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What should I be doing to secure my business? 

One of the first things about Security is realizing that security is much more than stopping people “hacking in”. 

It is fundamental to any business to have a business continuity plan (BCP). If you plan for a power outage what happens? Your IT systems will be down.  

Can I use the same plan if an outage occurs to my IT systems and it’s not a power problem?  

Security is the foundation of resilience. 

The hardest part about security is getting started. Often, it’s on the “to do list” until it’s too late.  

Hopefully you have already talked to your IT Alliance partner and had the security business continuity conversation.

If not “What should I do first” is a common question? Rather than recommend one single thing, the answer should be – “Have a plan”  

So, what does your plan need to cover? 

  • Firstly, look at any existing business continuity plan. Is it up to date has it been tested? 
  • Look at not just the worst case but also the best case and know that when an incident occurs it will lie somewhere in
  • Most importantly have a plan, know what to do and who to call. 
  • Understand your risks and apportion the appropriate resources to minimize those risks.
  • Make the plan proactive. Be a fence at the top of the cliff and don’t rely on an ambulance at the bottom. 
  • Prevent rather than recover.
  • Inventory is a crucial starting point of any plan. What equipment do you have? what software do you have? What data do you have?
  • Then look at where are the biggest risks. Is there a single point of failure?

Look at your plan as being a holistic business continuity plan, that is a living document. Continually revisit, update, fire drill, and improve.  

Many of the incidents we see disrupt business are due to poor Cyber hygiene not some advanced nation state hack.  

Do the following to enhance your security: 

  1. Keep the software for your devices and applications up to date.
  2. Access? How do I verify my user is in fact who I think they are? Is MFA (Multi factor authentication) on!!!
  3. What information do I have? Where is it stored? Who has access?
  4. What are my essential services?
  5. What are the financial implications of these risks?
  6. What are my obligations to customers, employees, and shareholders?
  7. If I was breached, how would I know and when?
  8. Am I running Microsoft 365 Business Premium?

Can my staff trust that the Cyber workplace is as safe and secure as possible? If it is, you will see productivity and creativity flourish, staff retention rises as well as the ability to recruit new staff. 

“She’ll be right” –  Is not a plan! “No surprises” is a plan. 

For further advice, contact your local IT Alliance member to discuss creating a plan for your business.  

By Paul Caldwell – Microsoft Security BDM 

Given the recent spate of storm events, and the weather experts saying we’re going to get more in the future, now is the time to check your IT equipment is protected from weather events. 

New research from NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) has shown that extreme events have occurred four to five times more frequently in the last decade.

Many IT technicians had call-outs from clients after the recent storms. Thunderstorms can literally fry electronics, and this causes not just replacement cost, but also work disruption and even possibly data loss. 

Our technicians carry surge protectors in their cars, so that whenever they are working, they can ensure that sensitive IT equipment is at least surge protected. But for clients we see less often, or who are not on a managed service agreement, it’s easy for IT devices to not be surge protected. Your staff, cleaners or others will sometimes move plugs about. Be aware that this does matter.

Now is a good time to have a look at your computer equipment. Feel free to ask us next time we are on site.

Here are our top tips to protect your IT – how do you stack up?

Surge protectors

A surge protector guards against the damage that sudden power surges can cause.

  • It’s recommended for almost any piece of IT hardware plugged into a power outlet.
  • It will help protect against power spikes which can sometimes happen, especially if the power suddenly goes off. This happens more often than you might think; for example, your local lines company may be doing maintenance or upgrades to their system and will turn the power off for a period overnight.
  • The surge protectors can protect against more distant lightning strikes but will not provide protection from a close or direct strike.
  • Surge protectors can be built into power boards, so several devices can be plugged into them.
  • Do NOT plug anything other than IT equipment into surge protectors / surge protected power boards. We have seen heaters plugged in to surge protectors! These types of devices can fry your electronics. Make sure non-IT gear uses a separate power point.

Things that people often forget to surge protect

  • The Optical Network Terminal (ONT) that brings your fibre internet into your premises. The ONT is the little box that your provider installs. If the ONT blows up, you will have no fibre Internet until they replace it.
  • Network gear in the cupboard, or wherever it is located at your place – routers, powered network switches, etc. If the network gear blows up, you will lose the network around your premises.
  • Phones – while they are not as mission-critical as your ONT and network gear, it’s still annoying when they get fried.

UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power when the mains power fails.

  • Critical pieces of IT hardware, such as servers, key computers and network storage devices, should normally have a UPS between them and the wall power supply
  • The UPS does more than a simple surge protector, but they do also provide some surge protection.
  • This article does not cover UPS devices, but do make sure that they are regularly checked and batteries replaced.

Unplug IT from the wall

  • This can be difficult to achieve as computer equipment is often in use. If you are concerned enough about an approaching storm, then consider properly turning it off and then physically removing the plug from the wall.
  • If in any doubt – ALWAYS check with us first, as some IT equipment should not be unplugged.

Last thoughts

  • If the surge protector has experienced a significant power surge, or a lightning strike, it may have done its job and no longer work. Replace it. Often they will have a little light which indicates they are working, so if the light goes out – probably time to replace.
  • Don’t use the very cheapest devices and expect them to protect you.

In summary

Thunderstorms and lightning are real threats to IT and can cause not just cost, but also disruptions to your business. Surge protectors can last for years and all your IT equipment should use them. 

While surge protectors can last for years, it pays to keep a close eye on them and replace them if needed. Please feel free to reach out to our team at IT Centre to help you with this.  

Cyber Security is a very real issue for businesses in New Zealand these days. Here we look at Cyber Insurance, what it is, what the laws are, and why you need it.

Why do you need Cyber Insurance?

Cyber attacks on businesses in New Zealand are increasing in both sophistication and frequency. High profile companies like Air New Zealand partner Travelex, Fisher & Paykel Appliances, Toll Group, Garmin, Canon, Honda, BlueScope Steel, Lion, transport giant Toll Group, Twitter, MetService and most recently even the NZX, are just some of the organisations to have been targeted by cyber criminals. However it is not just the big companies, many small businesses are also being targeted. It really is a matter of ‘when not if’.

