Key points out of Brekkie Power-Hour event: Exploring the communication methods within Office 365

On Thursday 06/06/19, we had our second Brekkie Power-Hour event, which are monthly events where a small group of people discuss different IT related topics (more info here). For the second session, the topic chosen was “Exploring the different communication methods within Office 365” which was one of the topics that our participants suggested during the 1st Brekkie Power-Hour.

The aim of the event was to cover the main communication apps available in Office 365, such as Yammer, Email, Intranet (SharePoint) and Teams / Skype for Business, and to present different situations and scenarios where a business would use one app over the other or a combination of them. The integration between apps and knowing when and how to properly use each app has been a constant challenge faced by our clients and, hopefully, the event and this article will help to answer some of your questions.

If you missed out, it’s OK! We’ll dig into the main points covered today.

Email 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d use emails and have a fair understanding of how this app works. It’s the most common form of communication within a corporate environment and is heavily used daily – maybe even too much!

  • Common pain points of email:

    • You receive too much clutter and some important emails might get lost
    • It’s easy to just miss emails and not read them (or leave them for later and then forget)
    • Lack of visibility of document history or projects, history trail.
    • Manually having to migrate files attached to emails to a central hub where everyone will have access
    • People trying to move away from email to messaging systems but everyone uses email, so the transition is not easy
    • If someone is sick and they have all the information related to a project or quote or event, what do you do? Everything stops until that person is back.
    • Not the most efficient way to do business – One of your participants had 400 emails in his inbox while participating at the event
    • Security issues with email being the most used method for tricking people into “accepting” viruses

There’re also the most basic and common issues such as constantly receiving spam, people replying to email just saying, “thank you” and cluttering your inbox even more and being CC’d in an email chain that you can remove yourself from.

A few discussed solutions to pain points 

Start to introduce other apps that offer some of the features you find in emails, such as messaging systems and team-based applications, i.e. MS Teams or Slack, and try to create a plan to rely less and less on emails moving forward.

You can also set up Office 365 groups related to a specific project and have all emails about that project sent there.  You don’t need to be CC’d in all communication if you don’t want to, however, everyone involved in the project can access that project mailbox whenever they need to find a document or conversation trail – no clutter!

Microsoft Yammer 

In rough terms, it’s like a corporate Facebook where you can do the same things as you can in your personal account – create groups, polls, quizzes, etc. Yammer was developed with larger businesses in mind that might have different office locations and remote workers. The aim of this app is to bring the organisation together, to introduce that feeling of being part of one entity no matter where you are or what you do.

Companies usually use to share what they are working on, such as photos, and to have discussions on less formal matters, such as the social events promoted by the company. It can also be used as a data storage tool, so if you have people taking photos and commenting on a specific project you can use that for documentation trails and audits.  

Your Yammer feed can also be embedded to your SharePoint intranet and there are ways to only show relevant company information, excluding posts about the Friday drinks if you would like.

  • Common pain points of Yammer:

    • If your business is too small there’s not much point of having Yammer for announcements or day to day posts. We would recommend a different communication method
    • It’s internal so if you need something that goes external it won’t be the right tool
    • It only works if there’s a lot of people posting interesting content. If there’s only one person posting it won’t create the right engagement

Even though we don’t use Yammer at Bremmar as we adopted other tools that suited our business better (Teams), we highly recommend it for businesses with more the 1 office location and for our construction and engineering clients which have employees working in different sites that need to report and document what they are working on.

Yammer is also an amazing tool to instil a culture of communication, collaboration and a bit of fun in your workplace!

SharePoint – Intranet

An intranet is a central hub site for employees to access and share company-wide relevant information. As we work with SharePoint for document management, we highly recommend the intranet functionality of the app too.

It was an interesting discussion we had about SharePoint and most people in the room use it for document management but haven’t yet explored the intranet side of things.

What to use it for?

  • Sharing relevant information company-wide such as mission, vision, dashboards, calendars
  • Storage documents and make them easily accessible, such as operations manuals and HR forms (leave/sick forms)
  • Have discussion boards in the homepage
  • Embed Yammer and provide one central hub for employees to keep updated on your business

There are many other uses which weren’t discussed during this event, but don’t worry. These will be discussed in future SharePoint Brekkie Power-Hour events!

  • Common pain points of SharePoint intranet:

    • Administrators usually struggle with what to put in there and what not
    • Making sure that everything that goes to SharePoint is the last and most updated version

SharePoint is getting very flashy with new templates and features. When comparing the tool to a few years ago, where it was clunky and had an unfriendly user interface, SharePoint is now looking very good, it’s modern and intuitive, plus it integrates with other Office 365 apps such as Power BI, Yammer, Teams, etc., turning this app into a very powerful one!

Microsoft Teams / Skype for Business

Not sure if you are aware, however, Skype for Business is being replaced by Teams so soon it won’t exist anymore. Why is that? Well, simple. Because Microsoft Teams was developed to be a business hub for communication, including files, calls, messenger, video conferencing and so on.

