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Smart Steps When Working From Home

Working From Home Due to Coronavirus? Consider These Tips

If you’re suddenly working from home due to the coronavirus, maximize productivity with a dedicated workspace, enjoyable breaks, and engagement with colleagues.  

For the vast numbers of Americans suddenly barred from their offices due to the coronavirus pandemic, working from home can pose significant challenges. At home, distractions — including undone chores, needy pets and bored kids — abound, and tech troubles like unreliable Wi-Fi can stymie conference calls and online meetings.

What are some steps you can take to maximize productivity as you maintain a balance between the personal and the professional?

Working from home coronavirus

Create a Dedicated Workspace

For individuals living in small homes, working at the kitchen table may seem natural. However, trying to get work done in a space that has other uses — such as eating — can pose problems. At mealtimes, you’ll need to move your laptop, tablet, papers and other necessary work-related items elsewhere, then move them back later. In addition, working in a central location in your home can expose you to any number of distractions.

Consider setting up a dedicated workspace that’s private and quiet. Even a small desk tucked into a corner of your bedroom can work, and it provides you with a spot for leaving your work items set up at all times. A dedicated workspace also makes it easier to separate the professional and personal portions of your day.

Schedule Calls and Concentration Sessions

Working from home, you may feel disconnected from colleagues — and, thus, obligated to participate in any calls or virtual meetings to which you’re invited. At the beginning of your workweek, consider reviewing your schedule to make note of any planned meetings.

Once you know when to expect virtual meetings, cordon off some time dedicated to intensive work that requires uninterrupted concentration. Staying connected with co-workers will be more important than ever as you try to get your work done remotely, but you also need periods you can devote to critical projects.

As you hammer out your weekly schedule, take advantage of the flexibility that working from home offers. In the time that you don’t spend commuting, you can take calls or dive into intensive tasks. If you prefer to read or get work done in the early mornings or later in the evenings, you can do so.

Make Your Breaks Count

As you work remotely, consider scheduling some breaks into your day. Particularly when you work in a confined space, getting some fresh air and a change of scenery can provide a needed boost for both your state of mind and your productivity.

During the few minutes at a stretch you spend away from your screen, try to work in some activities that support health. Whether you prefer a quick walk or enjoying your lunch outside, time outdoors can give you the recharge you need to spend meaningful hours back at the computer.

Find Ways to Engage With Colleagues

If your job involves working as part of a team, you’ll want to keep in touch frequently. Along with virtual meetings, a business-oriented chat app can allow you to ask questions and provide feedback quickly and without the formality of email. For groups who work together throughout the day, a dedicated chat room can provide a virtual location for checking in between project work.

When you’re trying to concentrate or you’re on a deadline, you can use “do not disturb” functionality to signal that you are currently unavailable for online chats or calls.

Video calls have their downsides, including using more bandwidth than regular audio calls. However, conducting virtual meetings through video calling also provides an additional level of nuance and interaction that you may not get with the typical conference call. If you participate in frequent calls, consider using a video calling app for at least some of them.

As you adapt to performing your job from home, you’ll discover what works best for you — including creating a dedicated space, scheduling time for concentration, engaging with colleagues, and taking meaningful breaks. Your co-workers may appreciate hearing your tips as they strive to develop their own remote work-life balance.

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Remote Workforces Deliver Business & Employee Benefits

When considering the employee and employer benefits of working remotely, businesses are wise to change. The alternative could make your outfit less competitive.  

If you would like to gain a little perspective on how radically our culture has changed, try this exercise. Pick up a pencil and a piece of paper and write out a half-days’ worth of emails rather than send them electronically. You will probably discover the first one looks more like scribble than cursive writing. And, your productivity will completely tank.

Remote Working Coronavirus

At first blush, the exercise demonstrates our reliance on electronic devices and real-time communication. But on another level, it shows that thought leaders are wise to embrace technological advancements as they emerge. Remote workforces rank among the more innovative trends of the business landscape today.

“To remain competitive in today’s work-from-anywhere environment, companies will need to invest in responsive technology infrastructure and enhanced virtual collaboration tools, as well as training and tailored performance management and incentive strategies for remote workers,” director of HR at the Gartner research group Emily Rose McRae reportedly said.

This shift away from in-house staff to people working from home or on the road once earned mixed reactions from industry leaders. But the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted businesses across the globe to find a way to have valued employees work from home until health crisis passes. Employers and employees alike are discovering this advancement tend to be mutually beneficial when utilizing platforms such as Microsoft Teams.

