new installation of Windows. If this doesn’t fix the Blue Screen, your problem most likely lies in your hardware, such as a hard drive failing, memory error, or several other issues. Again, you should rely on an expert who understands the repercussions of reinstalling Windows. Your applications, settings, and many other factors will need to be put back into place before you can start working again.

If you’d rather not have to deal with a BSOD, COMPANYNAME can help. By managing your IT, we can predict and prevent issues that would otherwise impact your productivity. To find out more, give us a call at PHONENUMBER.

Tip of the Week: Avoid Unpleasant Surprises When Moving to a New Office

Building Size and Systems
Before you fall in love with an office that seems to have lots of floor space, be sure to take measurements and know beforehand exactly how much square footage you’ll need. Ask yourself:

  • Can the new space easily accommodate your staff with their workstations?
  • Is there enough room to house your IT infrastructure?
  • Can a backup generator easily be installed in order to prevent downtime?
  • Is the HVAC system powerful enough to keep workers comfortable and your server units cool?
  • Can the new building accommodate growth at the rate you’re currently experiencing and then some?
  • Is there enough parking for everybody?

While some of these questions may seem obvious, if you overlook just one of these points, then you’ll experience some serious growing pains.

Cables (Phone and LAN)
BEFORE you have the moving team unload the truck of office furniture, you’re going to want cables in place. This is why it’s important to come up with a floor plan ahead of time, instead of just tossing desks wherever you feel like. When running cables, make sure that:

  • You test them.
  • They aren’t near fluorescent lighting and electrical cords.
  • They’re properly labeled.
  • You run two drops for each workstation, just in case one is bad.
  • Determine if you’re going with a VoIP phone system that uses an Internet connection, or with a traditional phone system that uses landlines (which will require a different set of wires to run).

Also worth considering, if moving into a new office space represents a fresh start in terms of cabling, then you may want to look into a wireless networking solution. Going wireless cuts back the work of cabling, but it requires careful planning in order to make sure that each workstation and mobile device receives the needed bandwidth across the entire premises.

Efficiency and Expenses
Like with any major purchase, you don’t want to get stuck paying for more than you have to or be surprised that maintenance costs are higher than anticipated. One way to better understand a potential property is to consider its load factor; i.e., how much space is taken up by features that prevent utility, like hallways, elevators, restrooms, etc. Generally speaking, offices with a lesser load factor allow for more work-related resources. Therefore, be sure to account for load factor, lest risk going with an office space that advertises a large floor plan, but ends up being a tighter fit than anticipated.

Additionally, it’s crucial that you look beyond rent and factor in monthly maintenance costs. Make sure you know how much utilities and deliberations cost, and find out if the space comes equipped with any features that will help save on utilities, like solar panels.

The Neighbor Factor
Many office buildings are divided up and rented out to multiple businesses. Finding out what companies you’ll be sharing the building with is a task you’ll want to do before moving in, not after. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How close is your nearest competitor?
  • Will your neighbor’s business model and hours of operation interfere with your operations?
  • How are the parking spots divided up among the tenants?
  • What maintenance responsibilities are the landlord’s, and which are the tenant’s?

One way to get an inside scoop on the space is to ask a current tenant about their experience before signing the lease. A short conversation of this nature may save you a lot of headache by revealing pain points that you would have otherwise missed.

Once you have your new space picked out, you’re next going to want to move your technology in such a way that your systems won’t get damaged. This includes backing up your data, just in case, as well as making sure that your technology is compatible with your new setting. For assistance with all of your technology-moving needs, call COMPANYNAME at PHONENUMBER and have us do the heavy lifting.

Tip of the Week: Overwhelmed With Email? Try These 3 Helpful Tips

Make Time to Read Your Inbox
One of the most surefire ways to clean up your inbox is to actually go through it and check the messages. However, we know that a lot of business executives receive countless emails on a daily basis. This can make cleaning it up challenging, as you have no clue what’s important and what isn’t. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to actually read all of your messages at once, so it’s your responsibility to make time to go through it and clean it up yourself.

One way that you can do this is by only checking your email a couple of times per day–once in the morning, and once near the end of the day. Set aside time where all you do is check and respond to emails. Eventually, you’ll whittle down your immense stockpile of messages and get to a comfortable spot.

