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Capstone Works, Inc. has been serving the Cedar Park area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

INCREASED HACKING DURING COVID-19: FIND AN MSP YOU CAN TRUST

If you’re a small or medium-sized business owner, you’ve likely had a challenging year attempting to adjust to the sudden need for a socially distanced working environment. But as you already know, when you’re leading an organization, the next test is always right around the corner. The latest news that might keep you up at night is the rise in hacking since Covid-19 shifted us all into the remote revolution. With everyone from the FBI to the UN warning of increased cybersecurity threats, many businesses have turned to specialized Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to boost their cybersecurity profiles.

NEW THREATS ARISE

If criminals are good at anything, it’s capitalizing on an opportunity. And the frantic shift to remote work has left many organizations vulnerable as they test new solutions and work out kinks as they go. Hackers are working around the clock to exploit this golden moment as, according to UN disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu, it is now estimated that a cyberattack takes place every 39 seconds.

Below are just some of the latest cybercrime trends popping up more frequently since the pandemic started:

  • MALICIOUS PHISHING E-MAILS 
    Be wary of unexpected Zoom links for surprise work meetings, e-mails claiming to have information on new stimulus checks, or news about coronavirus relief packages.
  • HEALTH AGENCY HACKS
    Cybercriminals are specifically targeting the healthcare industry because it is feeling the pressure that the pandemic is causing more than most.
  • INVESTMENT SCAMS
    Looking to take advantage of the current economic uncertainty, hackers are using fake investment tips or opportunities; specifically, investments in cures or treatments for coronavirus should be treated with suspicion.

HOW WORKING WITH AN MSP HELPS
By tasking a dedicated team of experienced cybersecurity professionals to watch over your business, you give your business the best chance of warding off these types of attacks. An MSP can help you with:

  • EXPERTISE
    As you attempt to adapt to the latest twist and turns, having expert cybersecurity specialists with years of experience who can advise and review your cybersecurity profile is pretty much required at this point. An MSP can assess and stay on top of the latest cybersecurity threats, implement preventative solutions, and train your staff on how to stay safe ­– so you know you’re as secure as possible.
  • COMPLIANCE
    Whether HIPAA, DFARS, or NIST, compliance laws are a headache for most businesses. And with the increase in remote working, the rules will probably only get stricter. MSPs handle these regularly and can quickly assess how to achieve compliance, stay compliant, and, most importantly, document your efforts, so you avoid hefty fines.
  • A WATCHFUL EYE
    When you’re running a business, time is at a premium - and cybersecurity is a fight that is ultimately won or lost by paying attention to small details. It’s a full-time job spotting threats, identifying weaknesses, and ensuring your team is updated and all on the same page. With a business to run, it might be hard to dedicate that much effort to one task alone. But by hiring a team that can stay on the ball for you, you make sure all your bases are covered.

GET IN TOUCH
If you’d like to know more about how MSPs like Capstone Works are helping small and medium-sized businesses to adapt during these uncertain times, contact us today. We can walk you through all the ways your business can be more secure.

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Disaster Recovery for the Remote Workforce

Many business owners are settling into the reality of relying on a remote workforce for the foreseeable future. But finding your groove can quickly come to a screeching halt if you haven't updated your Backup & Disaster Recovery Plan (BDR) to reflect the changes in your operational setup. Here, we'll detail three of the most important steps you can take to ensure your business continuity plans are cohesive, even when your workforce is spread out.

Plan for Succession

When everyone was working under one roof, your team hoped that they could rely on those in charge to guide the group and quickly organize a response to any disaster scenario. But with everyone now using their own individual hardware and working from home, you are far more likely to have isolated issues with network access or personal health that can leave your workforce scrambling. To avoid letting a key team member's connectivity issue crush productivity, you must create clear succession strategies. These should be made to allow interchangeable and cross-trained employees to slide into each other's clearly defined roles without massive changes to your business's day-to-day functions. Consider what happens if your most technologically savvy or senior team members are unreachable. Can the rest of your staff fill the void?

Use the Cloud

Your personnel have dispersed, but has your data done the same? Cloud services are currently helping eliminate the need for centralized physical data centers. And even better, many cloud services have multiple data centers in several geographic locations to ensure business continuity in the face of any large-scale disruptions. They are allowing employees to effectively fill in for each other since essential documents and accounts are not centrally located on one device or in somebody's office. For the modern business, the cloud is a crucial tool that can help alleviate the physical burden of maintaining infrastructure, allow you to scale as you see fit, and ultimately provide a more secure data storage option for remote working staff.