Mutual Benefits of Remote Workforces

The health crisis has motivated businesses to shift to Cloud-based systems and Microsoft Teams strategies as a short-term measure. But HR departments may want to take the opportunity to scan the workforce landscape because work-from-home expectations are expected to surge and impact hiring.

“By 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30 percent due to Gen Z fully entering the workforce. Gartner’s most recent ReimagineHR Employee Survey found that only 56 percent of managers permit their employees to work remotely. Organizations without a progressive remote-work policy will be at a competitive disadvantage for attracting and retaining talent,” according to Gartner.

That being said, these are the reasons why the global trend to remote productivity is well-received by management and staff.

  • Commute & Stress Reduction: No one can dispute the fact that commuting to the office adds unpaid work hours. Sitting in traffic or being packed into commuter rails tends to be an unpleasant way to begin and end each day. Employees and employers share this stressful routine. Remote work platforms such as the Cloud and Microsoft Teams allow all parties to sit down with a morning beverage and log on from anywhere. No hustle, no bustle, no extra hours, and no commuter expenses.
  • Talent Without Borders: Before the massive cellphone footprint, people used landlines with rotary dialing, and long-distance was expensive. In those days, it was common to pay a premium just to call someone in the next state over. But just as your cellphone can connect you to people far outside your region without added expense, so can the Cloud. When projects are conducted in Microsoft Teams via a Cloud-based network, your remote talent pool expands exponentially. A skilled person 1,000 miles away can secure a job they are qualified for, and employers gain access to talent otherwise unavailable.
  • Reduced Infrastructure: An increasing number of organizations that do not necessarily require a brick-and-mortar footprint. These outfits can eliminate that cost in some cases. Other operations can reduce office space expenditures. With remote workforces, less can be more.
  • Live-Work Lifestyles: Millennials and the Gen Z crowd tend to see work and life more closely aligned in their lifestyle than previous generations. The Cloud has been a boon and securing offsite positions allows employees a preferred professional lifestyle. Raising children no longer comes attached to childcare expenses or limited “parent hours” jobs.

Microsoft Teams Supports Remote Workforce Culture

With dispersed workforces increasing, Microsoft Teams ranks among the most business supportive products on the market. It seamlessly works with Cloud-based networks and delivers real-time communication. The platform offers chat, video conferencing, managed channels, shared calendar options, and project space that can provide supervisors with top-tier oversight. In these troubling times, Microsoft Teams use has surged by tens of millions. But industry leaders may also want to consider the long-term benefits of embracing remote workforces into the future.

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Coronavirus Spreads Computer Viruses as Hackers Target Businesses

Hackers Target Businesses Concerned Over COVID-19

Hackers are capitalizing on fear and concern related to coronavirus to launch ransomware and malware attacks. Here’s how to protect your business and employees.

As the COVID-19 spreads worldwide, hackers are taking advantage of an already stressed and strained healthcare system to attack vulnerable companies. Phishing attacks are on the rise worldwide, capitalizing on fear and a desire for information.

In many cases, hackers are sending emails purportedly from the World Health Organization or local hospitals. However, these emails contain ransomware and keystroke-logging malware.

Here’s the latest on coronavirus-themed attacks.

Coronavirus Hackers

What Is the Emotet Trojan Virus?

IBM recently warned of a spam issue targeting Japan. The messages contain Microsoft Word files that are full of macros. When opened, the macros infect uses with the Emotet Trojan. Once launched, the trojan can insert itself into email conversations. As the trojan propagates, the malware lets hackers steal information and embed malware onto users’ machines.

Japan is particularly vulnerable, not only due to the coronavirus but also the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, which are under threat of cancelation. One message translation warns of the coronavirus’ spread to areas of Japan, urging readers to open the attached notice.

A similar campaign has targeted Italian companies with a phishing campaign. It purports to be a notice from the World Health Organization with precautions to take to prevent the virus from spreading.

It contains a malicious Word document asking users to click on an “Enable Editing” button then an “Enable Content” button to see all the information. Users doing so, however, download the Ostap Trojan-Downloader. It contains the Trickbot downloader that is a customizable, frequently updated tool popular with hackers.

How Are Hackers Exploiting the Coronavirus?

