Protege, Windows 10 pro, best business laptop

Protege, One of the Best Business Laptops

Sleek | Modern | Powerful – Dynabook, the Protege, One of the Best Business Laptop!

When you think of a laptop, most likely Dell, HP or Apple come to mind.  However, there is one manufacturer that needs to be moved into the more popular laptop category, which is Dynabook.

Dynabook Inc., formerly knowns as Toshiba Client Solutions Co., Ltd., introduced the world’s first laptop in 1985 sparking a revolution to the thinner, lighter and powerful mobile devices that we know of today. For more than three decades, Dynabook has shaped the mobile computing market by pushing technology to deliver value and solutions.  Now, a division of the Sharp Corporation Group, Dynabook continues to expand the limits of mobile computing with passion, innovation, quality and reliability.

Why Choose Dynabook?

You might be asking yourself, why this laptop?  Here are five reason that Dynabook is a great choice:

  • Vertical Integration – It’s the only major laptop manufacturer that has their own design, engineering and manufacturing facilities, providing the only units available from any manufacturer that are 100% built by the actual OEM.
  • Quality, Reliability and Durability – Using the Highly Accelerated Life Test (HALT) which is a combination stress test that include heat, shock and vibration will give engineers the data they need to identify the weak points and improve the quality of the design to perfection.  In addition, Dynabook laptops undergo strict military grade testing (MIL-STD-810G) to ensure durability and performance.
  • Proprietary Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) – The only laptop manufacturer that writes it’s on BIOS. BIOS is the base firmware that is executed when a PC is turned on and initializes the hardware components. In other words, the purpose of the BIOS is to make sure all the things plugged into the laptop can work properly.
  • ValueAdded Customization – Dynabook laptops are engineered with a full range of in-demand features but as we all know, every business is different. Dynabook offers a Configure-to- Order program which enables businesses to order the exact technology they need without paying for features that will never be used.  Each laptop can be configured to include: Image load, Asset Tag, Custom BIOS settings.
  • Industry-Leading Warranty – Their newest warranty, the +Care Service warranty, is a premier standard warranty designed to keep business moving forward. Offered on select laptops, the +Care Service warranty is available for three-years on feature configurations and four-years on some of Sharps exclusive models and all Configure-to-Order models.  Support, including Depot Repair, Carry-In, On-Site, and Customer Replaceable Parts all help businesses cut downtime and reduce IT costs.

Laptop vs Laptop Comparison

One could spend hours researching laptops based on weight, performance, RAM, hard drives, price, business or education, even gaming. The frustrating conclusion is that depending on the source, the Top 5 or 10 vary in manufacturer and model.  According to The Verge, Macbook Air is the Best Laptop of 2021, with the HP Spectre X360 14 as the Best Windows Laptop. It’s hard to compare between Apple and Windows because its business vs graphics, but in comparing the HP Spectre X360 and the Dynabook Tecra X40-F the differences are minimal, with the Tecra X40-F offering the better buy including +Care Service Warranty 4-Year with On-Site. (Comparisons sites Gadgetsnow.com and laptopvslaptop.com*) 

Dynabook Offerings

Dynabook offers 30 different models with various specification; here’s a peek at the Dynabook Product Portfolio.  Sharp hand-picked six exclusive models offering a stylish, thin and lightweight laptop (Portege X30 & Tecra X40) with Windows 10 Pro that is ultraportable and features the latest quad-core 8th Generation Intel Core processor delivering performance, tons of options and lasting durability for all business needs. Within the Education sector, Sharp has three specific models to compete with the Chromebook.   All models offer optional easy to connect Dynabook docking station with USB-C Dock, fingerprint sensor, Thunderbolt3 adapter delivering speeds up to 40Gbps allowing up to eight peripherals simultaneously and more.

Simplify your Business with Smile

Whether you are shopping for business, education or home office laptops, Smile has you covered. Buy an individual laptop, buy it within a Work from Anywhere Bundle package from Sharp, or consider Managed Network Services with SmileNET. To learn more about the Dynabook experience, contact Smile today!

 

*Comparisons included similar Dynabook models as some of the Sharp exclusive models were available for comparison when using these sites. 

 

Meeting, WCD, Sharp Windows Collaboration Display

Etiquette Tips to Make your Meeting More Enjoyable

For the last eight months, all we hear about is Zoom Zoom Zoom. The world has transformed from in-person to virtual meetings. We’ve all had to adapt yet some people still inadvertently distract others’, so a little etiquette reminder is in order when attending an online meeting or webinar.  Whether you’re the presenter or the attendee, it’s all about a positive experience for all participants.

To make a meeting and webinar more enjoyable, here are some suggestions:

What type of event are you attending?

Know what type of event you are attending. Are you attending a meeting or a webinar? A meeting is designed for more of collaborative event to share ideas, review projects, weekly updates, screen sharing and more.  Webinars are designed for a host to share a video, audio and screen with view-only attendees. Attendees have the ability to interact via chat, polling questions and a Question & Answer platform.

If the meeting is not virtual and you need to organize the meeting make sure that you get the help from event planning services in DC they will help you to succeed in the event.

Make Sure You’re Secure

If you are the presenter, make sure you manage your screen sharing abilities on a per meeting basis.  Usually, only the hosts and co-host have the ability to share their screens, but it’s still important for the host to enable the security icon on the meeting toolbar and make sure the latest version is being used. With all the heightened security due to online events, many of the meeting tools such as Zoom, Teams, Go-To-Meeting, etc. have numerous updates. It’s just as important to make your meeting private. With so many social outlets, ensuring a password will eliminate unwanted people engaging with inappropriate sharing or zoombombing!

 

Etiquette Tips

In preparation for the event, here are some etiquette tips to consider:

  • Please mute your microphone if it’s not already auto muted. Background noise is such an annoyance for the presenter and attendees. Here are a few common background noises: a barking dog, a crying baby, children talking to their parents, shuffling papers, car alarm, Amazon or UPS at the door, coworkers talking amongst each other, lawnmower, and construction. Can you add to this list?
  • If possible, make sure you have a natural light source in front of you. Everyone looks best in natural light, if necessary, add a lamp for more light.
  • Frame yourself on your screen and be front and center and engaged.
  • Elevate your laptop so you are looking into the camera head-on and at eye level. Try not to look up at the camera.
  • Make sure you look presentable and professional from the waist up! Unless you’re a promoter for AC/DC, probably not a good idea to wear a concert t-shirt, know your audience!
  • Limit your distractions by turning off your phone notifications, close any apps, or merely mute your phone.
  • Although your children and pets are adorable, it might be best to refrain from having them sit on your lap or hold them during the meeting.
  • Avoid snacking while attending a meeting.
  • Be prepared!

