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Capstone Works, Inc. Blog

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.

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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How Managed IT is Helping Businesses Stay Healthy, Prepared, and Informed Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty about what lays ahead, one aspect of our future couldn't be more apparent: the remote workforce is here to stay. As states move to reopen portions of their economies, we all need to be prepared to move back and forth between a traditional office setting and a home office setting as the situation in our communities’ changes over time. It was always a matter of when - and not if, but social distancing measures have quickly made cloud computing solutions and mobile workstations essential technologies for every business. And with companies scrambling to implement massive operational changes with very little notice, the advantages of using Managed IT Services have never been clearer.

Managed IT helps businesses stay healthy

Currently, by helping companies implement the latest solutions in order to work remotely, Managed Service Providers (MSP) have assisted in slowing the spread of the virus by:

  • creating completely mobile workforces that can relocate to the safest or most comfortable locations in order to stay in place for the long haul,
  • allowing any infected employees to easily self-isolate while leaving their work accessible to other team members,
  • mitigating the possibility that office buildings will be contamination zones when social distancing rules are eventually eased.

Managed IT helps businesses stay prepared

No business could have been able to anticipate the stark shift that was headed their way when the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the global economy. But companies with outsourced IT enjoy the ability to scale quickly and, even more crucial, determine what these changes will cost ahead of time. No need to panic if you need to add infrastructure or implement new technologies in a hurry; simply talk with your service provider and the process is in motion. At a time where uncertainty rules the day, this added flexibility is an unbelievable asset.

Managed IT helps businesses stay informed

Business leaders have a lot on their plates and no one can fault the CEO of a growing business for not being an expert on the latest advanced obfuscation techniques hackers are using, but when a company is suddenly forced to reorganize its entire operational workflow, it's imperative to have a dedicated team of experts making sure you're using the latest cybersecurity protections and are staying in compliance with relevant regulations like FISMA, HIPAA, or GDPR. Amid massive uncertainty, MSPs have enabled leaders to remain focused on the aspects of their business they know best, while still staying informed and up to date.

With businesses starting to open in the next few weeks or months, those companies that have been working with a Managed IT Service Provider will also undoubtedly be healthier, more flexible, and better prepared to face whatever challenges may lay ahead. With a holistic approach to IT services, MSPs like Capstone Works help businesses maintain a higher standard of IT preparedness than most companies would be able to achieve in-house. If you're looking for assistance with your IT issues, contact Capstone Works today.

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BYOD Management Part 1

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies are here to stay. The flexibility, familiarity, and increased productivity that personal devices provide has forced companies to adapt to this workplace revolution in a hurry. Yet many companies are still struggling to strike the right balance between personal freedom and corporate responsibility. In part one of our two-part article, we'll detail a six-step plan for developing the strategy and policy necessary to manage BYOD effectively.

Gather Your Team

Don't go this alone. As you begin making a detailed plan for allowing the use of personal devices, get your employees involved, and keep in mind, the more the merrier. You want as much feedback, input, and honesty as you can handle. Taking the time to wade through everyone's concerns is the best way to get the full picture. You need to determine how much freedom your employees are expecting, what your IT department can handle, and any concerns your legal department might have so everyone has raised red flags before issues arise. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a BYOD policy so you'll need to restructure your management style to fit the employees you have, the systems you use, and the regulatory requirements your company must meet. The goal is to create a strategy that doesn't compromise data security yet still satisfies your employees.

Think Long Term

The goal of your company is to grow, so when developing a BYOD policy, don't be reactive, be proactive. Ensure that, as you design your solutions, they can support a greater number of devices or users when needed. Make sure your policies won't need to be rewritten every time a new sub-contractor is hired, or a new technology emerges. Today your employees have cell phones and tablets, in a few years (or months) they might be keen on wearables or smart desks. Ideally, you want to be endpoint independent in your approach so you can quickly adapt to innovative new devices and emerging platforms.

Assess Risk and Assign Access

Now that you have an overview, it's time to decide the details of how you'll protect your sensitive data.