Teams is an amazing tool that you can track conversations and documents, can tag people, can link files from SharePoint, can organise meetings and do video conferences, can invite people outside your company to join a channel and collaborate, can link other apps so you access everything from one place…We can keep going and going.

  • Common pain points of Teams:

    • It’s a bit challenging to understand how far to go with Teams, when to use it, when to replace emails, etc.
    • Files uploaded to Teams will only be stored in Teams, so make sure to always link your documents from SharePoint otherwise you will have duplicates

At Bremmar, we’re big advocates for Teams. We use it heavily within our business and have benefited a lot from implementing this solution. Conversations are more efficient, fewer emails going around and just an easier and simple way to keep company discussions organised!

Our internal process

We would like to share with you how we have set up our communications apps. As mentioned earlier, there’s a few that we don’t use because we don’t see the need to, however, they might make sense for your company.

It’s recommended that you have something like the below for your business, where you clarify when and what to use depending on the situation. If you would like to develop those internal policies, please get in touch and one of our consultants can provide advice!

Platform

Communication Type and Details

Microsoft Teams

Team specific discussion/projects –Teams is the place to have any discussion that is directed to your particular team. The discussion is easily visible to the relevant team and helps to increase collaboration including sharing of ideas, feedback and keeps everyone on the same page. Use custom team tabs such as Notes or Planner to further improve collaboration within your team.

How to access:

How to keep up to date:

  • If you have the mobile or PC app open, you will be notified of new posts
  • ‘Follow’ the channel you are interested in 
  • Request the attention of particular people by typing ‘@’ then the name of the person.

Bremmar main Team Channels:

  • Admin
  • Sales and MKT
  • Service Delivery
  • Solutions
  • Special Resources

Teams IM

Individual messaging – This is a supplement to casual voice communications and used for quick questions or requesting very quick informal feedback. If the recipient is not available to answer immediately it’s OK – it’s not critical if communications are missed.

*NOT TO BE USED FOR ACCOUNTABLE COMMUNICATIONS OR NOT USE FOR STRUCTURED ITEMS THAT NEED AN ACCOUNTABLE ANSWER LIKE

  • ​Issue escalation
  • Ticket budget requests
  • Ticket direction

How to access:

How to keep up to date:

  • If you have the mobile or PC app open, you will be notified of new posts.
  • If you miss a message, you will be notified by email.

Email

Important and/or formal communications where accountability of response is required.

Suitable for general formal communications, particularly when important action/feedback is required from the recipient.

Wrapping up

There you go, the main takeaways from last week’s session. Of course that experience in person is different – we had many valuable discussion so we encourage you to come along to the next one!

We are considering changing the frequency to bi-monthly as the months are going by too quick, but we would love to hear from you – what would suit you and your business?

We would also love to hear about what topic you would like to learn about, so if you have any suggestions just send them through to marketing@bremmar.com.au

If you would an in-depth discussion about any of the apps above, or any other app that might benefit your business, please call us in for a chat on 1300 991 351 or fill in the form below and our consultants will get in touch with you!

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Learning about staff and their IT needs

What does your team need to do their jobs better? When it comes to technology, convoluted workflows, clunky old software, and files only available in the office could be stifling productivity, even if your employees know the systems like the back of their hands.  

But giving the team a shiny new technology system that you’ve decided on, without their input, could seriously put a dent in morale. 

What’s the solution? It’s learning about your users (staff) and their needs to help guide your decision-making

What is your team’s collective digital intelligence level? 

Source: The DQ Institute 

What is your team’s collective digital intelligence level? Each of these axes can help gauge what level your team is at, in various digital verticals. 

These levels can all depend on the industry that you work in, the tech education of your team, the age skew, types of roles within your company, and the training level you’ve briefed them to. 

Finding a median digital intelligence level for your team can be tricky and may need to be investigated on a department by department basis – obviously your IT team will be at a higher level than your customer service team.  

Let’s talk about how to gauge that level. 

What devices and systems are your staff used to using at work and in their personal lives? 

For most people, technology in their personal lives is actually better than the technology they use at work.” – Mike Brinkler, Deloitte 

Unless you’ve actively embraced and are implementing digital transformation within your workplace, your systems are probably built from legacy software applications and systems of work. While this is something we see very often at Bremmar, it does mean that your workforce are comfortable with less modern digital workflows than are available to your business. They’re competent and confident using workplace systems that are perhaps 5-10 years behind current enterprise systems capabilities. 

However, in their personal lives, they may have the latest version of the iPhone, armed with clever banking apps, file sharing, instant travel bookings, a number of different communication apps, and news feeds that cater to them individually. They might run Netflix or YouTube through their Smart TV. They could be using Alexa Home to do things like play music or turn out the lights. 

Taking a look at the level of your tech infrastructure, then comparing it to what your staff are using in their personal lives, can help guide you towards solutions that would work for your business, without a steep learning curve for your staff. 

How to glean insights from your staff 

Let’s talk about how to approach these two workplace systems guidance activities: determining staff digital intelligence level and finding out the technologies your staff utilise at work and at home. 

This can be done in a number of information gathering activities: 

It’s not enough to develop a survey to ask your staff what apps they have installed on their phones, or whether they own a laptop. This doesn’t really determine their level of digital intelligence (although it can help determine which systems they are most familiar with). 