 

Be Prepared

Sharp’s Window Collaboration Display (WCD) is a simple solution to an event. Whether you’re an attendee or the presenter, it’s as straightforward as plugging in your laptop! Be on time and be prepared; technology can be challenging although with the WCD, Sharp makes it so easy.  With a built-in microphone, high quality camera and IoT sensor hub with Azure, the WCD it works seamlessly. As a certified Microsoft partner, using Office 365 and Teams is the best solution. If using other platforms such as Zoom, Go-To-Meeting, etc., no problem, a simple configuration will allow for ease of use.

 

Everyone has their own meeting pet peeves. Think about your last few meetings and the distraction that everyone encountered.  As world adapts to the new normal with more virtual meetings, let’s try and Zoom through our meetings with better etiquette, less distractions and consideration for others.

 

To learn more about the Sharp Windows Collaboration Display, contact Smile today!  We can easily provide a virtual demo to show you how the WCD can become a powerful tool within your company.

 

*The Windows Collaboration Display has already won an award for Best New Collaboration Board in the 2019 Best of ISE Awards, and for 2019 Top New Technology Award for displays*

 

 

 

 

8 Ways Crexendo Hosted Phone Systems Can Help Your Business

Effective communications are essential for any business. Managers need to stay in close contact with work teams, teams need to maintain contact with each other, and everyone needs to have reliable, clear connectivity to their “customers”, whether that means actual sales teams, IT support resources, or coworkers.

In today’s “new normal” business environment where many employees are working from home or locations away from traditional office settings, maintaining efficient communication is even more critical to manage business activities.

Providing cell phone contact information has helped in managing connections with remote work teams, but the mobility of the current workforce leaves even cell phone access lacking in enabling efficient communication with employees and remote work teams.

Hosted phone systems provide a cost-effective solution for critical business communications.

What is a Hosted Phone System?

Internet technology uses Internet Protocol (IP) to communicate between servers on the web. By utilizing this communications methodology, voice conversations may be provided over the same network – voice over internet protocol (VOIP).

Hosted phone systems utilize VOIP technology to provide phone service for subscribers to the hosted service.

How VOIP Works

According to https://www.businessvaluationdarwin.com.au/how-to-value-a-business.html, just as business users communicate over the internet for email and business applications, phone data can operate over the same network. This provides efficient 2-way communications without the need for separate telephone cabling or engaging a traditional phone company for service.

Business employees can utilize familiar-looking telephone handsets to utilize VOIP phone services, or simply employ a headset that accesses the system through their computer’s USB or Bluetooth connection.

Benefits of Hosted Phone Systems

Implementing a hosted phone system provides multiple benefits for business users:

1.     Mobility

By utilizing the internet for phone communications, users can make or answer calls anywhere there is an internet connection. This is especially relevant for today’s mobile workforce, with employees spending more time on the road, at customer sites, or working from home.

With a hosted phone system, incoming calls can be customized to ring at multiple locations at the same time – office, cell phone, home, etc. This can be a significant benefit for sales teams, support personnel, or medical professionals. Lack of missed calls equates to better service and potentially increased sales.

2.     Wireless Connectivity

Wireless connectivity is not only important for mobile teams. Even within a traditional office environment, transitioning to wireless technology means workers can receive calls anywhere in the facility including breakrooms, conference rooms, and even when in transit between locations. Access to calls from anywhere is extremely valuable for support personnel, medical professionals, and managers.

3.     Flexibility and Scalability

Hosted phone systems can be customized to meet the special needs of any business. Combinations of VOIP phones, mobile phones, voice and data communications, handsets, and wired and wireless configurations can be tailored to business requirements.

Regardless of how the system is tailored for a business, employees are connected through the hosted system regardless of where in the building – or the world – they may be.

Users can be added or removed easily as business needs change. Scalability requires no changes or upgrades in equipment.

Phone numbers can also be modified dynamically so that if contact numbers change, new information can be changed immediately to provide accurate call routing.

4.     Cost

Hosted phone solutions are a cost-effective alternative to traditional dedicated phone systems. Installing an internal PBX phone system can be costly both from the initial purchase and ongoing maintenance expenses. With a hosted solution, the vendor provides communication functionality and maintenance of the system.

Rather than an expensive capital investment for traditional telephone service, businesses implementing a hosted solution have a stable and predictable monthly cost that is typically an operating expense.

5.     Reliability

Phone service is no longer reliant on carrier services – often involving multiple carriers to complete calls. Hosted phone systems are as reliable as any internet connection – anywhere in the world just like this mobile phone plans in Australia.

6.     Support

Hosted phone system vendors provide support for users 24×7, including maintenance, upgrades, training, and implementation.

7.     Features

Hosted phone systems offer businesses enhanced features that may not be available with other systems:

  • Call forwarding
  • Multiple destination ringing
  • Call recording
  • Conference calling

8.     Ease of Implementation

VOIP is a stable and reliable technology that can be implemented quickly and without the installation of equipment required by traditional PBX systems. Minimal training is required for end-users, assuring productive use of the system in a short timeframe.

Hosted phone systems also have no space or electrical requirements, which can be an added advantage where space is at a premium.

Implementing a Hosted Phone System

Getting started with a hosted phone system is simple. Smile Business Products Inc. (Smile BPI) offers a sophisticated Crexendo phone system with all the technology and features that provide businesses with powerful features and reliability at an affordable cost.

Crexendo will help your business realize all the benefits of VOIP communications with advanced features customizable to your needs.

Smile BPI communications professionals can provide additional information to get you started. Contact us today.

MPS: A Must for Healthcare Right Now

Managed Print Services (MPS) offer many advantages for businesses of all sizes and across all industries. Healthcare organizations can benefit from MPS implementations.

Under the dramatic conditions faced by the extreme working conditions related to the pandemic virus in circulation in recent months, systems that reduce exposure and streamline business processes are invaluable.

