5 Ways to save money on cloud services

The cloud is a great resource for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) such as yours. It provides a number of advantages, including scalability, flexibility, and cost savings. However, some business owners may not be aware of certain hidden cloud services costs. These costs don’t seem much at first, but they can eventually snowball. Prevent this by implementing these five ways to help you save money on cloud services.

No standalones

Cloud services come in various forms, including standalone platforms with rates that increase over time. If you’re looking to save on costs, it’s best to choose a cloud service provider that offers a suite of products that all work together. This option is often less expensive than investing in several standalone products. Another benefit of working with a cloud provider is that you’ll have a single point of contact to quickly and effectively resolve any issues that you may experience.

Partner with experienced cloud providers

Make sure to hire a trusted and experienced integration consultant to help facilitate a smooth transition. This is essential as integration mishaps can cause serious downtime and also cost a lot of money.

Define and prioritize backups

Unnecessary or inefficient backups waste cloud storage space. Review your cloud storage data by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How many versions of this data do I need to store long term? The more versions I store, the more it will cost me.
  • What regulatory demands do I need to meet? Some data may need to be accessible for up to three years, while other data can be deleted after 30 days.
  • How quickly do I need to access my backups? If it can wait for a day or two, I can archive data to a less expensive service or offline at the provider’s data center.

Regulate users

It’s common practice for cloud service providers to charge per user. If you neglect to regularly manage the list of users, you may end up paying for people who are no longer part of your organization. It’s ideal to schedule a regular audit of users and implement processes that remove them when they leave the company to ensure your cloud user list is always up to date.

Monitor proactively

Ask your cloud provider whether they can proactively monitor your account and notify you of potential issues before these escalate into major problems. This is especially important if you have a pay-as-you-go license that charges based on resource or storage consumption.

Utilizing the right technology resources is vital to your business’s success, and so is knowing how to prevent such resources from racking up an overwhelming monthly bill. Give us a call if you wish to enjoy all the benefits of cloud computing without going over your budget. We’ll be happy to help.

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Everything you need to know about monitoring employees online

If you’re managing a remote workforce, you may wonder whether your team is doing their jobs or wasting time watching random videos on the internet. Using employee monitoring tools is a good way to keep track of your team’s productivity. But is this practice ethical? Read on to learn more.

What is employee monitoring?

Employee monitoring is the practice of using digital tools to track employee activity and performance, and the progress of their tasks. The data collected can be used to identify patterns, trends, and correlations across different teams allowing managers to gain insight into various work processes, and how they can be improved.

What are the benefits of employee monitoring?

Here are the key benefits of monitoring your employees online:

1. Improved productivity
Using employee monitoring tools can help you track how much time employees spend visiting non-work-related websites or chatting with friends. If an employee’s productivity goes down significantly because of these activities, you can address the issue by reminding that specific employee about the company’s policy regarding visiting non-work-related websites and/or limiting his/her internet access.

When employees know that their activities are being monitored, they’re more likely to focus on their tasks and avoid inappropriate internet use.

2. Better security
According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 85% of breaches reported in 2020 were due to human error. Monitoring the online habits of employees can help employers track and flag instant messages and emails containing sensitive and private information. In addition, managers can block employees from visiting phishing sites or websites that automatically download malware onto unprotected computers and mobile devices.

3. More efficient project management
Monitoring employee activity provides managers with continuous reports on workers’ progress, allowing them to stay on top of multiple projects. These reports can help managers delegate tasks and adjust schedules to meet deadlines.

What are the disadvantages of monitoring your employees online?

Despite its benefits, employee monitoring also comes with some drawbacks, such as:

1. Trust issues
Employees may feel that their privacy is being violated. This can lead to low employee morale and reduced productivity, as well as distrust between and among colleagues.

2. Legal issues
States and countries may have varying policies on employee monitoring, but one thing is constant ⁠— an employee’s consent is needed before any type of monitoring can be done.Without the consent of an employee, an employer can be charged with privacy violations and discrimination if the information collected is used to harm that employee.