Unsubscribe to Email Listings
Another important way to clean your inbox is to limit new messages that are sent to it. You may have subscribed to several online news sources or other e-newsletter services that send you promotional messages through your email. To unsubscribe to these constant messages, just scroll down to the bottom of a message and there is often an “unsubscribe” link that will redirect you to the website account’s settings. You can then choose to unsubscribe from receiving further updates. Just make sure that the link you’re clicking on looks legitimate first.

Implement a Spam-Blocking Solution
Spam is a huge time-waster for any business, but more than that, it can be a security issue. Hackers like to spread malware through unsolicited messages filled with links and attachments. An unknowing user could accidentally click on them and infect your organization’s infrastructure with malware or a virus.

A spam blocking solution is the best way to keep your inbox free of dangerous and time-wasting messages. A good spam blocking solution should be able to keep any threatening messages from hitting your inbox in the first place.

If your organization is ready to eliminate spam and secure your email inboxes, wait no longer. COMPANYNAME can equip your business with enterprise-level spam filtering solutions designed to keep spam out of your inbox. To learn more, reach out to us at PHONENUMBER.

Tip of the Week: 3 Ways to Get Your IT Budget Under Control

 Build an IT Roadmap

If you’re making the decision to purchase new hardware or software solutions on a day-by-day basis, you might be in for a nasty surprise when a server failure or an unexpected workstation power-down leaves you with little choice but to invest in new systems. If your budget hasn’t taken these new devices into account, you could be in danger of overspending IT resources.

This is why creating an IT roadmap is so important. You sit down with a trusted network administrator or IT professional and map out the next one, five, or even ten years in regard to your organization’s technology assets. This is an opportune time to schedule hardware and software refreshes so that your technology never falls behind, and so that your budget is flexible enough to adapt to rapid changes in operations.

Minimize Downtime
Similarly, downtime is a major contender for the most disruptive instance in the office environment. Downtime is classified as any instance when your business isn’t operating as intended. This could stem from a loss of personnel or the loss of an Internet connection. In most cases, however, it comes from your technology not working properly. Eliminating downtime is a top priority if you want to ensure that your IT budget isn’t being wasted.

Thankfully, you can resolve this issue by taking advantage of a dynamic backup and disaster recovery solution. BDR works by providing near-instantaneous access to your data backups, allowing your business to experience minimal downtime in the event of a disaster, like a fire or electrical storm. The less time you spend getting back in action following a disaster, the more time you spend being productive.

Outsource as Much as Possible
We know what you might be thinking; “why pay for someone else to do the work, when I can just do it myself?” Some business owners think that they can save money on IT expenses by devoting their time and energy into learning about technology solutions and how to manage them on their own. While this might make sense on paper, it’s important to remember that IT management and maintenance are not simple tasks, and certainly not any that you can easily invest in.

This is why outsourcing is so highly recommended to small and medium-sized businesses. It helps you onboard professional technicians who understand your needs, but without the frustration of adding new salaries to your budget. All you pay is a monthly rate as per your service level agreement. It’s recommended that you outsource as much of your IT as possible, since you can remove IT as a capital expense and add it to your operational expenses.

At COMPANYNAME, we want to help optimize your IT budget. To learn more about managed IT services, reach out to us at PHONENUMBER.

Tip of the Week: Avoid Buyer’s Remorse By Renting a Gadget Before Buying It

At this point, these gadget rental services primarily deal with popular consumer electronics, like smartphones, cameras, wearables, drones, headphones, and more. Although, you may be able to browse these rental services and find gadgets that are useful for your company. If not for business purposes, then surely you’ll come across an item that you’ve always wanted but have been hesitant to fully commit to.

These try-before-you-buy services are actually pretty straightforward. In most cases, you’ll browse a website and select the item that you would like to rent. You’ll then pay a small fee that covers you possessing the product for a predetermined period of time. Then, the item is mailed to you and your rental period starts as soon as it arrives. During this time, you get to use the product and, when you grow tired of it, you simply send it back and only pay for the time that you used it.

If, however, you fall in love with the product and wish to keep it, you simply pay for it and some portion of the rental fee will be deducted from the final price. Depending on which rental company you go with, you may be sent a completely new product if you decide to make a purchase.