What is Cyber insurance?

Cyber insurance is designed to fill the gap that traditional insurance policies don’t cover, minimising the impact of cyber incidents by providing cover for your own loss and third party costs. It provides your business with a structured crisis response plan and assists with returning to ‘business as usual’.

  1. Won’t my general liability policy cover cyber liability?

General liability insurance covers bodily injuries and property damage resulting from your products, services or operations. Cyber insurance is often excluded from a general liability policy.

It pays to check your current policies and ask questions. You may find that your other business cover won’t respond to a cyber or data breach claim.

  1. The law has changed

The new Privacy Act 2020 which came into effect on 1 December 2020 means that all businesses now have legal requirements surrounding

The new Act requires mandatory data breach reporting if it’s reasonable to believe that the breach would cause serious harm to an individual. For example: If you’re engaging with a service provider to hold your clients’ personal data, for example a cloud-based CRM system, you remain responsible for the security and use of that personal information. If a Cyber breach were to occur, you would be held liable.

What does Cyber Insurance cover?

Ensuring business continuity and safeguarding your business from Business Interruption will enable you to return to the same financial position you were in before a Cyber event.

The benefits of Cyber Insurance will depend on the type of policy you take out but can include:
– Access to a dedicated and experienced team of experts if an attack occurs
– Protection from loss where you are legally liable to others
– Cover for your financial loss if your business is interrupted due to a Cyber event.

Things to look out for in your Cyber Insurance policy:

  • Business Interruption: Look for a policy that covers the costs of any business interruption as you can lose time and money trying to get your business back up and running after a cyber attack.
  • Hacker Theft Cover: A plan that covers compensation for loss incurred, including theft or destruction of stored data, hardware, or cyber extortion from employees.
  • Restoration costs: Compensation for expenses incurred to research, replace, restore, or recollect digital assets during the period of restoration.
  • Public Relations: Reimbursement for any costs involved with public relations.
  • Network Extortion: Indemnity for the amount paid to avoid, defend, preclude or resolve a network extortion attempt
  • Data Forensic Expenses: Costs incurred to investigate, examine and analyse a computer network
  • Third-Party Liability: Indemnity for the sums claimed and incurred defending claims in relation to alleged privacy breaches, network security wrongful acts or media and social media wrongful acts.

What is the likely cost of Cyber Insurance?

Like most insurance, premiums vary by insurer, the type of cover selected and your risk profile. As an estimate a policy with $100,000 cover could cost as little as $600 per annum.

All businesses need a security plan to protect their business and they should consider a Cyber Insurance policy as an essential part of this plan.

Top tips to avoid cyber security threats:

CERT NZ has a number of useful and practical resources for businesses on keeping systems and data safe from cyber security attacks, including cyber security risk assessments for business, cyber security awareness for staff, phishing scams and your business and protecting your business online.

CERT NZ offers the following tips for simple, practical steps for businesses.

  1. Install software updates
  2. Implement two-factor authentication (2FA)
  3. Back up your data
  4. Set up logs
  5. Create a plan for when things go wrong
  6. Update your default credentials
  7. Choose the right cloud services for your business
  8. Only collect the data you really need
  9. Secure your devices
  10. Secure your network
  11. Manually check financial details

For more info and links click here:

Cyber Security is a very real issue facing business owners these days. If you would like to discuss your individual needs, we provide advice to business owners and security assessments to ensure that your business has the best protection.

Please feel free to reach out to us here.

Nothing is more true than the fact that IT moves quickly these days! 

Part of keeping up with IT, and the rapid changes is making sure that your business has the right equipment to do the task. 

In this article we will be providing a few ideas for how to make a plan/budget for new or replacement equipment, as well as offering you some information on leasing.  

Firstly budgeting for IT hardware

Most businesses will have a budget for IT hardware and other goods and services that they need to operate. 

Our advice is that if you have more than a handful of computers, you will benefit from forecasting and budgeting for IT expenditure. 

Once your business is established, there is a very good chance that you will need to replace your IT equipment every few years. Such a good chance, in fact, that you can plan on it! 

Drawing up an IT replacement schedule helps you plan well in advance, and helps ensure you have the funds when you need them.

This can be done in conjunction with our team here at IT Centre. If you don’t have a list already, we can assist you to do an audit of the IT equipment that you have, the date it was installed, and therefore when it is likely to need replacing based on its expected life. 

This asset management plan needs to be revised every year for budgeting purposes.

We strongly suggest that you do this years in advance of when you actually require upgrades. It’s not hard to do. 

This list can help you have a clear and actionable plan on existing equipment, when warranties expire, and the requirements for a staggered plan for new hardware. 

A look at leasing

Whilst many of our clients purchase outright as the overall cost is lower, leasing can be a good option for when you are starting out, if your business is expanding rapidly, or if cash flow is wrapped up in other parts of the business. 

Leasing turns capital expenditure which has to be depreciated, into a monthly payment that is immediately expensed. It can also be an advantage in keeping assets off your balance sheet – speak with your accountant or advisor about this.

Obviously the disadvantage of leasing is that you are using someone else’s money and so they will need to charge you for that, as well as for their efforts! You could arrange your own finance and purchase, instead of leasing, in which case it pays to do your research on interest rates. 

Upgrading your technology for modernisation and expansion and to get more reliable up-to-date technology is very important, as using outdated technology can cost money and time. Sometimes it is a case of weighing up your options here. 

Using leasing options, your business may be able to move forward more quickly then it otherwise may have been able to, financed in a way that suits your budget or cash flow. 

Whilst leasing is more costly than buying in the long run, one of the advantages is that you can establish predictable payment structures aligned to your needs, taking the stress out of an upfront payment. 

This all means that you can get the technology you need with the budget you have today by utilizing IT leasing arrangements.