Test and Update Your Plan

Another important aspect of having a BDR in place is ongoing testing to help your team if/when problems arise. "Tabletop exercises" where you simulate different emergency scenarios should be done, at the very least, annually. When training and testing your employees, make sure to vary the situations and cross-train team members, so everyone understands the plan. Remember, the more you test, the more everyone is ready to respond at the drop of a hat.

It can be tough keeping track of all the moving pieces involved in your business when they are no longer physically sitting in front of you every day. Additionally, as the Coronavirus pandemic has made clear, companies absolutely must remain flexible and fully prepared for any scenario in the age of hyper-connectivity. That's why many businesses are adding the expertise of a Managed Service Provider (MSP) like Capstone Works to manage their IT. At Capstone Works, we have the years of experience and IT know-how to put your mind at ease and let you focus on your bottom line. Contact us today to find out more.

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A Salute to System Administrators Everywhere

team workIf you’re a business owner who made it through quarantine thanks to your Managed Service Provider (MSP), there’s no better time to put your hands together for the IT professionals who kept your team in touch for the past few months. Friday, July 31, 2020, marks the annual System Administrator Appreciation Day. To celebrate, we are dropping a friendly reminder of all the ways outsourcing your IT to an MSP full of technology experts helps companies save money.

Improved adaptability

If our recent pandemic hasn’t made it abundantly clear, businesses can survive or perish based on their ability to adapt to the unexpected. When your company partners with an MSP to manage its systems, you can make decisions with the confidence that they will be implemented quickly. Adjustments that would require hours of training and research are now squarely in the hands of experts who are equipped deliver what you need.

Need to shift more of your workforce to the cloud? A team of IT professionals is on deck to jump in and make sure that transition is seamless. Need to move into a new office in a hurry? Your new conference room will be ready to go before you even step through the door.

In the end, being able to quickly shift directions while having tech-savvy experts assess upfront what the costs are will allow you to better budget these crucial decisions and save your business time and money.

Better vendor relationships

Being able to adjust and choose your technological systems wisely isn’t just a matter of having the right knowledge. If you’re handling IT on your own, you’ll need to develop relationships with technology vendors, manage the contracts and pricing structures that come with their services, and nurture those relationships, so you’re always up to date. When you add an MSP team to the mix, they act as a neutral partner who can manage those relationships with objectivity and make sure you’re only paying for what you use. Inserting an expert eye into this process streamlines your vendor relationships, allows you to control costs, and lets you shift your attention to more pressing matters, once again improving your bottom line.

Reduced risk

Of course, the most glaring risk for any company dealing with technology is getting hacked. Data breaches cost companies $200,000 on average, according to a 2019 report. Using an MSP boosts your security profile by adding a team whose primary focus is making sure your systems are secure and that your employees are aware of the latest risks. But the benefits of an MSP do not stop there. Nowadays, almost every transfer of data is subject to government legislation. Whether your company needs to manage and document compliance with HIPAA, DFARS, or FINRA, your MSP can guide you through these tricky regulations, so you don’t end up paying hefty fines.

Is your system running smoothly as you transition back to the office? If you feel the need to minimize costs and focus your energy on picking up steam again, now is the perfect time to hand off your IT duties to a team of dedicated technology professionals. Contact Capstone Works today to find out all the ways we can streamline your systems and save you money!

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The Remote Worker's Blues: Why is 'Zoom Fatigue' Zapping all Your Energy?

Although many of us thought we'd never tire of skipping our morning commutes and sipping tea in our home offices, it seems a new form of exhaustion is setting in. Known as "Zoom Fatigue," it's a special type of tired, requiring no physical exertion, to send you into a deflated funk. So, what's so taxing about merely looking at a screen all day? Several factors may be playing a role.

Why it Happens

There are many reasons why mental stress seeps in after sitting through fifteen Skype calls a day. Some of the odd anxiety and exhaustion inducing reasons you might be feeling more tired than usual are:

You See Faces in Your Sleep – Most team meeting apps provide only two ways to view your co-workers: Either a daunting block of mini mouths and eyes or one giant talking head. And, as it turns out, neither of these is particularly easy on the brain. Staring at everyone at once during a meeting is an unnatural shift in perspective that makes your mind work overtime, trying to process all those facial expressions at once. Alternatively, one giant face is off-putting because, well – when are you ever 10 inches away from the tip of Carol from accounting's nose? The result is subconscious mental stress that arises from feeling like you are either constantly in "performer mode" or always part of a weirdly intimate talk.

