How Covid-19 Changed the Workforce

How Covid-19 Changed the Workforce

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way companies do business. Beyond the countless human toll is endless business disruptions – from coffee shop to corporate America.

In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, millions of employees were sent home and the sudden shift to telecommuting took many by surprise. For employees lucky enough to remain unemployed, the way they work and where they work from has changed immensely.

Today, many businesses are pausing to take note of how Covid-19 has impacted their business. They are evaluating their processes and technology to ensure that they will better prepared for the unexpected in the future – no matter what form it may take.

Industry Changes in the Wake of the Pandemic

While virtually every business has been impacted by Covid-19 in a variety of ways, some industries have been more affected than others.

  • Many companies operating in the healthcare sector have returned to the office, as have government workers and those in manufacturing. A number of municipal organizations continue to test their remote work capabilities, building on what they already have while developing additional capabilities.
  • The legal industry has seen increases in remote workers, with capabilities for virtual meetings, electronic signatures and other Covid-19 accommodations.
  • Real estate is another industry that is highly conducive to remote operations and telecommuting. Real estate industries have replaced their traditional open houses with virtual property tours, and would-be homeowners are browsing, and even buying, from the comfort of their couches.
  • The hybrid model continues to gain traction, with employees working in shifts. A typical worker might work Monday and Tuesday at home then return to the office for the remainder of the week.

Trending IT Solutions and Services

The shift from the traditional office cubicle model to a new way of working has created enormous challenges and exciting new opportunities for businesses everywhere. Since the beginning of the pandemic and the resulting lock down, IT infrastructure has been a major stumbling block, but businesses are adapting in new and interesting ways.

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, a number of IT trends have already emerged, while others are still in their infancy:

  • Growth in Remote CapabilitiesRemote capabilities are in high demand. When workers were sent home in droves, many IT departments were left scrambling. Now that the dust has settled, the need for a more robust remote work infrastructure is clearer than ever.
  • Software Conflicts While Working Remotely – Many businesses have encountered issues accessing their primary software program while working remotely. Whether this is due to a weak home wireless network or a software conflict, Ontech can help you troubleshoot the issue and strategize a solution.
  • Greater Interest in Cloud Computing – A peak interest in cloud computing goes hand in hand with remote work. Many businesses are moving away from local storage in favor of adopting the increased speed and security of the cloud.
  • Increase in Laptop vs. Desktop Sales – Laptop sales are through the roof while desktop sales are falling. As cubicle dwellers become telecommuters, laptop sales have increased at a rapid pace, forcing many computer manufacturers to retool their operations and shift their supply chains.
  • More Emphasis on IT Security – Protection from hackers has taken center stage, but businesses are also looking at the level of access their own employees have been given. The concept of least possible access has taken center stage in light of the shift to a largely remote workforce.
  • Rising Interest in Managed Security Services – Interest in managed security services has increased as businesses look to secure their internal and remote workforce. Ontech Systems is proud to provide comprehensive managed security services – contact us to request a quote!
  • Dramatic Spike in Microsoft Teams UseMicrosoft Teams is huge right now. Virtual meetings are essential for a newly remote workforce and tools like Microsoft Teams have promoted communication and collaboration for a wide spectrum of businesses.

Rising Cyber Security Concerns

The shift toward remote work has not gone unnoticed by cyber criminals – they’ve simply shifted their focus toward telecommuters and at-home workers.

Ransomware in particular has increased significantly as hackers target the weak security of many home Wi-Fi networks.

Why target remote workers?

  • Local network security is inherently weaker than corporate networks.
  • Newly remote workers may take their laptops on the road, connecting to public Wi-Fi, which is notorious for its lack of security and vulnerability to hackers.

What Does the Future Look Like?

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to make some tough decisions. From laying off loyal workers to postponing long-planned product launches, the short and long-term effects have run the gamut.

Some companies have come to realize they can’t function the way they did before the crisis, forcing them to adopt a new normal, with smart changes designed to improve productivity while lowering their fixed costs.

As you continue to face new challenges and look for new ways to support your remote workforce, you’ll likely have a lot of questions.

We invite you to contact Ontech Systems today by phone at 262-522-8560 or reach out to us online to learn about our remote work support services and how they can help you minimize disruption and maintain productivity no matter what challenges you face in the future.

Business Wi-Fi Solutions: The Answer to Ongoing Wi-Fi Issues

Business Wi-Fi Solutions: The Answer to Ongoing Wi-Fi Issues

In today’s workplace, a solid wireless infrastructure is almost a requirement for any business. With increasingly more mobile devices, applications, and employees, having a good wireless network to deliver services is extremely important to maintain functionality, minimize frustration, and provide your company with a competitive edge over your competition.

Business Wi-Fi solutions can provide your company with the access necessary to streamline operations and increase productivity.