“When I became self-employed 20 years ago, I got my first laptop and setup via Flexirent, as it meant I didn’t need to spend the cash and then have the asset/depreciation. Instead, I kept the cash, and the entire cost was a relatively small monthly expense. So, sometimes, especially for new start-ups, it means you can save your cash for something you do need, or as a reserve. For more mature companies, taking a lease for gear, means that the cash can stay with you, which can help with liquidity.” Comment from ITA member.

Leasing options: 

These are just a few of the leasing options that some of our clients use. This is by no means conclusive, and we are not aligned with any of these companies. All of our advice is simply that, advice. Please make sure you do your own thorough research on this subject.  Never before has the saying ‘read the small print’ been more applicable. We strongly advise that you speak with your financial advisor and or accountant about this. 

Feefunders
From Fee Funders website: Your business receives 100% of the customer invoice paid upfront, whilst your customers enjoy the flexibility of monthly installments. Fee Funders manages the monthly customer’s payments by direct debit over three, six, nine or twelve months . Your business achieves upfront cash flow at no cost. Your clients pay a basic interest rate to achieve a spread of their outgoings. It’s like outsourcing a spread payment option for free!A simple, hassle free approach to funding for your business and your clients.Your business has the money in the bank within three working days of the customers first direct debit, giving enhanced cash flow with no debtor management distractions. Staff can remain focused on core business activities.
Flexicommercial
Flexicommercial offers your business flexible equipment finance solutions. The credit criteria for finance varies depending on whether you are an existing or new business and the required amount of finance.Choose the equipment you need.Choose the type of lease that best suits your needs.Select the payment term to best suit your budget.Apply over the phone or through your supplier in store.Sign and return the paperwork for approval

Of course these are just suggestions and all leasing arrangements should be thoroughly considered before being entered into. 

Hint – Leasing companies will usually be quite happy to include IT engineer setup costs in the value of the lease. For larger or more complicated systems, this can be quite a substantial part of the project costs. This means you can also expense those costs as well.

In summary 

We can help you to do an audit of your current equipment, and make a plan for future expenditure.

Something that makes this type of IT cash-flow of forecasting easier, is if you are on an  MSP (managed service provider)plan. Being on a Managed Service agreement removes many of the fluctuations of IT budgeting as generally you pay a fixed monthly fee for IT support. 

Please feel free to reach out to your IT Centre to discuss this further. 

How a Managed Service provider can help your business

In IT we love to use fancy jargon, and Managed Service provider or MSP is no exception.

In this article we will break down what an MSP is, how it can help your business, and use some real-life examples of businesses, like you, who have made the switch to an MSP.

Firstly, what is a Managed Service Provider???

In a nutshell an MSP is your ‘outsourced IT Dept’ that provides proactive IT support. An MSP provides preventative measures, detecting most issues long before they become a problem.

The mission of an MSP is to protect your business from costly downtime and ensure that business continues seamlessly.

What is the break-fix model of IT support?

In contrast the ‘break-fix’ model of IT support is when you call an IT company when something breaks, and they come and fix it, on an adhoc pay by hour model. There is no ongoing support or preventative security measures taken. This is a bit like the ambulance at the bottom of the hill.  

Top advantages of an MSP for your business:

We become an IT partner to your business: As an MSP we are interested in understanding your entire business. We see ourselves as a business partner who wants to help your business to succeed and grow. This is quite different from the ‘break-fix’ model. We anticipate a long-term working relationship with your business.  

Proactive IT Support: As an MSP, our mission is to keep your business technology safe and available, and to anticipate your needs and requirements. This means minimum costly down time, and maximum business continuity.

Knowledge of your needs: As we have a long-term relationship with your business, we become closely acquainted with your IT systems, and your personnel. Because of this we understand how the parts make up the whole, rather than just offering a quick short-term solution, which may be costly in the future.

Cost savings: By outsourcing your IT management to us, you get a well-informed IT department on your team, without the cost and responsibility of training, recruiting, and retaining staff.

Case-Study

“An IT Alliance member had a company who was reaching out to them on a ‘break-fix’ basis. During Covid the IT Alliance member reached out to them to discuss becoming their MSP. They sat down and discussed what this actually meant, the services that the MSP offers, and the priority that is given to MSP clients. The client has been using them as an MSP for over two years now, and happily sings their praises, saying that having an MSP has revolutionized their business. No more waiting for IT support, no more downtime and so much more alignment”

So, what does an MSP actually do?

Remote Monitoring: An MSP proactively monitors, patches, and updates your software on an ongoing basis with 24/7 monitoring. This is all done in the background on an ongoing basis and requires no input from you.

Security: As an MSP we constantly review your systems to identify and address vulnerabilities. We can keep up with system updates, software patching, antivirus and more. It would be difficult for any business to keep up to date with all the daily security alerts. With an MSP this is all taken care of and is one less thing to worry about, so you can focus on your business.

Optimising hardware: An MSP provides information on optimal hardware that synchronises across your business. This includes laptops, desktops, and mobile devices, plus your network and servers.  We can work with you to understand your growth requirements and work on the best timeline for your budget.

Strategic advice: As IT is our passion, we hear about a myriad of tools that may be of benefit for business goals. We share this advice with you, rather than you having to research or find out how you can optimise technology for your needs.

Regular reviews: As an MSP client, you are a priority which means that we schedule in regular proactive reviews. No more waiting on the phone to talk to someone to get IT support.

Business Continuity and disaster-recovery strategy: Nowadays it is crucial that you have a solid data-backup plan. We can help you with this process and ensure that everything can be efficiently restored should the need arise.

So what do I do now?

So now you have an overview of what an MSP is, and how they can help your business. The next step is talking to the team at IT Centre about your specific needs. Please feel free to reach out here for further advice. 

A number of our clients have been asking us about Microsoft 11. “Should I upgrade?” “Should I wait?”. It’s new and everyone wants the latest and greatest right.

In this case, however, it may be best to WAIT

With most upgrades, updates are something to install as a matter of course. The manufacturer, after all, is delivering new efficiencies, improved processes, and increased security, so why wouldn’t you?