What MPS Does for Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare providers work under stressful situations with a focus on quality and responsive healthcare for patients. Today’s demands exacerbate the stress levels with heavier than normal workloads and extra hours due to an influx of patients.

For each patient, doctors, nurses, and administrative staff must generate and constantly update records with personally identifiable information (PII) including care information that must be shared efficiently among healthcare teams. Paper documents can become lost, misplaced, or may not be updated on a timely basis.

Transitioning to a digital format for paperwork and patient records allows physicians and nurses to collaborate on patient care, even when they may be located on different floors, different buildings, or different cities.

Access to up-to-date information is critical to providing accurate diagnosis and effective care. MPS and electronic document management systems enable digital storage of multiple types of information:

  • Admission information including personal data such as medical history and medications
  • Test results – including online images of CT scans, MRIs, and EKG information
  • Diagnostic information and documented vital signs
  • Comments and assessments from physicians and referred parties

Healthcare institutions cannot afford delays in obtaining information. Printers must be running efficiently and reliably to ensure the availability of patient records when needed.

Patient Information Security is Critical

HIPAA regulations require that all PII is confidential and secure. Unauthorized parties can easily misplace or view paper documents, creating compliance issues for healthcare organizations.

MPS enhances security in multiple ways:

  • Modern multifunction printers provide integrated security so that healthcare professionals can only print hardcopy documents when they arrive at the designated printer.
  • Only authorized workers can view, edit, print, or delete documents from the system.
  • Documents stored in a secure, encrypted digital format.

Why Implement MPS in Healthcare Institutions?

Implementing MPS includes an in-depth evaluation of document flow to eliminate documents or copies that are unnecessary. Print volumes and print devices are all reviewed to determine what is being printed, who is doing the printing, and the workflow of each document.

As a result of printing analysis, state-of-the-art multifunction printers capable of printing, scanning, copying, and faxing, are replacing outmoded or unused hardware devices.

Healthcare professionals have many more important tasks to attend to than mundane tasks needed to keep printers running:

  • Ordering supplies
  • Maintaining printers and managing service contracts
  • Monitoring service technicians and handling service from multiple vendors

For any business, printing costs amount to a considerable percentage of total revenue – typically between 3-5% or more. As office spaces evolve and infrastructure requirements change, it’s easy to lose track of the type and location of printers, scanners, copiers, and fax machines. With each group purchasing and maintaining their own devices and supplies, visibility of total cost is difficult to determine.

Switching to a managed service provider for printing functions reveals waste, centralizes print management, and shifts support and maintenance burdens off administrative and healthcare teams, transitioning these functions to a single vendor who monitors each printer and performs all necessary maintenance.

Additional Benefits of Managed Print Services

There are numerous advantages realized by medical institutions adopting MPS technology:

  • Healthcare organizations must control physical access to facilities, and some areas are strictly off-limits without security authorization. Implementing MPS significantly reduces the number of service representatives entering the building, providing a more secure operation, and lowering the potential risk of unauthorized access.
  • Managed print services combined with document management enable remote workers to manage documents more efficiently and securely.
  • Lower exposure to hazards such as malware, ransomware, and phishing schemes. Remote workers or those who work from home benefit from managed IT services such as remote support and secure network access.
  • Upgrading to modern multifunction printers reduces the number of devices needed, saving space, energy consumption, and supplies. MFPs also include onboard software features that enhance security and protect confidential patient information.
  • Managed print services play a critical role in ensuring that clinical staff has the right information available – at the right time. Reduced printing resource downtime contributes to the efficiency of healthcare teams for improved patient care and reduced demand for administrative staff.

How to Get Started with Healthcare MPS

Smile Business Products, Inc. (Smile BPI) offers our Smile MPS functionality to healthcare institutions to ensure reliable printing functionality. Here’s how our customers benefit from SmileMPS:

  • Reduction in printer downtime
  • Single source for service, supplies, and technical support
  • Security and controls facilitated by document management systems
  • Reduced printing costs with high-quality multifunction printers

Contact Smile BPI to arrange an in-depth analysis of your healthcare institution’s printer fleet and printing needs.

IT Support Pitfalls for Remote Workers – and IT

Working remotely is a growing trend because of the recent pandemic virus that has kept hundreds of thousands of office teams seeking alternative solutions for performing their jobs.

Mobile workforces have changed the way many companies conduct business, with sales, support, and service employees already transitioning to this “new normal” way of working. Technology provides enhanced tools and methods of communicating effectively regardless of physical location:

  • Tablets, powerful laptop computers, and smartphones
  • WiFi connectivity that is increasingly available from home workspaces or public areas
  • Video conferencing tools that enable face-to-face collaboration around the globe

Along with the advancements and flexibility provided by these new technologies and the benefits realized by both employees and businesses, come new challenges for IT support personnel in assisting remote teams. Stopping by a coworker’s desk to help resolve a problem is no longer an option.

Security Issues for Remote Workers

Working in an office environment, staff computers are protected by several layers of security:

  • Firewalls that prevent cyberattacks and weed out malware
  • Enterprise antivirus protection
  • Internet controls against access to unauthorized or potentially hazardous websites
  • Email filters that identify and isolate spam content

Moving off-site from such protection requires new approaches to provide acceptable levels of security for the organization and employees working remotely. Managing network accessibility and providing the necessary protections must take several conditions into account:

Network Security

Remote workers still need access to corporate information and applications to remain productive and conduct business as if located in their normal office space. Most will use home wireless networks or even public WiFi or connection from job sites or customer locations.

Security of these remote networks could be questionable at best, with unauthorized users monitoring data traffic including login information and passwords. The solution is implementing a virtual private network (VPN) that ensures data privacy and encryption.

Using VPN like vpntap.com services must be required for remote workers to access network resources both from home or anywhere not on the local business network.

Physical Security

With an available computer now present in a home office, it can be tempting for other family members to use the resource for playing games like Bubble Shooter, doing homework, or video streaming. Everyone must consider the computer off-limits for anything other than business use. Connecting a flash drive or installing non-business software can introduce malware or viruses to the system, which can transfer to the business network.

Email Hazards

Working from home, business teams will not have the same protection from email scams as when they’re sheltered behind the office firewalls and email filters.