To avoid potential problems that can arise from employee monitoring, employers should explain why monitoring is needed. A written policy should be created explaining how employees will be monitored, what information will be collected, and how that information will be protected.

If you want to learn more about employee monitoring, give us a call today.

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Make your desktop clutter-free with these tips

Filling your desktop with shortcuts to files and applications may seem practical because it lets you quickly access the resources you need. But when more than half of your screen is filled with icons, you’ll waste time looking for the files and programs you need. Ultimately, this will lower your productivity. You can avoid that by making your desktop clutter-free. Here’s how.

Do a bit of recon

Before decluttering your desktop, sort out which files and folders you need to keep and which ones you can let go of. For instance, you can OR you may want to delete files and folders that haven’t been opened in a long time. You can easily find these by right-clicking on an empty area of your desktop, selecting View, and then clicking Auto arrange icons. This will organize your icons into a grid format that makes them easier to view. Then, right-click once again on the empty space on your desktop and go to Sort by > Date modified. This will arrange the icons by the date they were last opened, with the latest on top.

Create holding and app shortcut folders

People often use their desktop folder to store downloads, photos, screenshots, email attachments, and other files, which easily messes up the desktop screen. To prevent these files from cluttering up your desktop, you should create a folder for nonessential files and folders. To create a folder on your desktop, simply right-click on an empty space on your desktop and then click New > Folder.

Use this folder to store temporary items, including those you’re keeping in the short term. Then, delete the files inside the folder once you no longer need them. You can also create a folder for shortcuts to frequently used programs. This will allow you to quickly find the program you need and help you avoid cluttering up your desktop.

Be ruthless in decluttering

Once you have your folders set up, it’s time to get rid of the clutter. If you haven’t used a file or folder in the past two months or so, seriously consider getting rid of it. Uninstall programs you no longer use, delete images you no longer want or need, move unimportant files elsewhere, and place the rest in relevant folders.

Once you’re done, take a look at your browser to see where it stores downloaded files. If your browser downloads files to your desktop by default, go to Settings and change the target location to the Downloads folder.

Stick with your plan

Once you have decluttered your desktop, try to stick with the rules you’ve made. Whenever you download something, ask yourself whether it should go to the desktop or someplace else. Of course, sticking with these rules won’t always be easy, so aim to clean up your desktop at least once or twice a month.

Use the taskbar or Start menu for apps

Pinning apps to the Start menu and the taskbar is a great alternative to simply having program shortcuts on your desktop. To pin apps, go to the apps list via the Windows Start menu and right-click on the app you want to pin. Then, simply select Pin to Start or Pin to taskbar.

Strategically position your wallpaper

An interesting way to minimize clutter is to pick a wallpaper that you like, which could be your favorite picture or slogan. Frame the image so the focus is in the center of your desktop. Then, place your icons around the image in a way that allows you to still see the image. If you can no longer see the image, that means you have too many icons and it’s time to get rid of a few.

If you want to learn other ways to optimize your Windows PC, contact us today for more tips and tricks from office IT experts.

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Why monitoring your employees’ online activities is both good and bad

More and more businesses are choosing to monitor their employees’ online behavior, as it’s one way of keeping their data and devices secure. However, there are consequences to monitoring your employees’ activities. For instance, doing so can make them feel like their privacy is being violated, which can affect productivity and morale. Because of this, it’s important that you know the advantages and disadvantages of employee monitoring, as well as some guidelines to follow, should you decide to implement it.

The case for monitoring

Monitoring your employees’ activities on company devices can be beneficial, as it helps:

  • Protect your organization from data theft or harm since careless or disgruntled employees may leak or steal your data.
  • Ensure members of your staff comply with policies such as not downloading illegal programs or visiting websites with illegal or hostile content.
  • Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit should an employee participate in illegal activities using your business’s computers.

Arguments against employee monitoring

Of course, you should also be aware of the potential downsides to monitoring. These include:

  • Reduced productivity, as monitoring can put a damper on employee morale and the perceived distrust may make your employees less driven to perform well.
  • Privacy or discrimination issues that may stem from you being privy to personal details about your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored them. For example, you may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation, or medical problems. This subjects your business to potential privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team acts negatively based on any of this information.

