How to Set Up a Remote Office While Staying Secure and Productive

As more businesses try to get their costs under control, some are considering giving up some or all of their office space. They’re encouraging more employees to work remotely so that the business can move to smaller quarters with lower rents or rent out some portion of their existing space to other businesses.
 
This can be a smart way to wring more efficiency out of your budget, but it does leave one question: how to make sure employees stay productive and coordinated, no matter where they’re working. Here are a few measures you can take to set up a “virtual office” that delivers the same results as your old physical office:
 
  1. Set up a VPN (virtual private network) that allows employees to securely access company servers and share files.
  2. If you’re not already on a VoIP (voice over IP) phone system, think about switching over. It can save you a lot in long-distance bills, plus you can seamlessly forward calls from the business number to an employee’s home phone. VoIP phones can also forward voice mails to email so that employees don’t miss calls while they’re away.
  3. Find a good web conferencing provider so that you can hold impromptu meetings and share documents even when you’re not all in the same place.
  4. Don’t forget about security. Every home office should be equipped with a locking file cabinet and a good shredder so that documents are as secure offsite as they would be onsite.
  5. Stay in touch! The biggest problem that many physically distributed offices experience is a breakdown in communications because employees suddenly become allergic to the phone and prefer to conduct everything by email. Encourage people to pick up the phone if it’s going to take more than two rounds of email to resolve an issue.  
 
CMIT Solutions can help you set up a VPN and recommend VoIP and web conferencing providers. And if you don’t want to have to remind users to install their regular anti-virus and security patches, you might also consider a service like CMIT Marathon. Updates are deployed and installed automatically, no matter where the computer is, so you don’t have to worry about your business security getting compromised by remote workers.

How to Get Sharper, Brighter Images on Your Monitor

When it comes to your screen display, you can switch your monitor between low- and high-resolution settings. A low-resolution setting displays fewer objects, rendered larger and with less clarity. A high-resolution setting will allow you to fit more objects onto your screen with more details, but they’ll be smaller. Microsoft recommends setting your screen to at least a 1024×768 resolution.

Note that this advice generally applies to CRT (cathode ray tube) screens, which respond more easily to adjustments in resolution. Newer LCD (liquid crystal display) screens, more common in laptops and flat-screen monitors, are best left at their native resolution – which is to say, the fixed number of pixels on the screen. If objects are rendering too small to be easily viewed on your LCD screen, the best approach is to try adjusting the DPI setting under Display Settings before you change the resolution.

To adjust the resolution on your screen, just follow these steps:

In XP:

  1. Go to the Start menu
  2. Select Control Panel
  3. Select Appearances and Themes
  4. Select Change the Screen Resolution 
  5. Slide the bar to the left or right to decrease or increase resolution 
  6. Click OK.

In Vista:

  1. Go to the Start menu 
  2. Select Control Panel 
  3. Select Appearance and Personalization 
  4. Select Personalization 
  5. Select Display Settings 
  6. Slide the bar to the left or right to decrease or increase resolution 
  7. Select Apply

While you’re adjusting your screen’s resolution, you might also want to adjust its brightness. How you do that depends a lot on what model of computer you have. For example, many Dell laptops use a Fn + Up arrow key combination to increase the brightness, while many IBM laptops have a dedicated single key at the top of the keyboard. If you’re at a desktop computer, there’s probably a hidden panel on your monitor that lets you manually set brightness, color, contrast, and other settings. The fastest way to figure out what’s right for your computer is consult your user manual or just Google the model of your computer plus the phrase “screen brightness.”

Planning, Inventories, and the Nitty-Gritty of Disaster Preparedness

How many hours — or days — would it take you to recover your business data, re-image your machines, and get your business running again if a flood, virus outbreak, or other disaster took your business offline?
 
CMIT Solutions’ own Scott Brennan recently addressed the issue of data loss on WGN Chicago TV. Click here to get his take on protecting your computer from disaster.
 
Here are a few other tips on how to minimize the chances of a disaster doing permanent damage to your business:
  1. Take a full inventory of your data and find out age and file types. You might be shocked at how much of it is old graphics files or employees’ personal MP3 files and movies — things that you don’t need to waste storage space on.
  2. Write down all your software product keys, license numbers, passwords, configuration notes, and encryption codes and keep them in a locked safe — preferably both on premises and off.
  3. Write down a detailed plan for restoring data in the event of a loss — that means figuring out the sequence in which applications, servers, and databases need to be brought back online in order for data to properly repopulate.
  4. Run backups regularly and test them regularly. This is important because certain types of backups are easily corrupted or may stop before they’re complete. Test your backups to make sure they’re actually capable of a full system restore.
  5. Find out from your backup provider how long it would take to recover in the event of a complete data loss. Some providers can take days or even weeks to ship a full set of disks; others may take less than 48 hours.
If this sounds like a lot of work — well, it is! But putting in the time now can prevent you from some major hassles later. Or call CMIT Solutions and we can help you get started on the path to complete disaster preparedness. We often recommend taking a serious look at CMIT Guardian, a backup and disaster recovery solution specifically tailored to the needs of small business. It’s affordable, reliable, and stores all your valuable business data securely off site.

How to Use Facebook for Professional Networking

Sorry, folks – LinkedIn is no longer enough. If you want to do business in modern America, chances are you’re going to have to join Facebook at some point. Maybe it’s because you’re participating on a conference panel that’s coordinating content through Facebook, or maybe you joined a professional networking group with a Facebook page. For many people these days, it has to do with finding work – if you’re out of a job and looking for a position, you have to raise your profile both online and off, and Facebook is one very good way to get more visible on the Web.

 
Many people hesitate to join Facebook because they’re understandably concerned about mingling their professional and their private lives. Fortunately, Facebook is so highly customizable that you can rest assured your potential employers will never see your goofy Halloween photos, and your friends will never be treated to your reflections on business topics.
 
To see a very informative slide presentation on how to customize Facebook’s privacy settings and make sure your business and private lives don’t intersect, click here. Below are some more rules of thumb for professionals on Facebook.
 
  1. Keep your profile photo professional looking. Everybody who has access to your page will see the same identifying photo – so don’t do anything too wacky or risqué. More fanciful pictures can go in separate, restricted photo albums.
  2. Less is more. When it comes to biographical information, you can adjust who sees your full and partial profile. However, as a general rule on the Web it’s best not to supply so much identifying information that a complete stranger could track you down if they happened to be able to access your Facebook page. Nobody needs to know what year you were born, what zip code you live in, or other such details that could be used by identity thieves.
  3. Don’t spam. Facebook makes it easy for you to contact your whole network with updates, questions, and comments. Think about who really needs to know the information you’re about to send out and target it only to them. Your friends in the Chamber of Commerce don’t need to know about the bake sale your PTO is sponsoring next week.
Facebook can be pretty intimidating and complicated in the beginning – but once you get the hang of it you’ll see just how addictive it can be as well!

Floods, Fire, Theft & More! CMIT Solutions Franchise Partner, Scott Brennan, Discusses Data Backup and Disaster Recovery

 Floods, Fire, Theft & More

Scott Brennan, the owner of CMIT Solutions of Fox Valley North in the Chicago area, shared useful tips on data backup and disaster recovery on WGN TV.

This short news segment might just help you avoid a very expensive, time consuming computer crash or server problem.

Tune in to http://www.wgntv.com/lunch_break to get some valuable tips from an IT veteran!