Make remote employees aware of email best practices that will minimize exposure to email-based attacks:

  • Never open email attachments from unknown sources
  • Do not click links embedded in emails, unless you know the sender and are confident in the content
  • Even when you know the sender, it pays to confirm the link came from them, before clicking

Many email attacks include compromising the victim’s contact list, so emails from a known contact could still be spam or malware.

Software Protection

When working remotely, IT support technicians should specify authorized installation software for monitoring for viruses, malware, and ransomware.

Software protection should automatically update, so that virus and malware patterns are current to minimize vulnerabilities.

Supporting Remote Workers

For some businesses, remote work teams include IT support teams and network managers. This often creates an additional time gap from the time a user requests help until an available resource can respond to resolve the issue.

IT troubleshooting can be more challenging when workers and technicians are working remotely. Without direct connectivity, accessing the remote system may be more difficult, especially if the problem relates to the remote computer not connecting to the network.

Additional problems arise when applications do not work effectively – or at all – from a remote work environment. Some programs will not function as efficiently when not directly connected through a server on the network, or displays may not appear the same on remote equipment such as tablets or smartphones.

IT Support Solutions for Remote Workers

Remote work teams present new challenges for IT support personnel:

  • Ensuring security for business computers and the organization’s data and applications
  • Responding to support requests on a timely basis
  • Troubleshooting remote applications and technical issues efficiently

A managed IT approach addresses each of these challenges effectively. Turning to managed IT transitions much of the demand on internal IT resources to the service provider, including:

  • Technical and hardware support and management
  • Managed network services for problem analysis and IT troubleshooting
  • Managed communication services and phone systems

Smile Business Products, Inc. (Smile BPI) provides complete managed IT solutions for our clients, as well as office hardware products from leading manufacturers.

Contact Smile BPI professionals for a complete evaluation of how managed IT can resolve support challenges for your remote work teams.

Setting Up Your Work-from-home Office: What You’ll Need

Working from home is a new environment for thousands of employees who adapted to working remotely. There are multiple reasons for this transition, but mostly tied to the need to maintain safety and compliance with regulatory mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic as they are still covered by company benefits like insurance, this in case they have a good workers comp attorney Las Vegas.

Fortunately, working outside a traditional office environment is a growing trend across many industries. New home workers can benefit from the experience of those who have transitioned to the new normal, to learn the best practices for setting up your work-from-home office.

Equipment for Your Home Office

Depending on the expected duration of your work-from-home experience, your workspace will require specific office hardware to make the environment healthy, productive, and secure.

For instance, working remotely for a few weeks may be feasible on the kitchen table or from a bedroom. Investing in proper work furniture and a dedicated workspace will better serve longer remote assignments.

Workstation Setup

Working productively from home means setting up a desk or workstation that supports your computer or laptop at a comfortable height for sitting and typing. Ergonomics come into play to avoid fatigue or pain from improper positioning.

Ideally, invest in a desk or add-on accessory that allows you to stand periodically as you work. Studies have shown that long periods of sitting are unhealthy whether working in the office or at home.

Getting the Right Chair

One of the most important elements of a home office is your chair. It toned not be an extraordinarily expensive office chair, but it should meet some basic requirements:

  • Allow for proper positioning of your feet on the floor comfortably
  • Adjust the height for proper typing and mouse usage without undue pressure on the arms or wrists
  • Support your back properly to avoid back strain

Displays

Working with a laptop or tablet display is fine for short-term use, but when setting up your work-from-home office, consider providing a full-sized quality monitor. This will help avoid eyestrain, and will even boost productivity. This will also be beneficial when using video conferencing.

If space allows, many home workers prefer the use of multiple monitors, to reduce switching windows when working with multiple applications or reviewing documents while conducting online team meetings and staying on to of  the latest news in your business line. If you are looking for the latest news, start by checking this post about Jimmy John Shark.

Keyboards and Peripherals

For many home workers, laptops are the most frequent devices used for day-to-day work. This can also cause stress on wrists and hands. If so, select from the many keyboards and mouse tools that feel best for your use. When dealing with pain caused by this condition, considering to buy tinctures might be the solution.

There are specially designed ergonomic keyboards that are worth considering and trying out, but regardless of the keyboard style selected, a full-sized keyboard can be more efficient than small laptop keyboards for many remote workers.

Consider mouse and stylus peripherals for their ergonomic and functional qualities that may contribute to comfort and productivity.

Printers

While many offices strive to reduce hard-copy documents, eventually someone will print something, whether it’s a Word document, photograph, contract, or to-do list.

Small, wireless multifunction printers are ideal for home offices. Units from leading manufacturers can provide quality results for scanning, printing, copying, and faxing. Several suppliers provide high-quality home desktop printers including Sharp, Lexmark and Epson.

A Secure Working Environment

Working from home, employees don’t have the same advantages of corporate anti-spam filters and sophisticated firewalls.

To provide a secure work environment, remote teams should use virtual private network (VPN) software and services for business purposes. VPN ensures encrypted communications that unauthorized individuals cannot intercept, whether at home or on public WiFi networks.

Use malware detection and anti-spam software to guard against cyberattacks.

Don’t allow other family members to utilize business computers for other use, whether it’s for games, video streaming, or homework. Connecting a flash drive or loading non-business files introduces the possibility that malware could compromise the computer.

Communicating from Your Home Office Effectively

It can be challenging to keep in touch with management, coworkers, and customers from your home office, but technology can simplify the process.

Video conferencing of all types is enabling remote teams to collaborate and stay in touch effectively. Now, more than ever, people need to know that their conversations are private and secure. Microsoft Teams and Sharp’s Windows Collaboration Display, provides secure communications and collaboration across any teams regardless of location.

Phone conferencing via internet through smartphones and computers will free up home phone lines for other family members.

Managing Work and Family Life

When working from home, it’s important to keep a balance between work and home life. Family members need to understand that working from home is still working. A dedicated working area work discipline easier for others in the home.

Health officials point to several factors that allow home workers to maintain good health, reduce stress, and maximize productivity:

  • Set and keep a regular schedule
  • Take regular breaks to refresh, have lunch, and move around
  • Communicate with coworkers to avoid feelings of isolation or loneliness

Benefitting from Managed IT Services

Managed IT services and print services from Smile Business Products, Inc. (Smile BPI) have been assisting our customers with effective office technology solutions since 1977. We can do the same for your business in setting up a productive environment for remote work teams with quality office hardware, document management, and IT support.