Monitoring guidelines to follow

If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.

1. Create written policies
When you monitor your employees, ask yourself, “Am I doing this for security purposes? Is it to ensure my employees aren’t wasting time on games or social media?” Monitoring policies that are too strict could create an atmosphere of distrust.

Set guidelines for acceptable use of email and social media, web browsing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, make sure to include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be used, secured, and destroyed.

2. Inform your employees
It’s important to inform your employees about the scope of your monitoring policies. If they find out you’re doing it secretly, you could face legal issues.

Explain to your employees why you’re monitoring them and the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal lives, but to create a compliant and law-abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to use their smartphones for personal matters. Also, provide your employees with a copy of your written policy for them to read and sign.

If implemented correctly, employee monitoring makes your business more secure and productive. For more information about security and other IT support tools, get in touch with us today.

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Make the most out of Outlook with these tips

Millions of businesses worldwide use Microsoft Outlook, preferring the free web-based email and calendar service over its many competitors. Outlook also offers tasks and contacts management capabilities, among other nifty features that will help you work smarter and boost your efficiency. Let’s take a closer look at some tips to help you make the most of Outlook.

Organize your inbox

Is your Outlook inbox getting a little too cluttered for your liking? Use the Clean Up feature to tidy up your inbox.

From your inbox, click the Home tab and choose from one of three Clean Up options:

  • Clean Up Conversation – reviews an email thread or a conversation and deletes redundant messages
  • Clean Up Folder – reviews conversations in a selected folder and deletes redundant messages
  • Clean Up Folder & Subfolders – reviews all messages in a selected folder and any subfolders, and deletes redundant messages in all of them

Ignore conversations

Besides redundant messages, group conversations that aren’t relevant to you can clutter up your inbox. The Ignore button helps you organize your inbox and focus on relevant emails.

To activate this feature, select a message, then click Home > Ignore > Ignore Conversation. Alternatively, you can open a message in a new window and click Ignore under the Delete function. You can easily revert this action by going to the Deleted Items folder and clicking Ignore > Stop Ignoring Conversation.

Send links to files

This function is especially useful when you need to send large files to your coworkers or clients. You can send a link to the file instead of the file itself as well as set permissions to allow recipients to edit and collaborate on linked files in real time.

To do this, upload the file you wish to send to OneDrive. Then from the message box, click Attach File > Browse web locations > OneDrive.

Tag contacts

To get the attention of a specific person in a group email or meeting invite, use the @Mention function. This works particularly well for emails sent to multiple recipients or if you want to convey the urgency of your message.

In the body of your email or invite message, type the @ symbol followed by the name of the person you want to tag (e.g., @johndoe). Doing so will highlight the name in the message and automatically add it to the To line of your message.

You can also search for messages you’re tagged in by selecting Filter Email from the Home tab, and then clicking Mentioned.

Add notes to emails

With Outlook, you can add sticky notes to specific parts of an email. To add a sticky note, simply drag your cursor to highlight your chosen text in the email, and then release the mouse button to trigger a pop-up object menu. On that object menu, select Add Note. This will open a OneNote feed within Outlook, where you can add text or images to your sticky note.

Schedule a Teams meeting

Teams is Microsoft’s unified communication and collaboration platform, and it includes the Outlook add-in. This feature allows you to set up Teams meetings directly from Outlook. It also lets you view, accept, or join meetings while in either app.

To schedule a Teams meeting on Outlook, follow these steps:

  1. Switch to the calendar view on Outlook. Click the New Teams Meeting tab.
  2. Add individual participants or entire contact groups to the Required or Optional fields.
  3. Type in the topic, start time, and end time of the meeting. There’s no need to add the dial-in phone numbers and conferencing IDs to the invite, as Outlook does this automatically for you.
  4. Create a message inviting the recipients to the meeting, then click Send.

Share emails to Teams

With Outlook, you can easily share an email from your inbox directly to a specific Teams channel. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Select the email you want to share.
  2. Click the Share to Teams button.
  3. On the Share to Microsoft Teams pop-up menu, type the name of the person or channel you want to share to. Check the “Include attachments” tickbox if you want to include the email’s attachments.