Instead, you need to dig deeper, asking questions like: 

  • How many apps would you regularly use in a day? 
  • What privacy measures do you use online? 
  • Have you had miscommunications because of email wording? 
  • What’s your favourite tech tool? 

Of course, keeping employee answers confidential is a must. While you need each individual’s data, you should store it anonymously, and only use the aggregate data for guiding technology needs and training within your business. 

If you don’t have the in-house knowledge required to ask the right questions of your users, then that’s where we can help out. 

Through our IT Strategy services we can collaboratively come up with a strategy for getting accurate, useful insights from your team, which can then guide your technology plan for the future. Ask us for more information about how we can help on 1300 991 351 or fill in the form below.

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

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Why cloud (by default) gives you security you couldn’t afford otherwise.

Regardless of your industry, security should be a top concern. That’s what makes moving to the cloud so attractive for IT pros. The increased mobility, flexibility and ability to go serverless all have their place, but the default security upgrade you receive by moving to the cloud is undeniably one of the greatest benefits.

In this article published by Forbes, Gabriel Tupula from Big Ban ERP explains why. 

Cloud-based solutions provide more security than most companies would be able to invest in.

While businesses vary vastly, what I have learned through consulting for business operations is that the core challenges of all companies are similar: difficulties with growth, cross-departmental transparency, reducing manual or repetitive tasks, figuring out where to spend time and resources intelligently, understanding data in real time to make decisions that are founded on facts and logic and knowing what is coming next.  

Whether you’re in a small, medium or large business, the burdens of everyday life are often similar to the irritants of the information system you use. Meaning if your information system provides poor reporting, then you likely lack the information required to make decisions.

Today, companies have limited options to run their small or medium businesses: physical servers, company-purchased cloud servers, software-as-a-service cloud solutions that include built-in servers or any combination of these options. Many business owners start conversations with our consultants with a firm belief that a dedicated company — cloud or physical — server is the best option for them to ensure the security of their company data. As we explain further, however, they uncover the truth: Cloud-based solutions with a shared server provide more security than most companies would want to or be able to invest in.

I’ll be perfectly blunt: Imagine you are travelling to a foreign country. Would you be safer staying in a tent on the side of a road or in a hotel with a doorman? I am going to assume that while you may enjoy an adventure, you agree the safer bet would be the hotel with someone actively keeping you safe should the unlikely need arise, not to mention the other experiential benefits of a hotel: a concierge service and daily cleaning services, which we can compare to the expert consultants and automatic backups. At a hotel, you share the costs of infrastructure and security with the other guests, much like you would on a shared server. It’s the perfect example of “strength in numbers.”  

The reality is that while people think they can have more control over their own storage when it is dedicated, you are actually in a tent alone without support or backup, and exposed to the elements. A third-party cloud system offers the security and safety of having a backup plan, specialists to deal with and prevent problems, strong surveillance and firewalls for legacy systems (their reputation is based on delivering their products), controlled access that is harder to access than physical servers, scheduled updates and upgrades, and auditing. All this is included in your annual or monthly fees, with no investment or work from your company required. Examples of mid-market and enterprise solutions include Big Bang ERP partners such as Netsuite ERP, Salesforce CRM and Rootstock ERP, as well as other solutions such as Freshbooks, Kenandy, Openair and Quickbooks. 

From source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/08/22/why-cloud-by-default-gives-you-security-you-couldnt-afford-otherwise/#17c77c4955b8

Bremmar can help you find the solution that’s right for your organisation. Contact us now on 1300 991 351 or fill in the form below and one of our consultants will get back to you! 

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

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Some of Microsoft’s most popular products are nearing the end of their supported lifecycle: MS Windows 7, Server 2008 and SQL 2008. Is your business ready?

When a critical software bug or security vulnerability impacts your business, the last thing you want to hear from your helpdesk is “Sorry, your product is no longer supported”. That’s why it’s so important to keep your software up-to-date and under support. However, this isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds.

Microsoft products typically remain under mainstream support for five years after general availability. Upon completion of those five years, the product moves into extended support for another five years, meaning that Microsoft will still release patches and security fixes for bugs or any vulnerabilities, however, only the most critical security vulnerabilities will be patched at no cost and you must pay for non-critical patches and telephone support.

This situation was made more complex when Microsoft started releasing Service Packs, which are basically Windows updates that make the Operating System (OS) more reliable. When a Service Pack was released, the mainstream support period for the unpatched OS would end two years after the release of the Service Pack, while the patched OS would retain its original 5-year mainstream support period. Service packs are no longer an offering. Windows 10 and the new Server 2016 are now based on feature update versions and the lifecycle is much shorter than 5 years.

To further complicate matters, Microsoft also offers a Modern Lifecycle Policy support model, which means the product will be supported indefinitely if you pay for Software Assurance (SA). However, Microsoft charges a premium price for this service and can terminate this support policy with only 12 months’ notice.