Contact the office experts at Smile BPI for the best in office technology service and support.

Why are Small Businesses Spending Less on Cybersecurity Software?

It’s common for small businesses to have to make sacrifices to stay within their annual budget. A surprising trend that emerged in 2019 was companies investing in Internet of Things (IoT) solutions more than IT and cybersecurity. According to Accenture, 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses, and only 14% of these businesses can defend themselves adequately.

A company of any size shouldn’t take cybersecurity lightly. Things are easier in this verifying age. The rise of digital systems that streamline workflows and provide near-instantaneous communications also puts organizations at risk. Malware containing ransomware can wreak havoc in a company’s system and lead to a complete shutdown of its network.

Why Investing in IoT and Cybersecurity is Important

For small businesses, as suggested here, it’s a balancing act when it comes to investing in new technologies that can streamline operations compared to securing existing systems. The irony is that if a company only invests in IoT devices that improve productivity, they could be putting themselves at greater risk. Devices like door security cameras have made the news recently when they were successfully hacked.

If the company doesn’t ensure they also protect these devices connecting to their network, it may become a vulnerability in itself. Every device on a company’s network is a target for hackers and cybercriminals. By investing in digitally connected IoT devices, companies are increasing their cybersecurity attack surface. This makes it essential to ensure they have adequate business security solutions in place.

Using Managed IT Services for Improved Cybersecurity

One strategy available to small businesses is to adopt a Managed IT Services model for improved cybersecurity. Instead of allocating expenditures directly to cybersecurity, the company can improve its current technology stacks without compromising the protection of its data. This will allow them to invest in IoT and shore up their cybersecurity solutions at the same time.

Although small businesses remain targets of cybercriminals, companies need access to digital solutions that give them a competitive edge. Similarly, cybercriminals deploy sophisticated strategies that exploit anything from a human resource to a known network printer vulnerability. A ransomware infection can encrypt all the company’s information, locking out their users and holding the system hostage until they pay the ransom. Many smaller companies cannot recover from a successful ransomware attack.

Additional Benefits Organizations Get from Managed IT Services

Besides improved data and information security, Managed IT Services can provide additional productivity gains to an organization. With managed IT services (also called Managed Network Services), companies can optimize their networks and upgrade their technologies. Here are three benefits managed IT services bring to small businesses.

1. Consistent Cost for IT Operations

IT investments tend to come last when allocating funds to operating budgets. As devices age and require increased maintenance and repair, the replacement cycles lag due to the large cost of new hardware systems or software solutions. With Managed IT Services, the company can map out its technology requirements and acquire the systems at a single monthly cost.

The managed IT services company will review the current deployment of servers, workstations, applications, and network devices before providing a proposed solution. Based on their assessment, the company will establish a cost for the service and provide all the digital solutions the organization needs to improve its operations.

2. A Reliable IT Ecosystem

Most of the time spent by IT departments is dedicated to keeping existing systems operational. With managed IT services, the external company will monitor all IT systems remotely. They will be able to check device statuses and deploy the latest security patches as they become available. The company will also work with the organization to develop a disaster recovery plan and perform the necessary data backups as part of the service.

By freeing up internal IT resources, the company can let their teams focus on tasks that add value to their operations. This could include researching new technologies, improving office workflows, or developing custom solutions for the company’s unique requirements. Managed IT services ensure the essential underlying architecture operates reliably and provide the maximum uptimes.

3. Scalability of IT Operations

Provisioning additional IT resources remains a concern for businesses of every size. As the company grows, they’ll need access to increased bandwidth, devices, application servers, and hardware systems like printers or copiers. Managed IT services can scale with operations as required, and the company can bundle their plan with Managed Print Services for improved operations.

Using Smile Business Products for Sustainable Operations and Improved Cybersecurity

For organizations that need to grow while also ensuring they protect their information systems, Smile Business Products can help. With a host of productivity tools and sophisticated cybersecurity solutions, companies can use Smile’s services to streamline their operations and increase productivity. Smile Business Products will work with in-house IT teams to develop an integrated solution that ensures the company can invest in IoT without compromising on their system’s cybersecurity.

To discuss the benefits of managed IT services or for more information on how to improve your company’s cybersecurity, speak to one of Smile Business Products’ Account Managers today.

How to Stop Cybercriminals Dead in Their Tracks with Ethical Hacking

From the very first day that organizations started using communication networks, there have been stories of hackers trying to exploit their systems. Often, fictional characters portrayed the underbelly in the world of information security on film. They posed a risk to government agencies, police departments, multinational banks, and other global corporations. What few small businesses expected was that they would soon face the same challenges as the fictional plots from previous decades.

Cybersecurity has become one of the defining challenges of this generation. In many ways, the worst fears have come true and anyone with some free time, access to the internet, and a willingness to learn can become a hacker. The tools and textbooks are readily available if they know where to look. This led to a massive rise in the number of cyberattacks on businesses over the last few years. Ethical hacking is one trend that aims to level the playing field for companies that require elevated cybersecurity protection.

What is Ethical Hacking Really?

Considering the current statistics, ethical hacking is a career choice. Individuals learn to use the same tools and technologies as criminals to develop strategies for combating threats. They then use their skills to gain employment at cybersecurity firms or managed IT services companies. These resources have become so popular that today, there are startup firms that use ethical hackers in gamified experiences to test network security systems. The idea of ethical hacking is starting to resonate with businesses, as they require access to expert resources that can evolve with the latest threats.

Developing the skills required to hack networks isn’t easy. Large hacking communities often work together to solve problems – an activity they call bug hunting. From this community, only 22% considered it a full-time profession, but 81% reported that ethical hacking helped them to get a job. This trend will continue in the future as cybercrime will remain a challenge for companies.

The Benefits of Using Ethical Hackers for Cybersecurity

Modern companies rely on their information systems to keep staff productive. This vulnerability quickly became a target for criminals who deploy malware using sophisticated strategies. Anything from a printer to a phishing email can lead to a successful ransomware exploit that puts the company’s data security at risk.