These are just some of the things you can do to improve your Outlook experience. For more on how to get the most out of Outlook and other Microsoft products, drop us a line today.

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Windows 10: Boost your PC’s performance with these tips

Windows 10 has a lot of special features that aim to improve your computing experience. Unfortunately, many of these may also slow your PC down, especially if your machine is older or has a low-end processor. We’ve listed four effective tweaks to make your Windows 10 computer faster.

Prevent programs from launching at startup

Windows makes certain programs readily available by loading them at startup. While Microsoft likely has good intentions for doing this, this auto-launch feature slows down your computer. To fix this issue, you’ll need to adjust your settings.

Open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc. On the Startup tab, select a program you don’t want launching at startup — such as a media player or an optional accessory that doesn’t have to be active all the time — then click Disable. To be on the safe side, however, keep essential apps such as antivirus software enabled.

Get rid of useless applications

Having too many programs installed on your computer uses up valuable memory and hard disk space. This slows down your machine and makes it work harder than necessary. Quickly uninstall programs you don’t need by following these steps:

  • Tap the Windows key on your keyboard and type “Add or remove programs” in the search bar. Selecting the first result opens a System settings window.
  • Under Apps & features, you will see all the apps stored on your computer.
  • Select the program/s you no longer want, and click Uninstall.

You’ll then be guided through several steps to complete the uninstallation process.

Organize your disks

It’s important to regularly clean out your computer of data you don’t need. Thankfully, Microsoft’s Disk Cleanup tool makes it easy to do so.

To find the tool, tap on the Windows button on your keyboard and type “Disk Cleanup.” If you click on the first result, the tool will launch and automatically find files that take up too much memory space, such as temporary internet and system memory dump files. Make sure that the checkbox before each option is selected, then click OK to send these files to your Recycle Bin.

Turn off apps running in the background

You may not know it, but there are a lot of programs that run in the background as you use your computer. Even when you’re not actively using them, these apps run in the background so they can receive information, send notifications, and download and install updates. However, they also slow down your CPU. Disabling these apps will reduce the burden on your computer and speed it up.

To find out what programs are running in the background, press the Windows button on your keyboard, type “Background apps,” and hit Enter. Find the programs you don’t need running and toggle the On-Off button.

By following these four steps, you’ll see a noticeable difference in your PC speed. If you want to learn how to optimize your Windows system further or need assistance with other Microsoft products, give us a call.

This post was originally published on this site

Windows 10: Boost your PC’s performance with these tips

Windows 10 has a lot of special features that aim to improve your computing experience. Unfortunately, many of these may also slow your PC down, especially if your machine is older or has a low-end processor. We’ve listed four effective tweaks to make your Windows 10 computer faster.

Prevent programs from launching at startup

Windows makes certain programs readily available by loading them at startup. While Microsoft likely has good intentions for doing this, this auto-launch feature slows down your computer. To fix this issue, you’ll need to adjust your settings.

Open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc. On the Startup tab, select a program you don’t want launching at startup — such as a media player or an optional accessory that doesn’t have to be active all the time — then click Disable. To be on the safe side, however, keep essential apps such as antivirus software enabled.

Get rid of useless applications

Having too many programs installed on your computer uses up valuable memory and hard disk space. This slows down your machine and makes it work harder than necessary. Quickly uninstall programs you don’t need by following these steps:

  • Tap the Windows key on your keyboard and type “Add or remove programs” in the search bar. Selecting the first result opens a System settings window.
  • Under Apps & features, you will see all the apps stored on your computer.
  • Select the program/s you no longer want, and click Uninstall.

You’ll then be guided through several steps to complete the uninstallation process.

Organize your disks

It’s important to regularly clean out your computer of data you don’t need. Thankfully, Microsoft’s Disk Cleanup tool makes it easy to do so.

To find the tool, tap on the Windows button on your keyboard and type “Disk Cleanup.” If you click on the first result, the tool will launch and automatically find files that take up too much memory space, such as temporary internet and system memory dump files. Make sure that the checkbox before each option is selected, then click OK to send these files to your Recycle Bin.