To help guide you through this policy maze, we’ve identified the three high priority Microsoft products that will go end-of-life in 2019 and 2020, along with the support and security implications you face if you become unsupported and the steps you should take to ensure your business is not disrupted.

1. Microsoft Windows 7 (or any version of Windows before Windows 10)

Support for Windows 7 (released in October 2009) ends on 14th January 2020. After this date, technical assistance and security updates will no longer be available. If you continue to use Windows 7 after support has ended you will be vulnerable to malware and security threats. This is particularly relevant in light of the Notifiable Data Breach scheme (Australia’s new cyber-security laws).

If you’re still running Windows 7, then it’s likely your PC is old and outdated, meaning upgrading to a new computer would be the most sensible solution. A new PC with Windows 10 will be faster, more powerful and more secure.

With the increasing number of attacks documented in Australia per year and the severity of the consequences, this is considered a basic security measure and it just doesn’t make sense to keep an outdated Operating System that will expose your business to threats. If you are a Bremmar client, your Client Information Systems Manager will be in contact to discuss the possible options for your business and guide you in the right direction so you are prepared before the cut-over date and can avoid any possible risks.

2. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 (on-premise and cloud)

Support for MS Windows Server 2008 (released in February 2008) ends on 14th January 2020. After this date, Microsoft will no longer accept warranty claims, provide bug fixes and security patches, or offer any type of technical assistance. If you’re running a business, this leaves your data vulnerable to hackers and cyber-criminals.

Your available options are to either pay for Microsoft premium support, which is not the most cost-efficient solution in the long run, or upgrade to a new operating system. You might also consider updating your infrastructure to benefit from the powerful new virtualisation features available in the latest Windows Server 2016 operating system.

For Bremmar clients, the optimum approach will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis depending on your business infrastructure. Your Bremmar Information Systems Manager (ISM) will be in touch to discuss your options and help you determine the best way to proceed. Planning and implementing these changes can be a lengthy and complex process, so we recommend allocating at least six months to allow for unexpected delays and challenges.

3. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2

Mainstream support for SQL Server 2008 (released in June 2008) ended on 8th July 2014, and extended support for SQL Server 2008 R2 will end on 9th July 2019. After this date, Microsoft will release no further patches or security updates for any version of SQL Server 2008 or 2008 R2, which means you may no longer comply with data protection and cyber-security regulations.

Upgrading your SQL Server will ensure that your product remains fully supported and you will also benefit from a range of product enhancements, bug fixes and security improvements that come with the latest software version.

For Bremmar clients, the best upgrade path will be assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on your business infrastructure and applications. For example, ConnectWise may be incompatible with SQL Server 2008 after the extended support period ends. Your Bremmar ISM will be in touch to discuss possible options and help you determine the best way forward.

Premium Support

While it’s not an approach we recommend due to the high cost, Microsoft does also offer a Premium Assurance plan for Windows Server and SQL Server. This support offering provides patches for critical bugs for a six-year period following the end of extended support, meaning Windows Server 2008 R2 can be supported until 2026 and SQL Server 2008 can be supported until 2025. The fee for Premium Assurance can be up to 12% of your current licence costs, depending on when you place the order.

Conclusion

As we approach the second half of 2018, it’s essential to prioritise these critical Microsoft upgrades to ensure your business data remains secure and compliant in the years ahead. Some of these updates can be lengthy and complex, so your business should start preparing for them now and avoid any last minute, rushed decisions.

To discuss your options, call Bremmar today on 1300-991-351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.

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Australian SMEs should leverage cloud technology to win the innovation race

Cloud-based technology has ushered in a new IT era, in which small to medium-sized enterprises can avail of technology that was once only accessible to larger organisations. By introducing higher levels of innovation and productivity, the adoption of these cloud solutions has revolutionised the way Australian SMEs penetrate new markets and compete with giant corporations.

However, despite this rise in adoption, many businesses still encounter challenges when attempting to execute their cloud strategy. A successful IT strategy requires careful planning and ongoing management and, although the task may appear daunting at first, agile SMEs have several advantages over larger, slower enterprises when it comes to executing their digital strategy.

By following these guidelines, your business can get ahead of the innovation race by effectively leveraging the power of the cloud.

1. Have an IT strategy to take the shortest path to your goals.

Firstly, it’s important to set clear objectives and prioritise these goals based on the needs of your business. An IT strategy can help you optimise spending, eliminate obsolete technology and better integrate your systems, providing room for your business to grow and enabling you to become more competitive. Cloud-based platforms make it easy for users and departments to deploy applications to meet their specific needs, however, this creates the challenge of interconnecting these “specific needs” apps with the rest of your business systems. Integration should be one of your top objectives and having an IT strategy can provide guidance and ensure all applications integrate and fit with the organisation’s goals.

2. Prioritise training

Managing staff behaviour and attitude is one of the greatest challenges when executing an IT strategy. But employee adoption is critical to success, so education should always be a top priority. Projects will succeed or fail depending on the ability of your staff to use the IT systems and apps proposed in your digital strategy. By developing a training strategy aligned with your business objectives, you can ensure that your employees are open to change and your business is able to fully unleash the potential of the chosen cloud products.