Unlike network security professionals, ethical hackers have to understand the psyche and motivations of a cybercriminal. They’ll have to not only deploy the tools but also modify strategies and study the threat landscape to exploit a vulnerability. Here you can find Lane, Hupp, & Crowley explain aggravated assault and what legal actions should be taken.

To achieve their goals, hackers will usually follow this process:

  • Step One – Gather information about the company’s people, systems, and devices.
  • Step Two – Research vulnerabilities and tools they could use to exploit these targets.
  • Step Three – Acquire the tools and customize them for the attack.
  • Step Four – Execute the attack in stages depending on its complexity.
  • Step Five – Use the gathered information for the purposes the attack was intended.

While ethical hackers cannot replace cybersecurity professionals, it should become a part of the modern expert’s skillset. Cybercriminals won’t stop coming after networks, and administrators can only do so much to protect their systems. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will only compound the problem. Ethical hackers will repeatedly attempt to penetrate information systems using the latest tools and strategies, highlighting the shortcomings and any new vulnerabilities in the network.

Ethical hackers take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. They can help in-house network security resources understand the changes to their attack surface and provide valuable insights into deficiencies in their configuration. Without ethical hacking, cybersecurity experts can only respond to evolving threats, instead of heading them off before they succeed.

How Managed IT Services can Help Improve Cybersecurity

The use of ethical hackers is only now becoming a mainstream strategy for ensuring cyber resilience in the workplace. However, taking care of the basics remain just as important. With Managed IT Services, companies gain all the security expertise of a dedicated team of professionals. The company can also streamline digital operations and improve its system’s reliability. As the company will only pay for the resources it needs, it will also get all the technological advances at a consistent monthly cost.

Managed IT Services from Smile Business Products

Smile Business Products provide Managed Network Services that deliver a robust digital solution for reliable business operations. As a trusted technology partner, Smile will work with companies to understand their unique needs and deploy the necessary solutions to overcome their challenges. With business productivity solutions like document management systems, communication solutions, and Managed Print Services (MPS), companies can streamline their workflows and improve their efficiencies with a digital transformation strategy.

For more information about Smile Business Products or if you want to discuss how our Managed IT Services can improve your cybersecurity, get in touch with one of our experts today.

Top Trends that Will Define the Future of VoIP

For companies of all sizes, effective communication remains a cornerstone of running a productive business. The advent of Voice over IP (VoIP) telecommunication systems has ushered in a new era where digital communications are a viable alternative to traditional telephones. As data network capacity increased, having multiple communication cables running through the office was no longer required.

Many companies have already capitalized on the benefits that VoIP systems bring to operations. These systems use the same networks as other devices like desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. The digital revolution is far from over, and the latest developments in VoIP technology show a steady increase in the features and capabilities these systems have to offer. Here are some of the latest trends that will improve office VoIP communication services in the near future.

Getting Ready for the 5G VoIP Revolution

The fifth generation (or 5G) of wide-area wireless technology has been anticipated for some time. Although there are currently three different flavors of 5G in development by cellular carriers, 5G VoIP will use faster communication speeds and data response times using this technology. It will also reduce packet loss and call jitter during connections. In 2019, 25 operators launched a 5G enabled service, and analysts expect this number to double in 2020.

5G offers many benefits compared to today’s networks. Research suggests that transfer speeds will increase by 75%, connectivity with wearable devices will improve by 50%, and users can expect a 47% reduction in dropped calls. As VoIP (view their website) also provides video conferencing capabilities, this will greatly improve how a company conducts online meetings and improve its communication capabilities.

Using Artificial Intelligence to Improve Customer Service

As VoIP is a digital solution, it can benefit just as much from technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). The adoption of AI systems continues to improve how technology can manage complex tasks autonomously. In many cases, AI-enabled VoIP will operate like the pre-recorded phone messages and button selections of traditional systems.

What will make it drastically different from old wait-and-push systems is that AI will be able to interpret and understand human language, both in written and spoken formats. This can revolutionize a company’s customer service department, adding speed and efficiency without needing additional human resources.

The Lift & Shift loyalty programs say how important phenomenal customer service is. Researchers expect 85% of all customer interactions won’t require human intervention by 2020. In the same way that AI is rapidly improving Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, it will also bring new capabilities to VoIP telecommunication systems. AI can also assist organizations to create digital transcripts of voice conversations, which in turn will help to generate actionable data from every call.

Smart Agents and VoIP Assistants

Building on AI capabilities, VoIP is a perfect platform to deploy smart agents and virtual assistants. Companies can use AI to continuously improve their VoIP agents and increase office productivity. For mundane calls, the company can implement a series of automated responses or direct customers to the related knowledge base. Companies can also improve staff’s workflows by using voice-activated query and search functions.

The Rise of UCaaS Solutions

As cloud-services continue to dominate the digital revolution space, VoIP will, no doubt, also receive a shakeup. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is a platform that integrates all electronic communication channels into a single, digital service. As UCaaS doesn’t rely on in-house IT departments to keep the system operational, it reduces overheads while also ensuring the rapid scalability of the solution. UCaaS includes messaging, telephone communications, and video conferencing.

UCaaS provides maximum uptime and streamlines the provisioning of communication resources in real-time. This leads to quicker response times and improved customer engagement in the organization.

Moreover, companies can choose either a single-tenancy or multi-tenancy solution:

  • Single-tenancy: A customized platform that connects to on-premises applications and provides additional security.
  • Multi-tenancy: Completely cloud-hosted solution from an off-site data center that provides higher reliability and lowers costs.

As a replacement for older Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems, UCaaS offers many of the same benefits but doesn’t require internal extensions. It supports dedicated phone numbers for each connected device and includes additional features like group intercoms, paging, voicemail to email, and internet-enabled faxing services. The system can also improve the accuracy of call routing and automate many functions traditionally reserved for a human resource.

Improving Office Communications with VoIP Solutions from Smile Business Products

Current VoIP solutions already enable better communication between employees and customers. Modern systems use online/offline statuses on a computer or desk phone to redirect calls to mobile devices automatically when connected to the company’s network. In the future, these solutions will further improve a company’s efficiency and productivity using call management features that extend beyond what traditional PBX systems could do.