Well with Windows 11 it’s not quite that simple:

First of all, Windows 11 has been called “the biggest update we’ve seen to Microsoft PC software in more than half a decade.”

Why you don’t need to rush this upgrade:

  • Windows 11 is still in its early days and upgrading to it now may cause more problems than anything.
  • The feedback we are getting from our industry is that Windows 11 has a number of bugs, and has very limited support for other applications and devices.
  • There also seems to be some issues with both software and hardware, such as printers, not being compatible.

Most importantly, Microsoft has said it will support Windows 10 until October 14, 2025, so there is no need to rush any decision.

  • Microsoft typically keeps a ten-year lifespan for its products which means that there is no rush to upgrade.
  • Windows 11 is not an essential upgrade, so there is no need to do anything right now.
  • One of the advantages of waiting is that you will come after the initial launch issues and bugs.
  • Yes, the software has been available in beta since June 2021, however, as more users get access, you can expect more updates on the horizon.

A sneak peek of what can you expect from Windows 11:

Windows 11 is a redesigned operating system aiming at improved user navigation. Expect:

  • A more Mac-like experience
  • Integration with Android apps
  • A facelift for Microsoft Teams
  • Streamlined switching from monitor to laptop
  • Direct access to widgets from the Taskbar
  • A few gaming performance enhancements

If you do decide to go ahead here are some things you need to know….

  •  The upgrade is rolling out gradually. Those who recently purchased a new laptop before Windows 11 was pre-installed have access now.
  • If you are an existing Windows 10 user, you’ll see the Windows 11 upgrade sometime between now and mid-2022. Most users will go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for Updates. If available, you’ll see a Feature update to Windows 11. Click Download and install.
  • Remember to backup all your important documents before starting the installation process!
  • Also, don’t fall for any fake versions of Windows 11. Wait to receive an official notification of a systems update.
  • Do NOT click on links promising the software on social media or via email. You could end up downloading malware.

Other tips:

If you are in the market for a new laptop, make sure you’re getting one with Windows 11 pre-installed. That way, you’ll be sure to get one that will be able to run the new operating system without hassle.

Your IT specialist may have already suppressed some of the reminder notices for you, so that you don’t get asked to upgrade all of the time. However, they can’t stop them all.

If you see the official Microsoft screens saying ‘click here to install Windows 11’ our suggestion is to not do anything and just wait. It might be a good idea to also inform your team to do the same.

Conclusion:

One thing to be mindful of is that if you do go ahead and install Windows 11, any problems you encounter may not be covered by your IT specialist under your current plan.

However, if you are sitting at your computer reading this and are still using Windows 7 and Windows 8, its definitely time for an upgrade to at least Windows 10. Windows 7 and 8 are no longer supported by the manufacturer and without support or security updates, these systems are vulnerable to malware attacks.

In conclusion the best thing to do is to talk to IT Centre about this upgrade to Windows 11 to see when and if it is right for you. For now, you won’t be disadvantaged by doing nothing, so you can just relax, take a breath, and contact us here

How Microsoft 365 Exchange has revolutionized and simplified communications for a Kapiti Kitchen company.

Meet Orchard Joinery

Meet Orchard Joinery. A family-owned business from the Kapiti Coast, that has crafted bespoke kitchens, bathrooms, windows, doors, stairs and furniture for over 20 years! Whilst they really know their stuff, they were struggling with their customer communications, much of which is by email these days.

Inefficient Email

All the company emails had been set up to come into one email address, leading to missed communication and some unhappy potential customers. The office manager had to check through emails every day to make sure that all communications had been addressed. What a headache!

Aiming for Change

Orchard Joinery contacted their local IT Alliance member for a free consultation. Together they worked out a solution using 365’s business grade email facility – Exchange Online. Ideally, they were after a way to split and redirect emails to the correct staff to ensure efficient and correct action and response. 

They did this by outlining a list of new addresses that were needed. Next, the IT Alliance member set up Microsoft 365, new email addresses, and when they were all ready, they switched emails across to the new system. They then onboarded staff onsite, so they felt supported and knew what to do from day one. The email system now has custom access settings, and the Manager can see everything if they need to.

The End Result

The end result was a much clearer process for customers and staff alike. Orchard Joinery now has an easy-to-use mail system with access across all accounts. There is clear allocation of emails and tasks and there is one incredibly happy office manager who no longer has to sift through screeds of emails to find the correct recipient!

“Very happy with the result, and with the changeover process. The IT Alliance member made this easy and was on call to help with any adjustments promptly. Particularly impressed with the ability of the staff to translate difficult IT related information into easy-to-understand applications.” – David, Orchard Joinery

This is just a simple case study involving email, but there is so much more that can be done to improve your internal and external communication and efficiency.  

If you are ready to empower your business with Microsoft Products like these, you can join us at our upcoming FREE event through the EMPOWER series. Click here to register.

We have seen an explosion in the ways we communicate, and, in the ways, we use these forms of communication. The last few years have seen people that would have rather picked up their land line now reaching for their laptop or tablet to make a video call.

Our original and oldest form of distant communication, the letter, has been branded snail mail and the volume of snail mail has steadily decreased to the point that the humble letter box is on the verge of redundancy. 

We have transitioned from the art of formal letter writing, taught with passion by our English teachers, to communicating in text or even emojis. We are evolving not just our means of communication but also the way we use these tools. 

In business, while an initial introduction is more commonly made in person, or by voice, further contact takes the form of electronic mail. This leads to a bombardment of the recipient’s inbox and the frustration of unread emails at the end of the working day. It is true to say that if our humble letter box had to deal with our daily volume of mail, it would have long since collapsed to the ground.

Getting on top of email

The first thing is to ask ourselves is “Should this communication take the form of an email?”. If you yourself are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Solve as much of the problem at the source not at the destination. 

If your email is urgent, short, or to a large audience question the medium you are using, would communication be better served by picking up the phone, chatting in teams, or holding a team’s meeting or presentation.