Zoom Silence is Deafening – Ever notice your heart skip a beat when no one says anything on a Zoom call? That's because silence on a video-conferencing app is usually associated with technical difficulties. Essentially, every time someone takes a natural pause during speech, they stress everyone else out. No pressure!

Everything is a "Meeting" Now – Whereas previously you might have popped into someone's office to give them a quick update on where a project stands or check-in about a small detail you misunderstood, these brief interactions now require more computer time by forcing you to go back and forth on an e-mail thread, engage in a chat, or request a full-blown "meeting."

What Do You Wear to A Zoom? – Working in the office for most of your adult life, you know what work attire looks like. But when you work from home during a pandemic, dressing appropriately requires more brainpower. The anxiety of appearing onscreen in front of everyone and not knowing whether they all will be still in their pajamas or dressed for the Met Gala can leave you hemming and hawing for way too long over your appearance.

How to Fight It

So how do we combat the exhausting enemy? Here are a few methods to reduce some of the stress:

Check-In – Ask if anyone needs a break. Make sure you're not scheduling too many calls to close together. Be kind to each other. Just because we're all at home doesn't automatically mean we feel at home.

Ask for What You Need – Similarly, if you need to skip a call because your brain is fried, don't hesitate to ask. If you need everyone to be on mute while you give your presentation to limit distractions, make it known. Your typical social and facial cues may not get the job done in this new setting.

Get Comfortable – If employees need to stare at the floor or want to hold their cat while they work, don't take it as a sign of inattentiveness or disrespect. When you're on back-to-back calls and had to homeschool your child for two hours last night, finding personal ways to get in your comfort zone is a must to stay sane and focused.

Reduce Distractions – Cut down on multitasking and isolate yourself from family or friend-related stress while at work, if possible. Close open tabs. Shut your door. Do one thing at a time. Staring at fifteen over-zoomed co-workers dressed in pajamas hugging their cats is hard enough work as it is!

Give yourself a break - Set a timer to remind you to get in some steps, stretch your body, practice meditation, and hydrate.

If your team is struggling with "Zoom Fatigue," call Capstone Works to discuss remote workforce management, configuration, and collaboration tools to increase productivity and reduce stress.

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Remote Work - our new best friend

Well sometimes we need to re-think our best practices and COVID-19 has forced us all to explore new ways to work, communicate, and manage.  We've been a Microsoft partner and Microsoft Teams user for many years now, but I underestimated how Microsoft Teams would be used to manage and lead a remote workforce in this uncertain world.

As we moved to a 100% remote workforce on March 9th, we did so with full confidence in our Business Continuity Plan, being able to maintain 100% of our service delivery without needing our physical office space.  But even I'm surprised at how well the team can communicate and deliver services from their homes!  With a combination of VoIP telephone, Microsoft Teams, and a VPN to our network, each team member can continue to engage and resolve client issues!  This includes handling proactive maintenance and communicating with clients via email, company desk phone, AND video calls/meetings. We've fully serving every need our Client's have encountered while navigating this new and exciting (OK scary) business situation.

This transition has I'm sure raised several though questions for you and your staff as well. However, we've found that we need access to 6 things to seamlessly work "together" while apart.

  1. Well managed VoIP telephony - allowing for our phone tree to remain the same, outbound calls to come from our phone numbers, and provide a transparent Client experience.
  2. A secure team virtual meeting tool, like Microsoft Teams, allowing for chat, file-sharing, face-to-face meetings, and collaboration.
  3. Cloud services or VPN access to on-premise servers giving a remote work experience identical to being in the office.
  4. Regular team "huddles" (daily all-hands check-ins) to chat, maintain interpersonal connections, and define priorities for each day.
  5. Weekly public acknowledgment of individual contributions; we use a Microsoft Teams based peer review system and keep our eyes open for "great job" acknowledgments.
  6. Metrics and performance KPIs to keep individual performance and contribution visible.

Your list may vary, but in combination with our culture and tools, we've found remote work to be more productive, more organized, and nearly as interactive as in-person work.  Many of these success factors depended heavily on technology.  Each of our clients faced similar but unique challenges in adjusting to a full or part-time remote workforce. An existing relationship with a prepared, forward-thinking Managed IT Service firm helped them be nimble and quickly react to changing conditions with little to no impact on overall productivity in the face of perhaps the biggest threat to all businesses in our community in my lifetime.  I'm proud of the accomplishments of my team, and the positive impact we've each had in assisting our many clients in navigating these waters of transition.

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(512) 343-8891 x2

715 Discovery Blvd
Suite 101

Cedar Park, Texas 78613