Turn off apps running in the background

You may not know it, but there are a lot of programs that run in the background as you use your computer. Even when you’re not actively using them, these apps run in the background so they can receive information, send notifications, and download and install updates. However, they also slow down your CPU. Disabling these apps will reduce the burden on your computer and speed it up.

To find out what programs are running in the background, press the Windows button on your keyboard, type “Background apps,” and hit Enter. Find the programs you don’t need running and toggle the On-Off button.

By following these four steps, you’ll see a noticeable difference in your PC speed. If you want to learn how to optimize your Windows system further or need assistance with other Microsoft products, give us a call.

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Make your hardware last longer with these tips

Hardware management may seem daunting to many, due to the constant changes and developments in the world of tech. But computer upkeep is simpler than it seems. Make hardware management a breeze by following these pointers.

✓ Clean your computer components

Wipe down monitors with a clean, static-free, non-abrasive fabric such as computer component-specific microfiber cloth. You can use the same type of cloth to wipe down mice and other peripherals, but for those tight nooks and crannies such as your keyboard surfaces, a can of compressed air will do the job.

Regular wipedowns are good because dust buildup can block computer air vents and affect their performance. Also ensure that your workstations are getting adequate ventilation and don’t get direct exposure to sunlight and other heat sources.

✓ Manage your cables

If you’re not giving your computers’ cables the attention they deserve, now’s a good time to do so. Aside from wiping the thick coat of dust off of computer cables, consider using cable management solutions that unclutter and untangle messy wires. Cable organizers don’t just organize and secure your cables, they also help ensure your PCs run quieter and are less prone to overheating as a result of blocked air vents.

Planning to relocate or upgrade in the near future? Organizing your computers’ cables now will make future relocation and upgrading processes much easier.

✓ Review and update your inventory

Keeping stock of all your hardware helps you manage hardware life cycles and purchases, identify items that are near their end of life, and ensure you avoid duplicate purchases of items already in stock.

Your inventory list should include all owned and leased devices: PCs and laptops, printers and scanners, tablets and smartphones, and modems and other network hardware. Update all your assets’ serial numbers and keep track of their respective users and location.

✓ Maintain your printers

Clean the interiors and exteriors of your printers, including paper trays, which are sure to have accumulated dirt from years of use. You should also repair and/or replace parts and accessories such as print heads and cartridges that are no longer in good condition. Should you decide to do a complete printer maintenance, check for the latest software updates for your printers and install them immediately.

✓ Implement a hardware policy

This is also a good time to create a technology guideline that your employees can follow to ensure they work efficiently. These guidelines reduce the need to spend on unnecessary repairs, keeping the succeeding year’s checklist shorter. With clear instructions on the proper use, replacement, and storage of your hardware and devices, you’ll be better able to manage your hardware for years to come.

With a more organized IT hardware inventory, you have one less thing to worry about. Want to get more in-depth hardware management advice? Call our experts today.

This post was originally published on this site

Make your hardware last longer with these tips

Hardware management may seem daunting to many, due to the constant changes and developments in the world of tech. But computer upkeep is simpler than it seems. Make hardware management a breeze by following these pointers.

✓ Clean your computer components

Wipe down monitors with a clean, static-free, non-abrasive fabric such as computer component-specific microfiber cloth. You can use the same type of cloth to wipe down mice and other peripherals, but for those tight nooks and crannies such as your keyboard surfaces, a can of compressed air will do the job.

Regular wipedowns are good because dust buildup can block computer air vents and affect their performance. Also ensure that your workstations are getting adequate ventilation and don’t get direct exposure to sunlight and other heat sources.

✓ Manage your cables

If you’re not giving your computers’ cables the attention they deserve, now’s a good time to do so. Aside from wiping the thick coat of dust off of computer cables, consider using cable management solutions that unclutter and untangle messy wires. Cable organizers don’t just organize and secure your cables, they also help ensure your PCs run quieter and are less prone to overheating as a result of blocked air vents.