When should I use email?

We all unconsciously know that email is great when we need a record of a communication, date or action. For example, if I was to respond to a work order or quote, I would reply via email and simultaneously schedule a task. If I was going to tell a colleague a joke or organize a get together, I would do that in person, via voice or message via teams.

A matter of Etiquette 

Remember to use email to “create a record or reminder”. There are certain things that you can do to ensure your message is heard.

  • Be concise.
  • Proofread in the voice of the receipt so you more accurately convey the tone you intended.
  • Use a grammar checker as well as a spell checker.
  • If you are asking a question, use a question mark?
  • If you require a response, say so.
  • Ensure you have a email signature on new emails and a shorter signature on forwards and replies.
  • If your email recipients need to contact you outside email, how hard are you making it for them? I would personally question the practice of having your email address in your email signature. Use a relevant subject line. “Meeting request” vs “26th May at 4pm re Communication is Key!” 
  • Make your email easy to search for!
  • Using the carbon copy (CC) field is the most abused part of the email. It is NOT to shame the recipient into action it’s to record other parties to the action when they do not directly have to participate in the email. 

Sorting your inbox

Which brings us to organizing the inbox. How can we work more efficiently, giving emails the priority, they deserve? 

If an email has been cced to you, it automatically implies that it does not requiring my immediate attention. You can even create a rule outlook to move these to another folder called CCED emails. These rules can be as simple or as complex as you decide. If the cced email has a mention of you in it, or is marked high importance, you can ignore the move rule. You can also do the same for group, broadcast or “send to all” emails. 

When it comes to the external mail, you can sort the rules sender and or subject line. For example, an email from an IT alliance member with the subject containing “communication is key” goes to “webinarblogs” folder in the sub folder “ITA”.

How you build your rules is up to you and it does take some initial work and experimentation, but the gains will be worth it.

A great example is a company in New Zealand that uses some of the AI engine’s ability to determine a customer’s tone in an email to prioritize unhappy customer. This allows them to be more responsive when required. It can also be implemented to send an automatic response such as “we are sorry to hear about your recent experience with Contoso and would like to speak with you to resolve this issue at your earliest convenience. Please press here to schedule a call with our team”. 

Can I have emails go to a team?

Of course. If you have all the sales team respond to emails sent to enquiries@contoso.co.nz then you can have a shared mailbox. Members that are granted access to the shared mailbox can be setup to send as enquiries@contoso.co.nz or as themselves salesguy@contoso.co.nz however a shared mailbox does require its own license. What about a public folder? A public folder is designed for shared access across the whole organization, it can be enabled with a mail address so that when added to the address field can be forward to a folder for centralized record keeping but it does not allow controlled access, hence public.

Email Security 

As with phones and postal services there will be abuse. The more a communication tool is used the more likely some people will see an opportunity to scam others.

As “email is a record” as postulated earlier, do you retain and control access to these records. Do your emails contain personally identifiable information or other forms of sensitive information? How can you ensure emails are not sent to the wrong person?

Digital communications are more secure than physical forms of communication as technology “can” ensure trust and authentication at every step of the path between sender and recipient. We stress the word “can” in the previous sentence! 

You may be surprised to learn that you can encrypt your email so only the intended recipient can read it. Even more surprising you can encrypt the email so it can not be forwarded, printed or copied.  You can even stop sensitive information being sent outside the organisation automatically. Technology is available to digitally sign all email from your business to stop imposters posing as your business via email. Technology can check links and attachments in emails for malicious behaviour.

What Next?

Casting the human eye over an email, no matter how much training they received, will never match the ability of the technology to weigh the huge amount of data necessary to make a good decision. 

Technology can make our digital communication more secure, as with all communication it is up to us to evolve to use our tools to their full potential.

Talk, email, send a letter (maybe not!) or message us here to discuss how to take your next step.

If you are ready to empower your business with Microsoft Products like these, you can join us at our upcoming FREE event through the EMPOWER series. Click here to register.

Watch our recent webinar here and find out how Northland Kindergarten Association used teams to manage their remote working conditions during a tricky time, and how it may also be able to help your business.  

Click here to watch the webinar

If you have any problems downloading this webinar please reach out to us.

With the increased need for security, and rising Cyber Security threats, it is imperative that all businesses have a strong password management system.

80% of data breaches are caused by weak, reused or stolen passwords

A password management system is able to store encrypted passwords online making digital security accessible and simple for businesses to manage the passwords for all employees.

In today’s world, most businesses have dozens or even hundreds of passwords for different employees with different accounts, profiles, and applications.

#1. Generate secure, fool-proof passwords

With 80% of all data breaches happening because of weak passwords, having a password management system is crucial.

If you want to ensure your data safety, you must use complex passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers, symbols, and uppercase/lowercase.

A password management system will automatically generate fool-proof passwords based on your specification. This ensures you always create extremely secure passwords, thus avoiding hacks.

This also prevents your employees using generic and basic passwords such as their dogs name, or date of birth, and lets the password management system create a unique password that has all of the factors required for high security, including symbols, upper and lower case, numbers.

Let’s face it, it is much harder to hack KiUR&*!RTQ then it is Snoopy1222!

#2. Eliminate employee password reuse:

With a password management system, passwords are automatically updated and renewed. This ensures employees practice good password hygiene.

#3. Manage passwords from one place:

There is nothing worse than trying to keep tabs on every employee’s passwords. When a staff member is on leave, the last thing you want to do is try and find the post-it note they left with the login details.

Similarly, if a disgruntled employee leaves and takes their passwords, this can create an unnecessary headache.

With a password management system, you can easily give every user their own personalized vault, while maintaining oversight of all passwords with an admin dashboard.

#4. Protect your sensitive data:

Keep everyone’s credentials, notes, and information safe using the password management system.

#5. Admin functions make managing passwords a breeze:

Have multiple employees working on a particular app? No problem. With a good password management system, you can securely share credentials where employees and clients require access and organize shared credentials by Groups.