Smile Business Products have the technology experts that can help companies to streamline their internal and external communications. With Managed IT Services, productivity solutions, and communication systems, Smile can assist organizations to reduce their costs while ensuring they have a reliable, integrated telecommunication platform.

To discuss your company’s VoIP requirements or to find out more about how the latest trends like AI can help improve your customer service, speak to one of Smile’s technology experts today.

Why SMBs Must Have a Disaster Recovery Plan

Every company relies on technology to operate in the 21st century, but technology isn’t failproof. With more and more critical information existing only in digital form, it’s become essential to take steps to keep everything backed up in the event of problems. A disaster recovery plan is one way that businesses prepare for the unthinkable. For small and medium businesses (SMBs), they’re critical.

A disaster recovery plan outlines the most critical assets to protect and steps to take during or following a disaster. When time is of the essence, knowing how to respond can mean the difference between survival and shutter for good.

Many SMBs Don’t Survive Major Disruptions

According to FEMA, between 40 and 60 percent of all businesses fail following a disaster – SMBs typically trend towards the higher end of that spectrum. Unlike established enterprises that may have significant resources, SMBs are frequently much more vulnerable to substantial disruptions in their operations. A prolonged period of downtime can leave a company out of business for good.

In business terms, a disaster is defined as any event that disrupts critical business functions. These are functions that the business must undertake to operate, such as the ability to transact sales or process data. Disasters have many origins, from physical or natural to human-made or technological. Among the most common sources for catastrophe include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Fires and floods
  • Cybersecurity breaches
  • Lawsuits or other legal trouble
  • Technological failures
  • Industry-specific disasters

Some of these are foreseeable – businesses in areas that experience hurricanes or tornadoes know to anticipate and take steps to prepare for each. Others, like a cyberattack or electrical fire, may not be so easy to predict.

It’s not uncommon for SMBs to put off disaster recovery planning because of the amount of work involved in developing and testing a plan. Business owners have a million things to worry about, and disasters frequently fall into the category of things that happen to “other people.” However, that’s dangerous and a big part of the reason why many SMBs fail when their operations get disrupted.

Disaster Recovery Improves Security and Operations

Putting a disaster recovery plan in place can improve the security and overall operations of a company. That’s because the process requires companies to take a hard look at their environment, practices, and existing industry hazards.

Disaster recovery planning can force a company to take steps to mitigate potential disasters due to carelessness, ignorance, or from the adoption of “good enough” approaches that work but aren’t ideal. It can also help address hazards that can’t be eliminated due to the nature of the industry.

This is particularly true when considering the many technological origins of disasters in the office. Consider that the 2019 IT Outage Impact Report by LogicMonitor found that 51 percent of all technology failures that led to disasters were completely avoidable. In many cases, outages occurred because of misconfigured settings or the use of outdated hardware that wasn’t designed for the capacity at which the business used them.

Likewise, human error accounts for more than 90 percent of all data breaches. In many industries, such as financial or healthcare, data breaches constitute a severe risk that may quickly spiral into disaster.

Traditional loans are considered high-risk for small business financing in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Small businesses need access to gap/bridge financing, as well as low-interest, flexible terms and/or forgivable loans, particularly during risky economic times. This kind of loans are perfect to many who are being denied before by the banks since in this process they give loans without a credit rating check.

Managed Services Can Help SMBs Prepare for Disaster

All SMBs should have a disaster recovery plan, but that doesn’t make the creation and testing of one any less daunting. Therefore, many business owners turn to managed services to help create a plan.

A managed service provider can prove valuable both during disaster recovery and disaster response. For example:

  • Managed IT services can eliminate common sources of breaches or technological failures while assisting with backups or alternative ways to operate.
  • Managed document services can ensure a regular document backup takes place so that no critical information is ever lost.
  • Managed services of all types can take over disaster response for the company’s technological assets, leaving staff free to deal with evacuating employees, customers, or physical assets.

Smile and Get Started With Disaster Recovery Today

Nobody likes to think about the worst-case scenario, but not doing so is a recipe for disaster – literally. With the chances of failure following a disaster so high for SMBs, business owners cannot take the risk of being caught off-guard. Likewise, while many disasters are avoidable and can be mitigated, others are simply a fact of life. That makes preparation vital for an agile, effective response.

Working with a managed service provider can take away the stress of disaster recovery planning. These professionals can perform an assessment and empower a company with insights on the right steps to take. Enjoy the guidance of experienced professionals, a keen view of the company’s operations, and a disaster recovery plan that works.

Smile empowers companies with the tools they need to succeed. Start a conversation about disaster recovery planning now.

Improve Workplace Collaboration and Productivity with Sharp Synappx

Better, smarter, faster – that’s the name of the game in the modern work environment. Workplace collaboration and enhanced productivity are hailed as features of the 21st-century company, goals to aspire to as companies push the boundaries of what’s possible – and for a good reason.

Research shows that collaboration helps foster collective goals and a sense of purpose. Likewise, collaborative workplaces are widely regarded as more meaningful, innovative, and successful.

To address this growing interest in workplace collaboration, many business technology leaders are rethinking the way their products support the modern office. Here’s how Sharp promotes collaboration in the office with its new tool, the Synappx platform.

Transform Meetings Into Productivity Sessions

Scheduling meetings represent one of the most dreaded office tasks. Getting everyone together at once can prove challenging, especially when they’re all professionals on the go who don’t see the point of meetings at all. According to Sharp, employees may attend up to 60 meetings monthly, and the majority of them don’t start on time due to misunderstandings with schedules and issues with technology.

Synappx Meeting helps prevent this. The app empowers employees to digitally attend a meeting from any device on which it’s installed. Additionally, the app comes loaded with numerous tools to help staff get the most out of their meetings. With Synappx Meeting, it’s easy to:

  • Track and manage meeting times
  • Access attachments or files necessary for the discussions
  • Implement hands-free voice control while working with Microsoft Office, Sharp Pen Software, or other display controls
  • Automatically update calendars
  • Create plans and notes for follow up meetings
  • Auto-connect to web conferences such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams

Access Content and Data on the Go

Mobile devices are becoming a reality in the workplace. Fast and convenient, they help professionals get the information and maintain the connectivity they need to keep pace with every change during the day.