3. Leverage agile partners

SMEs can often adapt their business strategies and innovate more quickly than large competitors, although funding constraints can sometimes impede progress. But, by developing a partnership with a local, experienced IT Provider, businesses can benefit from professional advice, have access to specialist product knowledge and be aware of the most cost-effective solutions. Through this strategic relationship, your partner will be able to deliver quick cloud projects ensuring quality standards. This guidance also helps SMEs to focus on their core business goals while making the most of their technology investments.

4. Empower your staff to deliver great customer experiences

SMEs that future-proof their IT infrastructure are able to respond more accurately and rapidly to customer requests. The same way as you look after your clients and want them to have a positive experience, you have to provide your staff with the means to deliver that experience. That human factor often gets forgotten in digital strategies and have a big impact on employees’ attitudes and behaviours, which consequently determines how customer-centric your staff is.

Empathy for your internal audience is key in delivering an exceptional customer experience overall. Address their needs and wants, and provide them with IT solutions that cater for that. Invest in workflows to facilitate processes, give them good hardware and equip them with everything they need to put the customer at the centre. This has never been as easy and cost-effective to achieve as nowadays, with the accessibility of cloud-based solutions.

5. Make it easier for your clients

Technology that makes life easier for your clients is an essential part of good service. One area in which SMEs have a distinct advantage over larger business is in their ability to personalise the customer relationship, for example, by developing differentiated customer portals or creating customised processes and workflows for clients.

Cloud-based solutions are also introducing new levels of collaboration between companies and clients, for example, through apps designed for keeping track of progress made on projects. These solutions also present an impact beyond technology. By building relationships that are based on trust and integrity, SMEs can cultivate rich and valuable long-term partnerships with their clients.

With the right approach to your IT strategy, along with support from an experienced MSP, your business can fully realise the benefits of cloud technology, including increased productivity and an exceptional customer experience. To learn more, call Bremmar today on 1300-991-351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.

Office 365 guide what you need to know!

Choosing between External or Internal IT Support: Why not both?

In recent years, most businesses have undergone some form of digital transformation, and at some point in the evolution of each business, it becomes necessary to reassess the organisation’s IT support model. Should support be provided by an internal person or team, or outsourced to a professional IT service provider?

For many organisations, this doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. In fact, a combination of both may offer the most efficient and cost-effective approach. The perfect balance between external and internal support will depend on your budget, the complexity of your IT infrastructure and the size of your organisation.

As we have successfully partnered with many businesses that also run an internal IT department, we would like to share the benefits and value of having an internal and external resource. By working together, both IT teams can enable a support model that allows the business to outsource a combination of functions while retaining others in-house. These functions include strategy, support, strategy execution, projects, etc.

Potential Internal/External Support Structures

1. Level 1 Support in-house. Level 2-3 Support, ICT & Information Systems Management and Strategy outsourced.

This structure can work well for smaller organisations of *70-150 employees. Your business will benefit from a responsive person on the ground – someone who can meet face-to-face with users and develop a deep understanding of your business and applications over time.

*70+ users is the recommended starting point for employing a dedicated Level 1 support person. If your business has anything below that, it will usually pay a premium for this resource. There is considerable competition for technical expertise from large corporations and technology firms, meaning you will need to offer a competitive package & environment to attract and retain skilled and experienced staff.

If your business has over *120 employees, this becomes a cost-effective approach that adds value to your organisation, but it’s still important to partner with a professional Managed Services Provider to provide support and regular mentoring (at least monthly) to your dedicated IT support person. Together, they can form a cohesive team to effectively support your business.

*This recommended guide is generic. Exceptions apply to organisations with complex needs or depending on how advanced they are with their IT, in which cases, the appropriate employee number count may differ.

2. Information Systems Manager in-house. Level 1-3 Support outsourced.

For organisations with more than *150 employees, or with highly complex/advanced software systems, it can be beneficial to hire a dedicated Information Systems Manager (IS Manager) – someone who has a strong business understanding and is capable of defining and managing your overall IT strategy. This person should have a deep understanding of your business processes and how to relate them to your information systems.

To allow the IS Manager to focus on their core role, you can choose to outsource other functions such as Level 1, 2 and 3 support. Your Managed Services Provider can also provide specialist skills and professional advice when needed, in areas such as application implementation, specialised application integration, custom report/dashboard creation and strategy development.

Challenges

When choosing which approach to take, it’s important to consider the common challenges faced in a mixed internal/outsourced support environment, and how to overcome those challenges.

1.   Career progression path for your dedicated in-house IT professional is one of the most critical considerations when adopting this mixed approach. If this person feels as if their role is stagnating, then they may grow dissatisfied and unproductive, or leave the organisation. We usually resolve this by developing a close partnership with our clients and helping to mentor the IT support individual as they progress into a role where they have a better understanding of the information systems, or alternatively, we can employ this person as their skills develop.

2.   Knowledge transfer is another important consideration. If you rely on only one or two internal IT support, you need to be certain that vital skills are not lost if your IT support person moves on. We mitigate this risk by maintaining co-ownership of key processes and documentation, helping to maintain critical knowledge that can be transferred to new employees.