Admin functions may include (depending on the system you use):

  • Instantly add and remove team members.
  • Safely share passwords with others.
  • Give each employee their own vault for safeguarding passwords.
  • Store digital records: WiFi logins, software licenses, employee IDs, and more.
  • Set security controls and restrictions based on your team’s needs.

#6. Notification of a data breach

A password management system will constantly monitor all of your email addresses and sends instant alerts whenever it suspects that your data has been compromised. This allows you to act promptly and change all the necessary passwords, thereby preventing your information from being used by hackers and identity thieves.

#7. Multifactor authentication for employees

Another feature available in most password systems is multifactor authentication. This provides a second layer of security to verify the user’s login, usually in the form of fingerprint verification, one-tap mobile notifications, SMS codes, etc. This can be used to ensure the highest levels of security in businesses.

Which password management system is right for you?

There are a number of password management systems available. Finding one that is easy for your team to use, economical and with a long track record is imperative.

To find out more information about which system is right for you, please contact us here

A cheat sheet to help you make the most of your subscription

Written by: Peter Marshall, Voicecom Technologies

If you have Microsoft 365 for business, we want to make sure you’re making the most of it. You’re already paying for the subscription so why not take advantage of a whole suite of integrated applications that can streamline your workflows?

While remote work has been a key driver for Otago businesses to adapt the way they work and assess the systems they use, along the way they’ve realised that these apps not only offer remote capabilities but also the opportunity to integrate apps and business processes to allow them to better serve customers, streamline work, and improve employee productivity.

Four apps you’re paying for but missing out on

Microsoft SharePoint – SharePoint can seem overly complicated because it can offer so much. But it doesn’t need to be so scary. You can start small and use more functionality as needed or as you grow. Basically, it’s a platform that offers content management and collaboration. It helps with reducing duplicate files, gives you remote access (needed more than ever!) and allows you to work on the same document at the same time. Find out more about SharePoint here.

Microsoft Power Automate – Microsoft Power Automate allows you to automate workflows across applications. You can use it to connect email and instant message alerts, synchronise files between applications, copy files from one service to another, collect data from one app and store it in another, and much more. Templates are available to get you started. Efficiency is key for sustained success across businesses and Power Automate assists this by simplifying workflows with the automation of repetitive tasks.

Microsoft Forms – Forms allows you to create shareable surveys, quizzes, and polls in just minutes. You can then invite others to respond to it using almost any web browser or mobile device, see real-time results as they’re submitted, use built-in analytics to evaluate responses, and export results to Excel for analysis.

Microsoft Planner – A simple, visual, task management app that helps remove chaos from the team collaboration environment. You can create multiple task lists associated with different projects or set up daily to-do checklists.

Other apps to take advantage of.

Microsoft Teams – a chat-based workspace that integrates people, content, and tools into a single platform. Find out more about Teams here: https://ita.co.nz/microsoft-teams-more-just-video-conferencing

Microsoft OneDrive – OneDrive is essentially an online folder system for file storage. Similar to SharePoint however SharePoint offers much more in the way of collaboration. You might use OneDrive to save your personal drafts and then move them to SharePoint when you’re ready for collaboration.

Microsoft Lists – Helps you track information, organise your work and easily share with others. Lists are simple, smart, and flexible, so you can stay on top of what matters most to your team. Track issues, assets, routines, contacts, inventory and more.

Microsoft Stream – Your central destination for your business video content. It’s like an internal, secure YouTube for your business. This is the perfect place to keep things like training videos or marketing content for staff to easily access.

Microsoft Sway – Sway is a cloud only story-telling application similar to PowerPoint but provides more narrative options than a slide show.

Microsoft Whiteboard – A digital version of the traditional whiteboard that allows collaboration and brainstorming with your team in an interactive and engaging manner.

Microsoft MyAnalytics – Uses your data to provide insights into two of the key factors in your personal productivity: how you spend your time and who you spend it with. MyAnalytics takes a look at your everyday work patterns, finds areas that could benefit from your attention, and provides you with the tools to achieve more thoughtful use of your time.

Microsoft Power Apps – If your business needs a specific app to do a specific job, this is what PowerApps can do. Using simplified development techniques and with the help of your IT expert, you can create sophisticated applications using features, procedures, and processes found in Microsoft 365.

If you want to find out more about how any of these Microsoft 365 applications can benefit your business, contact us today on +64 3 443 5499. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.

There are plenty of options available for video conferencing at the moment, which has been extremely useful with many people working from home in the current environment. Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are some of the big names available – but did you know that Teams can also do much more than just video conferencing?

Here at IT Centre, we like to use it for all of our Microsoft apps and workflows. Meaning it’s the tech equivalent of a swiss army knife which can switch between different bits of kit at a moment’s notice. If you currently have multiple apps, workflows, inboxes and files all over the place… then Teams might just be the all-in-one solution you’re looking for.

Internal Communication

If you are constantly trying to keep up with your inbox and struggle to find that important email, then you are certainly not alone. Many businesses are now using tools like Slack for internal comms which can drastically reduce email clutter, did you know that Teams has a similar function? It’s a quick way to communicate with your internal team or give them a call – some of us have gone so far we’ve eliminated internal emails altogether!

File Storage and Structure

Having multiple locations for files, unorganised file structures, different file versions and not being able to find something is certainly not uncommon. Using Teams allows you to directly integrate with Microsoft’s file hosting service, OneDrive and have all of your files in one place, and also makes file sharing easy with external customers or suppliers.

Department Groups

Everyone has access to what they need in Microsoft Teams by setting your team and only having access to what’s important for you – split these up by department or otherwise as suits you. Then you can interact with your colleagues however you need to based upon the large array of apps and workflows available. For example, you might want to hop on a quick call with a member of the admin team, share some private documents with management or your marketing team might want to set up a quiz to share with your customers.

One-Stop-Shop

If that wasn’t enough, you can also use Teams to book your meetings, keep track of them in the calendar, run live webinars for up to 10,000 people and integrate CRM and customer ticketing apps. Basically it can be used as your one-stop-shop to replace the multiple different apps you are currently using, with multiple logins and varying integration capabilities.