As the number of news sites covering the coronavirus has grown, so too have the number of registered domain names related to the virus. According to one analysis, since January 2020, more than 4,000 domains have been registered globally related to the coronavirus. Three percent are considered malicious and another 5 percent deemed malicious, making coronavirus-themed domains 50 percent more likely to be dangerous than others registered in the same timeframe.

The World Health Organization has issued a warning about the daily reports it’s receiving about phishing attempts. However, hackers are smartly creating emails that look as though they’re coming from official sources, leading more users to open the emails and download files. Hackers can scrape information from official websites to create email templates that seem legit.

“National emergencies and/or disasters add a fear factor that acts as one more hook for hackers to get what they need,” said Ron Culler, ADT Cybersecurity’s senior director of technology and solutions, in a recent Vox article. “When fear is added to any targeted campaign — be it a legitimate or scam campaign — the effectiveness of that campaign is increased.”

How Can We Prevent Phishing Attacks?

Businesses can take several steps to educate employees and protect against these attacks. A layered approach to cybersecurity is a prudent way to reduce the risk of attacks from various vectors. Here are some tips:

  • Educate users about the prevalence of coronavirus-related phishing schemes, advise them to be cautious and show them how to detect suspect emails (look for spelling and grammar errors, check the sender’s email address)
  • Ensure that hardware and software are patched and updated promptly, ideally with automated update tools
  • Use and update endpoint anti-virus, anti-phishing, anti-spam and anti-malware tools
  • Have an incident response plan in place to ensure teams can respond quickly in the event of a ransomware or malware attack
  • Update endpoint detection tools such as firewalls and other system monitoring and alert solutions
  • Consider segregating networks to reduce the impact of self-propagating malware
  • Use email security tools that inspect attachments and disable the running of macros on attachments
  • Update blacklists of malicious IP addresses and compromised websites
  • Use content filters to block access to inappropriate and dangerous websites
  • Review access restrictions to limit the spread of malware throughout systems

Businesses must now address coronavirus-related issues both from an employee safety standpoint and a cybersecurity perspective. For assistance in protecting your business from coronavirus cyberattacks, contact your managed services provider today.

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Top Tips for Improving Data Analysis with the IF Function in Microsoft Excel

Improving Data Analysis with the IF Function in Microsoft Excel

Have you ever wondered what the IF Function in Microsoft Excel actually does?  Here we explore a few top tips for making it save you time while evaluating data. 

 

There’s no doubt that Microsoft Excel is a robust program. Companies all over the globe utilize this application to analyze, track, and otherwise organize data in an easy-to-read format. But how much do you know about it and the various features that are available? And are you taking the right steps to ensure you’re looking at your spreadsheets in the most efficient manner possible? Here are a few of our tips and techniques to help you save time and improve your data analysis by using the IF Function in Microsoft Excel.

Tip #1: Understand What the IF Function Actually Does to Help Your Workflow

The first real step in making sure you’re using Microsoft Excel’s IF Function appropriately is to understand what it actually does. The IF Function tests whether a condition is true or false, and then performs an action. These actions can be calculations, data entry, or something closely related. The function is incredibly useful if you have large data sets or need to make significant changes, as it is a great way to save time in your workflow.

Tip #2: Creating the IF Function is Incredibly Easy

Creating the IF Function effectively starts with knowing the three parts: the logical test and then a value if true and a value if false. From there, all you have to do to make it work with your spreadsheet is to choose the data sets that you want to evaluate and determine what you want the true and false results to be. To do this, use the IF Function on the Insert a Function menu. Click okay and enter the conditions as you are prompted to do so on the screen.

Tip #3: Knowing How to Nest Functions

It is possible to use multiple IF Function formulas at the same time. In some cases, you might have multiple different possibilities or different levels of data that you want to compare. That’s when knowing how to nest multiple IF Functions becomes important. Nesting functions adds the ability to build more comparisons within your formulas instead of having to complete them separately.

Tip #4: Adding AND and OR to Your Functions

You can also add AND and OR to your IF Functions to make the results much more specific. While this is technically part of understanding how to nest functions, knowing how to do this is an effective way of utilizing the IF Function in a more efficient manner. An example of this is comparing two columns of data: one showing the amount of sales and one determining if an employee has completed training. By adding AND or OR to your IF Function, you can show a specific result, such as those employees that hit a specific sales goal and finished the training program you provided. As you can see, this can be a really easy way to get the information you need without having to spend a ton of time scouring through your entire spreadsheet.