3.   Cost, as mentioned previously, is a challenge for many organisations. It’s essential to weigh up the costs of dedicated in-house support staff versus outsourcing these functions to an efficient Managed Services Provider (MSP).

4.   External influence & exposure to the latest industry trends can be hard for an internal resource. As we work with different industries and are involved in what other companies are doing in their space, we usually help to bridge that gap by mentoring the IT support person through training sessions and by establishing a close relationship with the contact, where there’s an open communication channel and is easy for us to deliver relevant updates (at least monthly).

Conclusion

Most businesses that we work with don’t require a large IT department, so depending on the size of the organisation it can make more sense to retain one or two internal IT support staff while strategically outsourcing specific functions to an experienced Managed Services Provider.  Modern technology evolves so quickly that no single individual can maintain the skills needed to support today’s complex IT environments, with the ever-present risk of cyber-attack. That’s why a partnership with a professional IT service provider can offer the best solution for your business.

To discuss the most effective IT support options for your organisation, call Bremmar today on 1300-991-351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.

The mystery behind turning it off and back on again

If you’ve ever contacted IT support to report a problem with your computer, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard that question many times. It’s become a bit of a cliché, even forming the basis of the popular British sitcom ‘The IT Crowd’, but the truth is that turning it off and back on again really does solve many IT problems.

Yes, we all know that frustrating feeling when the support technician asks you to power down your device and restart it, but there’s a very good reason for the request. They don’t say it just to annoy you – they’re simply trying to rule out some of the most common causes of PC problems.

The truth is, a reboot should be the first thing you attempt if you’re experiencing problems such as applications running slowly, overheating, minor bugs, or printer, network and Wi-Fi connection issues. We even recommend to try it before you contact your support desk as it can save your business some money spent on IT support!

So why does it work so effectively?

      1- Well, after your computer has been running for a long period of time, you’ve probably opened and closed dozens of applications. It’s likely your browser has visited hundreds of websites, and perhaps you’ve also installed or removed some software.

     2- Each of these tasks consumes background resources and leaves behind remnants of the process in your computer’s long-term and short-term memory. This leads to memory fragmentation and eventually clogs up your hard disk and RAM with unnecessary data.

      3- After a while, your system starts to slow down, programs don’t run efficiently, and you experience glitches and error messages. If this continues for long enough, your active applications can no longer find sufficient free memory to operate properly and your computer will begin to freeze, lag, or crash altogether.

     4- When you restart your PC, all of this extraneous data is deleted, and your computer reinitialises with a cleaner, faster, more efficient operating system.  The memory is cleared and any previously frozen tasks or locked files are unlocked. And this logic also applies to other digital devices like smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi routers, and even your television.

Reboot every device – phones, PCs and tablets.

For desktop computers, there’s normally a shutdown or restart menu option you can use to reboot the system. For tablets and smartphones, you’ll typically have to hold down one or more buttons on the device for several seconds. And for other consumer electronics such as TVs and routers, you may have to physically disconnect and reconnect the power supply. These are all variations of ‘turning it off and back on again’.

So next time you’re experiencing issues with your computer, you know what to do. In fact, it’s a good idea to restart your PC at least once a week as a preventative measure to keep everything running smoothly.

Bremmar works hard to help businesses grow and achieve a competitive advantage through IT. If you would like to know how Bremmar Managed Services could help your business simply contact us today on 1300 991 351 or email help@bremmar.com.au

 

The dark side of IT: The REAL impact of bad IT support to your business (INFOGRAPHIC)

Let’s face it. Everyone thinks technology is great until something breaks, then it can become a really stressful experience for the user. It’s the same with IT support. Whilst everything is up and running you don’t even think about your business IT support until suddenly something happens and you really need assistance.

Every time you contact support is because something has gone wrong, not according to plan, and more than likely you are already stressed. The last thing you need is to get even more frustrated by a poor or unhelpful support. It doesn’t matter the issue, you hope that your business has good IT systems in place and, above all, friendly and helpful support in case you need it.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It can take a while for your business to set up proper systems and find a good, reliable partner. Some businesses even give up and think that all IT support is bad IT support, so they just stick with that same old IT partner that is not willing to go the extra mile to help. But, have you ever weighted how much something simple, such as unhelpful IT techs could be costing your business? Maybe it’s time to review your approach to IT and pay attention to the underlying issues that could be bringing inefficiencies to your workplace.

Don’t let poor previous experiences put you off of something that could be easy, simple and really benefit your business. Your pocket, staff and business productivity will thank you.

At Bremmar, we do things a bit differently and proud ourselves in what we do. Our unique 3-person team structure has been proven as incredibly effective for hundreds of businesses and is the perfect fit for companies that have zero tolerance for computer problems and want 100% round-the-clock specialist IT support. If you’d like to know more about how Complete Care or any of our other services could help your business work better, call us on 1300 991 351 to arrange a chat or email help@bremmar.com.au

The Data Breach Notification Laws are now in effect! Do you know what they are? Is your business prepared?