Meet Ubiquiti

Ontech partnered with Ubiquiti to offer clients another way to resolve ongoing wireless access issues. Our technicians offer expert wireless knowledge with 5 years of experience as certified Ubiquiti Enterprise Wireless Architects.

ubiquiti wifi

To put it simply, Ubiquiti is a saucer shaped piece of hardware that is mounted to the wall and projects a wireless signal. In other words, it is a wireless access point.

 

The Struggle with Ongoing Wi-Fi Issues

Quite often, corporate Wi-Fi issues are a headache for internal IT. This is especially true in larger organizations with multiple buildings or in manufacturers with welding machines that put up interference.

Organizations in many industries suffer from weak or inconsistent Wi-Fi; distribution, warehousing, manufacturing, and education to name a few. Whenever possible it is ideal to use a hard line connection over wireless.

A strong enterprise Wi-Fi network often comes down to the placement of wireless access points. To strengthen the signal, access points are placed in areas where a signal is required.

Quite often when Ontech evaluates commercial Wi-Fi issues, one of the most common scenarios we encounter is cabling that is 15-20 years old which begs the question: do we spend $20-30,000 rewiring the facility, or do we invest in wireless?

Centralized Management is a Must

When wireless networks came out over 20 years ago, the devices (called wireless access points) were standalone devices – each one was configured independently.

This is still used in many consumer grade access points or smaller deployments which works fine for single device situations. However, any business with more than one access point should be using modern enterprise Wi-Fi solutions with centralized management.

Not only does it reduce effort (and therefore cost) in the installation and maintenance of the devices, it facilitates advanced wireless functionality to make a company’s network more resilient, more functional, and less prone to coverage gaps and problems.

The first step begins with evaluating your wireless network to determine what enhancements you need. Once you’ve made the decision to improve your wireless footprint and evaluate managed Wi-Fi solutions, here are some things to consider in order to make the most of your investment. A site survey and heat map assessment are a great place to start.

Wireless Heat Map Assessment

During a heat map assessment, you can click your mouse to load a floor plan into the software and it will show you any obstacles that might be deterring your wireless signal along with how far the signal travels.

You might find that you need less access points or you may need them in other places.

Wireless assessment

From here, Ontech takes a look at the big picture:

  • How is wireless access used in your business?
  • How many people access it during the busiest times?
  • Are users going to be moving and require a consistent connection?
  • Is there anything that needs to be filtered if you have public spaces?
  • What does your wireless network need to provide right away?
  • Are you providing network and Internet access to laptops, mobile phones, tablets?
  • Are you going to be using wireless voice over IP phones?
  • Are there specialized applications or devices that need to be supported?
  • Do you need to provide wireless connectivity to other buildings that are otherwise disconnected?
  • Do you need to provide guest access for visitors?

With these questions in mind, we put together a thorough and accurate estimate to address your business Wi-Fi issues.

Business Wi-Fi Solutions

Let’s look at your options

There are a variety of business Wi-Fi solutions available. Consider what you need today, as well as what you may need in the future. Think about these things in the planning stages, because they will affect your design.

Also think about what you may need in 5 years – make sure the solution you design supports this right away, or can be easily extended to support it in the future.

Wi-Fi Equipment

Unless you have specific requirements around your systems that only come with the more expensive solutions, you don’t need to get top of the line equipment in order to get good, functional wireless connectivity. You do, however, need to go with a solid, proven solution that can provide the functionality you want and need.

Vendor management

In the event that new cabling is needed, Ontech does offer vendor management. Your account manager can gather quotes on re-cabling or going wireless based on your budget and the level of performance required. After all, not every piece of technology is recommended to work over wireless.

Wireless activity reports

With some wireless solution models, detailed information can be provided to track activity at a certain time. This includes some nice reporting to help you better manage your wireless performance and security.

Based on the wireless options you choose, some wireless solutions can provide even greater visibility into the types of traffic, the users, and even prevent access to websites such as gambling, porn, social media, etc.

Wireless Security and Policy Considerations

There are many ways to implement strong network security with a wireless network. Passwords (sometimes called pre-shared keys) are the most common method, but you can also use usernames and passwords tied to the users’ computer accounts, security certificates stored on their computers, or other methods.

Each one has their advantages and disadvantages and should be discussed with your consultant prior to implementation.

You should also consider your wireless network policies at this time – what devices should connect, which people need to connect, are people allowed to bring personal devices, and if so, what networks can they connect to.

Wireless has a security feature to prevent visitors’ cell phones from hitting your network.

This is especially important in the medical, financial, or legal fields where security is paramount.

enterprise wifi network

Without a special guest network defined, a guest could visit your organization with malware on their device that could infiltrate your network.

If the proper wireless restrictions are not in place, a visitor could access sensitive data like human resource files or client/patient details.