If you feel disorganised, have files here there and everywhere and want to centralise it all to keep them in one place securely in the cloud – then Microsoft Teams might be the answer for you. It will help you centralise your files, communications, email addresses (across multiple domain names) to become more organised.

If you’re not sure where to start, then get in touch with us today on +64 3 443 5499. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.

Let’s Pivot to remote work! But wait… how?

The environment in which we operate has significantly changed over the last few months. Businesses have been driven to embrace remote working. There has been no better time to question the efficiency of your workflows and systems. A business simply needs to have online functionality and the ability for staff to continue to work remotely. The need for increased collaboration and file sharing amongst teams is essential, which is where SharePoint can offer an excellent solution. How? Read on..

Reducing duplicate files

Are your documents and folders in a bit of a mess? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us! With the change of employees, each individual has different ideas on how to organise filing systems, so yours has likely evolved into a mix of conflicting folders and duplicates. Have you ever collaborated on a document, emailing it back and forth until you eventually find yourself so confused as to which document is the most up to date? Yes! We have all been there. Working remotely means that now, more than ever before, we have a huge need for collaboration. This means that the same mentality needs to be embraced with your document management system. SharePoint allows you to have one central location where your documents are stored, categorised, updated and backed up. You can set up permissions so that others can access and update. No more version 2.1.5.0, saved on everyone’s drive!

Capturing version history

SharePoint gives you the ability to capture version history. You no longer have to spend time hunting for the latest version of the health and safety policy! This not only helps reduce the number of duplicate files but it offers a history of who has last worked on the document. Having access to older versions can sometimes be a lifesaver. This means that if a colleague accidentally deletes some information from an older version when updating, you can still gain access to the previous version with a click of a button.

Access from any device or location

Accessibility is key. You might be working from home, stuck up north or down south, or perhaps on a family outing and work suddenly needs urgent attention. SharePoint allows you to jump on your laptop, tablet or other device and instantly access all of your work files. Quick, easy access has never been so important and can ensure as little downtime as possible.

Collaboration – being able to work on the same doc at the same time

The strong need for collaborative tools has increased, especially with a workforce that is frequently operating online and remotely. SharePoint allows users to collaborate by working on the same document at the same time. Additionally, you can easily create and customise your own intranet. Fancy right? This provides the perfect platform where you can share and manage content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information, and seamlessly collaborate across the organisation. Not to mention, bring your team together!

Better Security

One of the most common concerns about embracing cloud platforms is the security of your data. We need to change our perception about having everything stored onsite and having ‘physical’ control. A company like Microsoft has an entire team continually working on the safety of their platforms so perhaps it’s time to embrace cloud options which can give your business the leap forward. You do also have control. Backing up your data, and implementing multifactor authentication are two key steps to helping keep your data safe. What does this really mean?  Backups: using a third-party provider to back up your data is essential as Microsoft only manages the security of its platform… not your data!. Multifactor authentication makes it harder for anyone to hack or steal your data. It is a simple system whereby you might, for example, be required to enter a password as well as a text message code using an authorising app.

The way we do business has dramatically shifted. The damaging effects of a worldwide pandemic means we need to embrace technology to help us ride this wave of change. If you’re ready to make the move to more efficient and collaborative and secure document management, we can help get you started. You can pop us an email or give us a ring. We would be more than happy to walk you through the process in plain English! 

IT Centre is part the IT Alliance, a group of like minding companies working together around the country to bring better value and services to clients.

IT Alliance members near you!

COVID-19 has created an abrupt shift to remote work, putting pressure on the IT infrastructure of many businesses. Although technology has allowed organisations to adapt quickly, usually this shift would require in-depth planning and risk analysis. The quick change to a virtual environment means potential weaknesses have encouraged cyber-criminals to see this as an opportunity to be out in full force.

Current Protection and Risk

How good is it that in a lot of cases, businesses have been able to continue their operations because of the ability to work remotely? Technology is awesome. But with it, does come risk. It’s great that businesses have embraced remote work, but we can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure your tech and business is protected. Remote workers don’t necessarily have the same firewalls and corporate levels of threat protection at home which means your business’s data is vulnerable at the click of a button. Also, working from home, Joe from IT isn’t one office away to save you when you’ve opened a dodgy email.

“But, … I’m password protected!”

Unfortunately, passwords simply aren’t enough to keep you secure. They are regularly shared and can be easily hacked. You need a second line of defense and this is where multi-factor authentication comes in. 

What is multi-factor authentication?

Multi-factor (or two factor) authentication is a security mechanism that requires an individual to provide two or more credentials in order to authenticate your identity. For example, you may be required to enter a password as well as a text message code using an authorising app. Other forms of authentication might be a fingerprint or retinal scan. Yes, it can be a little more time consuming, but it can be a whole lot more time consuming and stress inducing if you end up with a major security breach on your hands.

How much does it cost?

In a lot of cases, it’s actually FREE and just needs to be set up! If you’re unsure if you have multi-factor authentication or you want to enable this function, call us and we can help 03 443 5499. If you’d like to email us, you can find our details on our contact page.

We understand this is a challenging time and you’re having to adjust the way you operate. The good news is that there are some excellent tools available that can help you – some you may already have! You can give us a call here in Wanaka on 03 443 5499 or reach us HERE. We know it’s a lot to take in but we’re here to help and guide you through with all things IT.

Free Contact Tracking Form

Updated Friday 8th May

This Contact Tracking form is made possible by the power of Microsoft Forms which is part of Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). You can do similar things with Google forms.

Call us on 03 443 5499, or contact us here, if you want to know what else can be done with your Microsoft 365 subscription, such as using SharePoint for cloud based document management and sharing for remote working, enterprise class email and calendaring or using Teams for collaboration and remote team working.

About Contact Tracking

It’s not clear what the exact requirements for contact tracking will be but this is a simple and cheap way you can start.