Tip #5: Using Range Names to Make Data Easier to Sort

Range names are essentially a stored label that allows you to identify a range of one or more cells. They are incredibly useful for navigation, formulas, and even printing off specific parts of your spreadsheets. For use with the IF Function, you can utilize data ranges to save time when you’re working on a specific block of values as it allows you to use that range name instead of specific cell names. Range names can have letters, numbers, or an underscore, but cannot have spaces. And they are not case-sensitive, but title case is recommended for ease of viewing.

Tip #6: Remembering to Use Quotations with Text Strings in Your IF Function

Using the IF Function is an incredibly easy way to add text to a specific cell when certain criteria are present. However, you do need to remember to use quotations around your text strings in your IF Function formula. Failure to do this can really mess up your data set and make the formula not work correctly. Should you have a problem getting the IF Function to work for you, this is one of the first things you need to check.

Tip #7: Changing Text with Conditional Formatting Based on Your Result

Not only can you add text or insert a formula with the IF Function, but you can also change text visually with conditional formatting based on your result. It can be done automatically and setup within Excel under the Home tab. Examples of this option in use include turning a specific number bold and red if it does not meet the criteria of your IF Function, or highlighting it in yellow if it does meet certain requirements.

Conclusion
Microsoft Excel is a great way to analyze and interpret datasets. The IF Function allows you to do this in an easy-to-read and simple manner while saving you tons of time in the long run. These quick tips are a great way to skip complicated formulas and really make your spreadsheets work for you.

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What Is Two Factor Authentication?

Protect Yourself – Use Two-Factor Authentication for Your Business

Learn about what two-factor authentication is and how it works. Once you understand its benefits you will see how helpful it could be for your business.  

 

Two-factor authentication is something every business should be using to protect themselves and their customers. You know the value of adding layers of security to your business. If you have a brick and mortar operation, you probably have a lot more than a simple lock on your front door. Security cameras, alarms, barriers and more are common for most businesses because one layer of security is never enough. The same is true for online security. Two-factor authentication gives your business and customer another layer of protection beyond the standard password – so why not use it to improve your security?

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

You have probably already encountered two-factor authentication as you navigate the internet for personal or business reasons. All the major tech companies like Google and Facebook are using it because it makes sense to do so. The process of two-factor authentication goes something like this:

  1. Input your username and password. Two-factor authentication starts off just like your standard security measures. You input your username and password for the site you are trying to access or the app you are trying to use. This is the first step of the authentication process, the first factor.
  2. Provide a second factor to authenticate yourself. Here is where two-factor authentication becomes special. It asks for you to provide a second factor that is much harder for hackers to mimic. For example, it might ask to send an authorization code to your smartphone or ask for your fingerprint to verify your identity. Hackers are much less likely to have these available to mimic you and try to access your account.

You have definitely encountered the older way to verify your identity – security questions. But security questions have become less and less effective at protecting your information than they used to be. Most security question answers can be found on your social media account, after all. Hackers can spend just a little time doing some research to find all the answers they need, particularly if they have already stolen your password from another site through their cybercrime efforts.

How to Use 2FA in Your Business

You can easily implement two-factor authentication or 2FA into your current business security efforts – both for your employees and your customers. There are multiple ways you can use two-factor authentication, including:

  • Text Messages (SMS). Most people prefer to use SMS to verify their identities over the other methods listed below because it is so easy to check your text messages and access the authorization code. All the user needs to do is log in with their username and password, then receive the code through SMS and type the code into the verification box. The only drawback to this method is that if the user loses their phone they can’t authenticate.
  • Email. You can also allow users to send their verification code to their email. They need to be able to access their email – which usually isn’t a problem – but if they can’t this method would not work. The other problem that can come up with emails is that they can sometimes get caught in spam filters and never arrive at the person’s inbox.
  • Phone Call. While this option is not used nearly as often as the two above, it is a possibility depending on the system you are using. The user can choose to get a phone call which will use text to speech to deliver the code they need to log in.
  • Tokens. Some companies find it easiest to give employees tokens, either hardware tokens like key fobs or software tokens through apps, that can then be used to provide the second factor in the authentication process.
  • Push Notifications. It is possible to get an app that will allow users to receive push notifications so that they can authenticate their accounts. They get the notification and then click yes or no to authenticate.

2FA is possible using a variety of methods – the most important thing is that you start using it to begin with. Whichever authentication method you choose, your business and your customers will be more secure as a result.

Two Factor Authentication