 

Being aware of your need to comply with regulatory and legal requirements such as PCI, CJIS, FINRA, HIPAA, etc., is very important when having these design and policy discussions with your IT team.

These are just a few of the things that go into the planning, design, implementation, and support of a corporate wireless infrastructure.

It may seem daunting at first, but by working with a knowledgeable IT partner, you can cut down on the confusion and create a wireless network that will support all your current and future needs.

A good wireless network consultant (like Ontech) can look at your needs and provide you with solid options that won’t break your budget. This also extends to your network switches and wiring!

The best wireless equipment in the world won’t function well if the network and/or power wiring it’s plugged into isn’t up to the task. Look at your network as a whole entity, we’ll show you how.

Give Ontech’s support team a call with all your wireless questions at 262-522-8560 or send us a request online.

Office 365 is Rebranding: What to Expect

Office 365 is Rebranding: What to Expect

Microsoft’s products have evolved greatly over the years. As technology has progressed, we’ve seen advances in mobility, collaboration, and now artificial intelligence.

Given the evolution of their products, it’s not surprising that Microsoft is now undergoing a rebranding effort for Office 365.

Office 365As of April 21st, 2020, Microsoft announced that they are rebranding Office 365 to Microsoft 365.

The product name changes aren’t happening across all Office 365 products however, mostly just for small to mid-sized businesses.

The Office 365 name will continue to be used for the following products:

  • Office 365 for Enterprise
  •  Office 365 for Firstline Workers
  • Office 365 for Education
  • Office 365 for Government products

So which Office 365 products names will be changed?

  • Office 365 Business Essentials becomes Microsoft 365 Business Basic
  • Office 365 Business Premium becomes Microsoft 365 Business Standard
  • Office 365 Business becomes Microsoft 365 Apps for Business
  • Office 365 Pro Plus becomes Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise

Are Office 365 product features changing?

It’s important to note that the core features and pricing of the products are not changing. With the new name, Microsoft is shifting focus to how their services deliver value to customers.

If you have questions about how your Microsoft products will be affected by the name change, please contact Ontech’s support team online or by phone at 262-522-8560.

IT in 2020: Spiceworks State of IT Study

IT in 2020: Spiceworks State of IT Study

state of IT in 2020

Security concerns are one of the major driving factors in IT budget increases this year. In fact, according to Spiceworks’ “State of IT Report”, 1 in 4 companies plan to increase IT spending due to a recent security incident.

This report is based on a survey of over 1,000 business technology buyers in North America and Europe. The survey was conducted in July of 2019, anticipating trends for the following year.

As we head into 2020, IT decision makers are increasing their IT budgets by 44%.

Where will IT Budgets be Invested in 2020?

A couple key, interesting insights:

  • As mentioned previously, 44% of businesses plan to increase spending, up from 38% in 2019
  • In terms of tech trends, AI powered IT projects are anticipated to triple by 2021. An example of an AI powered project might be Fortify, an advanced security solution fueled by AI that evolves with your network.
  • 2/3 of enterprise businesses (5,000+ employees) plan to deploy 5G by 2021

Where are North American Organizations Spending their IT dollars?

IT budget allocation

Overall, the State of IT study found that the smallest organizations were most likely to invest their software budgets in operating system upgrade while Enterprise level organizations were most likely to spend more on “virtualization, database management, and communications software”.

The common thread across all businesses was the challenge of keeping IT infrastructure up to date, according to 50% of respondents. Other obstacles included:

  • 49% balancing tasks
  • 46% upgrading software
  • 39% following security best practices
  • 32% convincing business leaders to prioritize IT

The good news is that there has been a shift in security awareness.

Survey respondents shared “We’ve been bombarded with security news. It’s easier to convince the higher ups now of the need for it. Security is something regular people are talking about. Security is no longer a theoretical what if; it’s an actual experience companies are having so they are shifting toward prioritizing it.”

If Your Organization Needs Cyber Security Assistance

Just contact our support team today to see how Ontech Systems can help you strengthen your network security. Give us a call at 262-522-8560 or submit a request online and let us know how we can help.

Schedule a Security Assessment

A good first step is to begin by scheduling a security assessment so you can identify where risks are and make an educated decision based on what solutions you are truly in need of.

Ultimately, you don’t know what risks you’re faced with until you do a security assessment and for a one-time, fixed fee, you can run a security assessment and develop an action. Based on your assessment results, we can prioritize vulnerabilities into high, medium, and low risks to give you a comprehensive look at your network security.

While a security assessment isn’t a mandatory step, it is a great way to take that first proactive step toward securing your network.

Windows 10 April Update: Known Problems and Fixes

Windows 10 April Update: Known Problems and Fixes

Windows 10 April updateAfter somewhat of a slow start, Windows 10 is now in widespread use.