The advantage here is that you’ll essentially be able to get your hands on a hot new gadget for just a portion of what it would cost to buy it. This can come in handy if you only need the gadget to complete a project, or perhaps use it for an event. Also, it’s the nature of some gadgets to only be fun for the first few weeks before losing their luster. Therefore, renting a drone for a week and then sending it back may be a much more economical way of “getting your drone fix” than having to pay outright for one, using it for a week, and then having it collect dust in your garage.

Two popular websites to check out if you’re wanting to rent cool technology are Lumoid and Grover.

Lumoid
Lumoid specializes in camera gear and wearables, but they’ve also got a nice selection of drones, high-end headphones, and more. PCMag offers this review. “You can try several devices at once for a reasonable cost, or simply rent items, such as the new Apple Watch or a drone quadcopter, on a short-term basis… Prices vary, shipping took more than two weeks in my trial, and the loan times can be a little tight, but Lumoid’s convenience makes it a worthwhile service.”

Grover
Grover is new to the US and offers more gadgets than Lumoid, like smartphones, virtual reality devices, laptops, projectors, video game consoles, and more. In an interview with PCMag, Grover CEO Michael Cassau is quick to explain what sets his company apart. “Grover is not about trying before buying but about replacing buying altogether because it’s unnecessary and largely debt financed. Consumers are granted the freedom from purchasing one gadget at a large upfront cost and given the ability to experience multiple gadgets at a reasonable price point. How long a consumer wants to keep a product is up to them.”

Similarly, when it comes to business technology like servers and workstations, there are several IT hardware companies that offer leasing options so that you can get the technology your company needs, at a cost you can afford. If this is a technology option that appeals to you, then reach out to COMPANYNAME at PHONENUMBER and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Are there any cool gadgets that you’ve been dreaming about but you’re on the fence when it comes to making a purchase? Let us know in the comments what tech you’ve got your eye on and if you think renting is the way to go.

Tip of the Week: Merge Your Mobile Devices and Stop Carrying 2 Phones

Use Call Forwarding
If the only reason you’re lugging around a second phone is because you need it to answer calls, then you can easily leave one phone behind by forwarding all incoming calls to the other phone. Virtually every cell phone has this feature. In Android (depending on your version), open the phone app > Call settings > Additional settings > Call forwarding, you’ll then select which call forwarding option you want and enter the phone number of the second device. Just remember to turn off call forwarding when you return to your other phone and no longer need it activated.

Many VoIP phone systems let you automatically forward calls to cell phones. In some cases, you can even set up a schedule so after hours calls can be forwarded to your cell phone. Depending on your VoIP solution, you may just need to download an app.

Mirror Text Messages
While call forwarding is super easy to set up, forwarding your text messages is a little more complicated. Unlike call forwarding, the ability to mirror text messages between two devices doesn’t come as a standard feature on Android or iOS, which means that you’ll have to seek out the assistance of a third-party solution. One such text messaging mirroring solution is MySMS. The only drawback is that comes with a yearly fee of $9.99.

Set Up Multiple Accounts on One Device
Did you know that both Android and iOS devices allow users to set up multiple accounts on a single device? This may be an ideal situation if you want to add your work account to your personal device, or vice versa. Two things to keep in mind when doing this: 1) make sure to correctly set up important apps like calendar and email so you don’t get these mixed up, and 2) if you’re adding a work account, be sure to review your company’s mobile device security policy so you’re not putting sensitive data at risk.

Sync Your Apps to the Cloud
Whether you only have one smartphone and one PC, or you’re using two smartphones, a tablet, a laptop, and a workstation, it can be confusing to use multiple devices. If you’re looking to streamline your device usage, then syncing your cloud-based apps like Dropbox, Office 365, Google Drive, iCloud, etc., is the way to go. Otherwise, you’ll risk each device hosting critical data that can’t be accessed from other devices.

By consolidating your mobile devices, you’ll reduce the risk of having the device you’re not using getting lost or stolen, and it will be much more convenient than having to switch back and forth between devices. Of course, when merging devices like this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not leaking sensitive data, and that you’re in compliance with whatever security policies your company has in place.

For assistance with this and all of your technology needs, call COMPANYNAME at PHONENUMBER.