Most of us don’t know what actually happens to our data once it is given to a business, like credit card details, addresses and tax information. Before today, if a business had some of their data stolen or leaked, you wouldn’t know about it.

However, the good news for you as a consumer has just arrived! With the new Data Breach Notification Laws, businesses must report incidents of stolen or leaked data to the Privacy Commissioner and to customers, which gives you the chance and time to change passwords or take extra security measures.

What is Data Breach?

As the name says, it’s when there’s an unauthorised access or leak of personal information that is held by a business. The first thing that comes to mind is that this type of information can only be accessed if stolen by hackers or viruses, however, a data breach is also considered when a business loses confidential data, or accidentally provides it to wrong people or entities.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), has a guide on the topic and explains data breaches as:

  • Loss or theft of physical devices (such as laptops and storage devices) or paper records that contain personal information
  • Unauthorised access to personal information by an employee
  • Inadvertent disclosure of personal information due to ‘human error’, for example, an email sent to the wrong person
  • Disclosure of an individual’s personal information to a scammer, as a result of inadequate identity verification procedures.

Does it apply to all businesses and data breaches?

The Notifiable Data Breach – NDB requires entities to report on data breaches that could cause serious harm to people. On that note, it’s important to highlight that the NDB scheme explains that not all breaches must be reported. What they call “eligible breaches” are the ones that require attention.

This has been causing some confusion on what’s considered an “eligible breach”. The Privacy Act doesn’t define the term, however, it explains “serious harm” in the context of serious physical, psychological, emotional, financial, or reputational harm that the breach may cause to an individual.

Also, not all businesses are covered by the NDB scheme. According to the OAIC guide, here are the entities that must comply:

  • Entities that have existing obligations under the Privacy Act to secure personal information must comply with the NDB scheme.
  • This includes Australian Government agencies, businesses and not-for-profit organisations that have an annual turnover of more than AU$3 million, private sector health service providers, credit reporting bodies, credit providers, entities that trade in personal information and tax file number (TFN) recipients.
  • Entities that have Privacy Act security obligations in relation to particular types of information only (for example, small businesses that are required to secure tax file number information) do not need to notify about data breaches that affect other types of information outside the scope of their obligations under the Privacy Act.
    (source: Data breach preparation and response — A guide to managing data breaches in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth))

Complying with the new laws

It’s not as simple as it may seem. Businesses won’t be able to get away with simply having a privacy policy that no one knows about, especially employees and departments that often deal with sensitive information, such as Marketing. They will need to have a good understanding of the new law and be 100% on board with the company’s protection measures.

This is not just an IT department effort and shouldn’t be seen an isolated case in the business, but rather, as something that teams must collaborate with on an effort to maintain and safeguard the business possible exposure and reputation.

If a business believes that their data has been compromised but it doesn’t report to authorities and members of the public, the consequences are severe and large fines will be applied. A basic rule of thumb is: If a business suspects that it had some data breached, the business should evaluate the situation and assess the verdict. If a business knows or has enough evidence that a data breach has occurred, it must notify the public and the Commissioner immediately.

What are the next steps for your business?

There are some steps your business can take immediately, such as:

  • Find out if the NDB scheme applies to your organisation
  • Review and assess your privacy and security policies ensuring they are up to date
  • Notify employees of this new change in law and ensure everyone is vigilant for any suspicious activity
  • Perform a risk and impact assessment on possible exposure

As a secondary step, which will take more effort but must be done:

  • Audit your system and security measures in place to ensure they comply with minimum standards and can safeguard your business from basic and simple attempts of breaches
  • Decide on a “security group” to investigate possible breaches and be security ambassadors
  • Have a data breach assessment template to follow
  • Communicate to employees on how and when to notify a suspected breach
  • Have a plan in hand in case there’s a need to report a breach

This is just a summary of the new law and what it means for you as an individual and for your business. For detailed information on the topic, please read the Data breach preparation and response — A guide to managing data breaches in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

If you need assistance with your privacy and security policy, would like to audit your business security systems or need support to develop a security strategy, our consultants can help! Contact us on 1300 991 351 or email help@bremmar.com.au

Cyber-attacks to rise in 2018: A quick guide to help you protect your organisation.

A recent report from Deloitte shows that Australian institutions face the highest risk of cybercrime in the Asia Pacific region. Ironically, the reason why we are heavily targeted is because our IT infrastructure is so well developed. The prevalence of interconnected systems and devices increases the risk of organisations being affected by cyber-attack. Countries with advanced technology infrastructure such as Japan, Korea and Australia are nine times more vulnerable than other economies.

A lack of dedicated cyber-security specialists is also to blame. Individuals with the right skills and experience are expensive and hard to find. This allows cyber-criminals to more easily use social engineering tactics to exploit inadequate internal controls and trick employees into revealing sensitive information.

Be aware of social engineering – The art of deception

Social engineering involves using social interactions to build trust with an individual in order to gather information. With a basic understanding of your corporate structure, along with information gained from social media, hackers can easily engineer targeted, personalised attacks on specific employees. This can also lead to identity theft, where an attacker uses that personal information to commit fraud.