Planning to relocate or upgrade in the near future? Organizing your computers’ cables now will make future relocation and upgrading processes much easier.

✓ Review and update your inventory

Keeping stock of all your hardware helps you manage hardware life cycles and purchases, identify items that are near their end of life, and ensure you avoid duplicate purchases of items already in stock.

Your inventory list should include all owned and leased devices: PCs and laptops, printers and scanners, tablets and smartphones, and modems and other network hardware. Update all your assets’ serial numbers and keep track of their respective users and location.

✓ Maintain your printers

Clean the interiors and exteriors of your printers, including paper trays, which are sure to have accumulated dirt from years of use. You should also repair and/or replace parts and accessories such as print heads and cartridges that are no longer in good condition. Should you decide to do a complete printer maintenance, check for the latest software updates for your printers and install them immediately.

✓ Implement a hardware policy

This is also a good time to create a technology guideline that your employees can follow to ensure they work efficiently. These guidelines reduce the need to spend on unnecessary repairs, keeping the succeeding year’s checklist shorter. With clear instructions on the proper use, replacement, and storage of your hardware and devices, you’ll be better able to manage your hardware for years to come.

With a more organized IT hardware inventory, you have one less thing to worry about. Want to get more in-depth hardware management advice? Call our experts today.

This post was originally published on this site

Sluggish PC? These desktop decluttering tips can help

Everyone needs a fast, reliable PC to work and be productive. A slow computer, however, negatively affects your productivity. One of the many causes of a sluggish computer is a cluttered desktop. Learn the fixes that will help improve your PC’s speed.

Do a bit of recon

Before you go on a deleting spree, sort out the files and folders on your desktop to know what you need to keep. An easy way to do this is to right-click on an empty area of your desktop and select Auto arrange icons. This will organize your icons into a grid format that makes it easier for you to view all the icons on it. Then, right-click on the empty space and hover your mouse over “Sort by” and select Date modified to arrange the icons by the date they were last opened, with the latest on top.

Create holding and app shortcut folders

People often use their desktop to hold downloads, photos, screenshots, email attachments, and other files, which easily messes up the desktop. In truth, you probably don’t need all these shortcuts on your desktop.

To prevent shortcuts piling up, create a folder on your desktop for all nonessential files and folders. Use this folder to store temporary items, including those you don’t intend to keep for long. Then, delete the files inside the folder once you no longer need them.

It also helps to create a shortcut folder. When you install new programs on Windows, a shortcut icon is often automatically added to your desktop. However, desktop shortcuts should be for frequently used programs only, so create a separate folder for shortcuts to seldomly used programs.

Be ruthless in decluttering

Once you have your folders set up, it’s time to get rid of the clutter. If you haven’t used a file or folder in the past two months or so, you should seriously consider getting rid of it. Uninstall programs you no longer use, delete images you no longer want or need, move unimportant files elsewhere, and place the rest in relevant folders.

Once completed, take a look at your browser to see where it stores downloaded files. If your browser downloads files to your desktop by default, go to Settings and change the target location to the Downloads folder.

Stick with your plan

Once you have decluttered your desktop, try to stick with the rules you’ve made. Whenever you download something, ask yourself whether it should go to the desktop or someplace else. Of course, sticking with these rules won’t always be easy, so aim to clean up your desktop at least once or twice a month.

Use the taskbar or Start menu for apps

Pinning apps to the Start menu and the taskbar is a great alternative to simply having program shortcuts on your desktop. To pin apps, open your apps list (click the down arrow from the Windows Start screen) and right-click on the application you would like to pin. Then, simply select Pin to Start or Pin to taskbar.

Strategically position your wallpaper

An interesting way to minimize clutter is to pick a wallpaper that you like, which could be your favorite picture or slogan. Frame the image so the focus is in the center of your desktop. Then, place your icons around the image in a way that allows you to still see the image. If you can’t see the image, that means you have too many icons and it’s time to get rid of a few. Having a wallpaper that you like can serve as a reminder to keep icons to a minimum.

If you are looking to learn more about using optimizing your Windows PC, contact us today for more tips and tricks from office IT experts.

This post was originally published on this site