Start by deciding which devices are acceptable within your company. You'll accomplish this by weighing a combination of factors including what devices or apps your employees are already using (another great reason to check in with your staff before designing your policies), and which types can be easily monitored going forward. Create a list of acceptable devices and applications and be specific. A "choose your own device" model where employees select from a list of acceptable devices can help bridge the gap between secure options and personal preference.

Also, decide what sets of data you'll allow to be transmitted on BYOD devices. An effective way of doing this is by adopting the principle of least privilege. This principle restricts access so users can only use the exact data and software required to do their job. In addition, implement multi-factor authentication to make sure you’re putting as many barriers between hackers and your company data as possible.

If you feel you need assistance from top-level experts, contracting a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can also help. Using an MSP like Capstone Works simplifies the process by having dedicated IT experts who can quickly assess your situation and create customized BYOD policies for your business. Contact Capstone Works today to learn more about how we can help.

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How Hackers Steal Your Data (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1 How Hackers Steal Your Data of our data hacking article, we explored two of the most common methods cybercriminals are using to attempt to access your data. In Part 2, we’ll look at three slightly more sophisticated attacks that you should be aware of to properly steel yourself against data breach attempts.

Social Engineering

A catch-all term that can include phishing (discussed in Part 1 of this article), social engineering uses your real-world instincts against you to get you to divulge information you usually would be hesitant to reveal. Typically speaking, hackers use technological vulnerabilities to exploit holes in your cybersecurity, but in social engineering attacks, hackers lean on your personal weaknesses.

Some examples of this might be:

• A hacker calling and posing as a client who’s locked out of their account and needs you to give them access.
• A hacker calling or emailing pretending to be a local charity asking for financial information to make a donation.
• A hacker texting you posing as a friend, boss, or coworker that needs urgent help.

Relying on psychological manipulation, these few examples illustrate the importance of slowing down, staying skeptical, and carefully reviewing any “urgent” issues before taking action. Be wary of links or downloads even if they seem to be from a trusted source, set your email spam filters to the highest setting, and always be wary of anyone asking for credentials in a text, email, or phone call if you want to avoid being misled by this form of emotional manipulation.

Man-In-The-Middle Attacks

In a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack, an adept hacker will use IP, ARP, or DNS spoofing to position themselves in the middle of a conversation between you and an application to intercept user traffic. After they’ve intercepted this traffic, the attacker will decrypt it using HTTP spoofing or SSL hijacking to avoid detection. This allows them to then monitor and control the session and steal account details, log-in credentials, banking info, etc. A MITM attack is hard to detect, but can be prevented with due diligence. Avoiding the use of free Wi-Fi hotspots, closing out secure connections when they are not in use, and steering clear of unsecured websites are key preventative measures you should be taking to avoid this scenario. If you’re also a web administrator, you’ll want to be preventative against these types of attacks on your site by making sure you’re using SSL/TLS to secure each page of your website and not just log-in pages.

IoT Attacks

The wave of the future, The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term used to describe the increasing array of interconnected devices that interact with each other across your network. The more devices become “smart” and connect and share information, however, the more entry points hackers have to gain access to your systems. It might seem far-fetched, but hackers can actually install viruses or hack into your wireless routers, printers, and any new device you introduce that may connect to your network regularly. If you are investing in IoT devices to stay current, only buy them from reputable vendors with track records for reliable security. Many businesses are also guilty of sticking with the factory preset passwords that come out-of-the-box with new devices. These factory passwords are often not strong enough, are easily found in product manuals, or have been made public on databases stored in the dark web. So, make sure you create a unique set of new credentials for each IoT device as soon as you introduce them to your network.

Although using the preventative measures detailed for these five types of attacks can dramatically decrease your chances of data theft, there are endless ways that cybercriminals can target you. Therefore, the true key to making sure you avoid a data breach is to have a plan. This is where an MSP like Capstone Works can help. By assisting you with formulating a comprehensive, structured approach to cybersecurity, we can streamline the time-consuming tasks of learning about new threats, keeping your systems up-to-date, and educating your team. Contact Capstone Works today to put your cybersecurity plan in motion.

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(512) 343-8891 x2

715 Discovery Blvd
Suite 101

Cedar Park, Texas 78613