Identifying social engineering attacks

There are countless types and variations of social engineering. However, some are more common and targeted to the corporate space. Keep an eye out for:

1 – Email from someone you know – Your boss, a colleague or a friend: The hacker manages to get access to a person’s email password and gains control of the email account sending malicious emails to all contacts. As most people have the same passwords for many accounts, most hackers also get access to a person’s social network.

2 – A Business Email Compromise (BEC) attack: This is a common form of social engineering whereby cyber-criminals impersonate a senior business leader such as the CEO, attempting to persuade an employee or business partner to transfer money or reveal sensitive information. These attacks are highly focused and targeted to specific employees, which makes them hard to recognise and helps them to slip through spam filters.

This messages will trigger:

  • Curiosity: As the link comes from a known source, it’s very likely that the reader will get curious and will just click on the link. The result? The reader is now infected will with malware and the hacker will probably get gain access to the reader’s contacts to keep spreading the virus malware.
  • Trust: When a friend or a colleague sends you a photo or a document, the first reaction is to open it, even if the reader has no idea what the file is about. Same as above, by doing it so, the computer will be infected and the malware or virus propagated to the reader’s contacts.

Attackers are being very successful with these methods as emails seem legit legitimate and from known sources. In my opinion, these emails are hard to spot and can easily get you while you are in a rush and don’t have time to verify the information. The general rule of thumb is, if you were not expecting an email from a colleague or friend with a link or downloadable material, check before clicking!

3 – Phishing: This is another common form of cyber-attack. It occurs when criminals use a fraudulent website, email, SMS and or social media to obtain sensitive personal information, such as passwords and financial data. The fraudulent site or messages looks legitimate and victims usually fall into this trap as the messages appear to come from a respected organisation like PayPal or Westpac.

Most data breaches come from phishing and is the most exploited form of social engineering.

These messages usually will present the reader with a scenario, such as:

  • The message will present the reader with a problem and will require the person to “verify” some sort of information by clicking on the displayed link and providing information in their form. The link and forms usually look legit and most likely, will have a warning for the person to act soon, that’s how hackers get readers to act on impulse.
  • The reader will receive a message asking for help or support for charity and humanitarian causes, such as natural disasters. With so many political and religious issues around the world, charitable work has become more popular and hackers are taking advantage of peoples’ goodwill.
  • Prize or winner message from a lottery or a dead an inheritance from a relative. The message on the email will request either the reader’s bank details to transfer the money to, or the reader’s personal information, such as your Tax file number, to prove who they are. The result is straightforward if the reader follows the hacker’s instruction, the reader’s identity will be stolen and subsequently, their bank account emptied compromised.

Don’t become a victim

Automatic email filters can identify and block some of these suspicious emails, but as hackers grow more sophisticated their emails become harder to spot. Even the best email filters will let some messages through. That’s why it’s essential for employees to be able to qualify the legitimacy of emails – for example, CBA will never send an email from a Hotmail address, or ask someone to provide their password via email.

Some of the basics of business security…

  • Attachments to emails from an unknown contact should never be opened, especially if they are executable files. These files often contain malware – malicious software designed to damage your operating system, steal documents information, or install keyloggers that track every keystroke and take snapshots of your desktop.
  • In doubt, contact your IT support as hackers can even spoof the sender details, making a message appear as if it comes from a known contact. For this reason, unexpected requests for funding or financial information should also be treated with caution.
  • Develop a comprehensive security policy that addresses both people and technology. Employee education is paramount, and cyber-security training should be compulsory for all staff members. Train your teams and reward their efforts when they successfully block or identify cyber-attacks, as this will encourage them to become security advocates.
  • Update, update, update! It’s no easy task to properly configure firewalls and email filters for maximum security, keep computers, software and applications updated, however, this is key for the ongoing protection of your business. Make sure your business has a dedicated IT security engineer or an IT provider to keep your IT system on track.
  • Perform regular backups. We highly recommend external backups to the cloud in the case your business gets infected and you temporarily lose access to files and documents.
  • Conduct tests. Humans need to be trained, so if your business has already established a security policy and staff training, make sure you test the level of security within your business. Become a hacker for a day and send random emails to see if there are any gaps. Don’t forget to praise those that block any sort of attack.
  • Ongoing training and communication. Pretty much every week there’s a new virus or new attempt to target corporations. Make sure your business is on top of it with occasional security training and regular notifications to all staff members when a virus is doing the rounds.
  • Slow down. Hackers are targeting impulsive responses with messages of urgency or people that are time poor. An email probably won’t deal with a life-death situation, so it can wait. Take a deep breath and go back to any emails you are unsure about after 10 minutes.

In today’s competitive environment, sourcing a dedicated IT security engineer can be difficult and expensive. It’s no easy task to keep everything up and running properly as well as keeping all systems updated. It’s even harder to create, enforce and develop an internal culture where security is one of the top priorities.

If your resources are limited and you want to make sure your business is protected against the increasing number of cyber-attacks in Australia, it might be a good idea to outsource your cyber-security needs to an experienced IT support provider. If you’d like to know more, then contact Bremmar today on 1300 991 351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.

is your business prepared to defend itself against cyber risks?