Businesses and individuals have been using Windows 10 for some time now and naturally, a steady stream of updates, fixes and patches have been rolling out.

For the first time, Microsoft leveraged artificial intelligence at scale to improve the quality and reliability of the Windows 10 April 2018 update.

In a recent blog post, Microsoft declared this the fastest version of Windows 10 to reach 250 million devices with a mere 45 days between the launch of the April update and the announcement that it’s ready to be rolled out worldwide – their fastest transition yet from consumer-only to enterprise-ready.

Windows 10 April Update Issues

However, no update is completely free of problems. Windows users understand the enormous number of configurations, variations in hardware and other idiosyncrasies that can turn what should be a routine update into a phone call to their IT technician.

As with previous updates, the Windows 10 April update introduced some new features and also some widespread issues. Software bugs are nothing new – they inevitably come with the territory. Even so, some updates were found to be more problematic than others, and this update in particular has garnered its fair share of complaints.

But before you take drastic measures like reinstalling your operating system or getting a new device, know that Microsoft has been hard at work on a June update designed to address common issues with this particular software update.

The following are some of the most common problems Windows 10 users encountered with the Windows 10 April update, along with their associated fixes.

Microphone Issues

If you experienced problems with the sound on your computer, most notably the microphone, you’re not alone. The April Windows 10 update is known to cause microphone problems, but the good news is that the fix is relatively easy.

The Fix: Begin by going into settings and look under the privacy section. Click on Microphone under “App Permissions” and make sure the apps you need have access to the microphone and click the toggle to turn the microphone back on if needed.

App Issues

A number of app issues have also been reported with the Windows 10 April update. As you know, the ability to use apps from the Microsoft store is one of the most useful features of Windows 10, but many users have been frustrated when trying to install new apps or use the ones they already have.

Some of the biggest complaints center on the most popular apps – browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox and productivity aids like Slack. Sometimes these apps freeze during installation; other times they simply refuse to start.

The Fix: This is one of the issues to be addressed in the June update, so that may be all that is needed to fix the problem. In the meantime, you can try enabling the Fast Startup feature, which has been known to fix the app problem, at least temporarily.

Windows 10 June Update

The good news is that Microsoft has been down this road before, and they have a plan in place to address these issues. The June 2018 update is intended to fix many of these concerns, so that should be your first step toward resolving any problems you’ve been experiencing since the April update.

In addition to addressing Microphone and App problems, the June Windows 10 update is said to include fixes pertaining to an issue with QuickBooks where the software fails to run in multi-user mode, problems with location services in Internet Explorer and issues with brightness and black screens on certain laptops.

Don’t Be Tempted to Put Off Windows Updates

Software bugs aside, if you use Windows 10 in your business, applying updates is an essential part of maintaining the network security in your business. Although patches and operating system updates can be problematic and introduce additional issues, not applying them could leave security loopholes in place which could be much more catastrophic than a few minor software issues.

With new vulnerabilities cropping up every day, no one can afford to operate on an outdated operating system. As a Windows 10 user, it’s important to apply every update Microsoft provides, but don’t have to do it on your own.

Whether you’re updating a single computer or hundreds of workstations, Ontech Systems is here to help. Our technicians are acutely aware of issues that pertain to Windows 10 updates and we can help you resolve any address any issues you might encounter.

From Windows 10 issues associated with the April 2018 update specifically, to ongoing support and automatic updates, Ontech Systems is your Windows 10 expert. Don’t let your productivity suffer. Call us today at 262-522-8560 and we’ll get you up and running in no time!

HP Announces Voluntary Notebook Battery Recall

When it comes to electronics, safety recalls are common, particularly when batteries are involved. HP has recently issued a voluntary recall for the lithium-ion batteries in the following models, due to “the potential to overheat, posing a fire and burn hazards to customers”.

  • HP Compaq: CQ45 (B), CQ58 (B)
  • HP ENVY: dv6 (G)
  • HP Pavilion: 14 (S), 15 (S), 17 (S), g4 (S), g6 (S), g7 (S)
  • HP: 240, 245, 246, 250 G1, 255 G2, 450, 455, 650, 655, 1000 (B), 2000 (B)
  • HP ProBook: 440 G0, 440 G1, 445 G1, 450 G0, 450 G1, 455 G1, 470 G0, 470 G1, 470 G2, 4440s, 4441s, 4445s, 4446s, 4540s, 4545s

The models above were shipped with batteries that fall into this recall if their barcodes begin with the following prefixes: 6BZLU, 6CGFK, 6CGFQ, 6CZMB, 6DEMA, 6DEMH, 6DGAL, 6EBVA.

According to HP, just 1% of the HP notebooks sold throughout the two year period were affected by the voluntary recall.

Not sure if your laptop is affected? You can manually validate whether your laptop is affected by typing your laptop serial number and battery barcode into HP’s recall webpage.