There are multiple ways of recording this sort of information and this may only be one way you use for your business for example you may have a manual register you use for people who don’t have a cell phone. Alternatively you could complete the form on their behalf.

Instructions

You may want to print these instructions before starting

Step 1. Create a form

  • Click this link to go to forms.office.com
  • Click Get Started and login with your Microsoft 365 or Microsoft personal account credentials if prompted
  • Click New Form
  • Click on the form title to edit it, you might want to add your business name. You can also enter a description.

Step 2. Add some questions

  • Click the Add new button to add questions to get the information you want e.g. Name, phone number and who they are visiting

Step 3. Optional Extras

  • Add a Health & Safety message
  • Have customers choose a checkbox to agree to your terms of entry
  • Add your company logo
  • Change the theme of the form

Step 4. Click Send

  • Make sure under Send and collect responses it says “Anyone with link can respond”
  • Optionally Copy the link and save it somewhere so you can send it to people you know will be visiting
  • Download a QR code by clicking the small circle with 3 squares, then click Download
  • Print it and stick it on your door

Step 5. Good to GO!

  • Your contact tracking register is now good to go
  • We suggest you test the form your self and get used to using it

How visitors use it

  • For an iPhone or a newer Android simply open the camera and point it at the QR code then tap the link that pops up
  • For an older Android phone, open the camera, click on the Google Lens icon (normally a small square with a dot in the middle), point it at the QR code then tap the link that pops up
  • Complete the form and tap Submit

Checking and downloading contact information

  • Open Microsoft Forms in your browser – here’s a handy link forms.office.com
  • You may need to sign in again
  • Click the Responses tab and you can view submitted forms and see summary data
  • Click Open in Excel to download an Excel spreadsheet containing all the forms submitted to date

Other Ideas

  • Create a leaving form with just a name field so visitors can sign out when they leave
  • Email, text or message a link to the form to people you know will be visiting you so they can just click on the link
  • Provide temporary wireless network access for visitors who don’t have data on their phones

More Help

If you would like more help with set-up or customisation click here to contact us (our normal charges & Terms and Conditions apply).

What people have been saying about our free form…

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Thanks to IT Centre we have been able to make up a registry that requires no paperwork. Customers & Contractors can simply open up the camera on their iPhone or Android and it will redirect them to fill out our Contact Tracing Registry” “… thanks guys that is really cool will save us heaps of paperwork

Chris and Glenys Cowling, Tauranga ITM

Thanks team, that’s really easy. We’ll print it out on vinyl in reverse and stick it to the inside of our window

Sean & Claire O’Connell, Wanaka Signs

Wow, that’s really easy, thank you!

Sarah Burdon, The Camp, Lake Hawea

Preparing Your Business For Contact

Levels two and three are on their way and it is time to prepare for what that might look like for your business. It can feel a little overwhelming, so let’s break down some of the key areas that might help your business to manage all the changes. We will cover contact tracing, what it is and why it’s so important. Two key steps to defining it for your business and lastly some brilliant business IT tools that could save time, money, and possibly even lives.

What Is Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing is the ability to trace what kind of contact you have had with which people, how close you have been to them and how long you were in their presence. There are two types of contact tracing: casual and close. Casual is defined as someone you have been in the vicinity of. Close, is someone you might have shared bodily fluid with, or been closer than 2m to, for 15 min or more. For example, you might have shared a drink with someone, or gone into their home to fix something and stayed for more than 15 min chatting to them at a 1m distance.

Why is this important for my business?

It is possible that we might experience little outbreaks here and there for quite some time to come. We will most likely be required, for health and safety needs, to be able to track our day to day interactions. If this is the case we will need to consider how to manage onsite, offsite, deliveries all sorts of day to day interactions. Protocols and communication will be key moving into this next recovery phase.

Two key Preparation Tips.

  1. The first step is to map out what interactions you are allowed under level 3 and consider how you can mitigate contact.
  2. The next thing is to consider the tech available to you to help ease the pressure. Additional paperwork is going to slow your business in an already stressful time.

Never fear your toolbox is here!

There are lots of tools you can use to keep your business moving forward. For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to work from home, tools like Microsoft 365, Zoom and other online platforms like Hubspot, will be able to provide regular quality communication and transparency with workers. What is very important to remember is that remote work doesn’t always mean your data is safe. Check out our blogs on multi-factor authentication and more on network safety

Tracking Visitors & Deliveries.

Most companies already have access to systems that can put tracking visitors and deliveries in place, they just haven’t discovered it yet. Bundled with your Microsoft 365 or Google Suite subscription is a tool called Forms. This enables you to make simple questionnaires that are available online. Once you have made that form, it automatically generates a QR Code, which you can print out and stick on your entrance way. All available from your laptop or home computer!!
For example, you arrive at your favorite café. On the door there is a QR Code which you scan. It pops up with a form to fill out, and even your order. Once you hit send on the form, it informs the café staff that you have checked in, and what your order is. Once your order is complete, you are sent a message saying you can pop in and pay with payWave. Minimal contact, but all that data is kept for the café owner to use to track you down if there were to be a covid case in your vicinity, keeping you safe.

Non-Contact business.

For those business that are face to face this is a really testing time. However, now is not the time to take your foot off the gas. There are so many tools you can use to transform your business and who knows, possibly even for the better. Once you are online, you are no longer geographically restricted! Talk to your web designer, add a shopping cart or Shopify account. People are in the mode of learning to order from you online means it’s a great time to enrich your database more than ever before. If you are in the wellness, entertainment or education business, consider running live events using Eventbrite or use the paid subscriptions option on Facebook.
For companies needing more sophisticated tracking, Microsoft Power Apps can be used to create custom Apps. You can then track GPS location, time on site, record photos, the sky is the limit. Whatever you do, there will be a way, but never feel like you are on your own.

Need help installing and connecting your employees? We can help so contact us today on 03 443 5499. If you’d like to email us, you can find our details here.

IT Centre is a founding member of the NZ-wide IT Alliance – www.ita.co.nz