While mobile device support has been rapidly becoming more common in many workplaces, Sharp takes it a step further with Synappx Go. This convenient app allows users to set up personalized scan and print settings from their mobile device. That represents a tremendous timesaver for companies with extensive print fleets. Synappx Go standardizes the interface and allows printouts to be released at the MFP from the mobile device. Learn one device – the one the employee already knows – and get back to work.

Finally, Synappx-enabled displays make it easy to display materials on screens. Regarding the workspace, here are the findings. Simply tap the NFC tag with the mobile device, and team members can turn any space into a collaborative workspace by displaying materials stored on the cloud.

Accelerate Team Performance With Total Integration

Integrating devices across an environment is well-known for its ability to enhance productivity. With software integration, employees can rapidly access resources such as archives or printers conveniently from their computers.

In addition to bringing employee devices into the fold of office productivity, the Synappx platform supports workplace collaboration with total integration between its many product lines. Enjoy features that amplify mobility, the ability to make data-driven decisions, and collaboration across Sharp’s interactive displays, multifunction printers, and more.

Leverage the Internet of Things – In The Future

Released in late 2019, Synappx is still a work in progress. However, Sharp has shared some of the most exciting features that are in the works for this innovative platform.

With Synappx WorkSpaces, users will soon be able to leverage the Internet of Things to track workspace utilization and environmental factors. Using sensor data and technology developed through a collaboration with Microsoft, office technology is about to get smarter, more comfortable, and more effective at helping employees do their jobs.

Remain Secure at All Times

To support the level of connectivity that Synappx offers workplaces, Sharp has loaded it with the best-in-class security features. Synappx leverages many of the same security features like Microsoft Azure, which powers the cloud storage of the platform. According to the Synappx white paper, users will enjoy:

  • Enhanced data encryption
  • Total network security
  • Role-based access permissions
  • Biometric authentication
  • Unique identifiers for devices
  • Advanced system logs

Get the Latest in Workplace Collaboration with a Smile

Looking for new ways to inspire workplace collaboration and innovation? Give Sharp’s new Synappx platform a try. This state-of-the-art software transforms an environment into a connected ecosystem that keeps employees in the loop and communicating no matter their physical environment. With Synappx, everything a team needs remains at their fingertips yet securely stored.

Smile Business Products is a proud partner of Sharp and thrilled to help companies take advantage of this unique technology. With the Synappx platform, collaboration has never been simpler or easier.

Smile excels in helping companies find the best technology solutions for their office. Contact us now to get started. 

The Best Practices for School Network Security in 2020

When it comes to IT, few environments are as difficult to manage as a school network. Security experts must grapple with numerous unique features, not the least of which includes the heavy traffic that the network sees every day. Combined with budget restraints and other features common to schools, keeping the network safe is no easy task.

Technology has had a tumultuous entrance into the American classroom, but it’s finally on the rise, especially now. Research by the University of Phoenix shows that before the pandemic hit, at least 63 percent of classes use digital technology daily. Although that’s great for education quality, it poses additional challenges for managing a school’s network security.

It’s more important that ever to adopt best practices as it is one way to keep a network secure no matter how many students or devices there are. Here are some of the best practices for school network security in 2020.

7 Best Practices for School Network Security in 2020

School districts can – and do – get hacked. In 2019, the Long Island School District was forced to pay $88,000 worth of bitcoins to hackers that locked up student records and staff information. Using network security best practices can help avoid a repeat of this. To keep a network safe:

1. Segment the Network

Segmenting the network refers to the creation of separate areas or portions to which people connect separately. Think of it like slicing a piece of pizza – there might be only one pizza, but everyone has his or her own piece. In network segmentation, the administrative office might have its own segment, while the library has another, while students may have yet another, a computer lab its own, and so on. This makes it difficult for unauthorized users to access more sensitive parts of the IT infrastructure – like that which houses student records.

2. Implement IP and Internet Filtering

With IP filtering, a network administrator can control what IP addresses are allowed onto a network – or network segment – and what ones aren’t. This adds an additional layer of security by refusing access to any student or guest device that isn’t already registered with the school. It also empowers school districts with the ability to apply internet filtering, blocking inappropriate or dangerous sites. Keep in mind, many schools are now implementing study from home, which adds another layer of security!

3. Configure EdTech and Other Tools Correctly

Education technology is becoming more popular as teachers see the value of bringing computers, tablets, or other devices into the classroom. However, each of these devices represents a point through which a user may access parts of the network that they shouldn’t. If the school is bringing technology on board, ensure that all devices are configured adequately before placing them into the hands of students.

4. Use a Framework

Frameworks exist to guide cybersecurity professionals in developing a strategy to keep a network safe. Many exist, such as the CIS Controls. This 20-step framework will walk network administrators through all the components involved in securing a network. This helps prevent things from being missed and creates an organized approach to security overall.

5. Develop Policies for Unsecured Devices

It’s the era of bringing your own device (BYOD) in schools, a philosophy that embraces student devices as more powerful and capable than what limited school budgets can provide. However, it’s incredibly difficult – if not impossible – to ensure that all of these devices are secure and not compromised with malware or worse. Therefore, if the school has determined that a BYOD approach is appropriate, make sure to create policies for these devices. This may include measures such as:

  • Required connection to only specific network segments
  • Login portals to associate devices with particular students
  • Prohibiting the downloading of or massive data transfer over the network

6. Conduct Regular Network Assessments

Network assessments are a vital part of any network security plan, but schools can benefit from them. Since networks are dynamic environments, it’s not possible (or wise) to take a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Regular network assessments help spot problems or inefficiencies before they cause a problem, and therefore represent a preventative approach.

7. Work with a Managed Service Provider

Working with a managed service provider can prove cost-effective and efficient, especially if the school’s internal IT department is already overworked. With a managed provider, a school can access the technology, security, and expertise it needs to handle its network security competently. Consider this option if the campus experiences a particularly demanding or complicated IT environment.

School Network Security With a Smile

School network security is a challenging but crucial task for any educational institution. They must not only keep student and staff records safe from enterprising criminals but also account for bored or curious students who may feel like experimenting. By deploying the best practices for network security in 2020, school IT personnel can stay ahead of the many threats that the environment faces while empowering students with the best educational experience that technology can offer.

Smile helps school districts adapt to their changing technology needs. Start a conversation about it now.

How New Ransomware Threats Target Critical Infrastructure

Just when the world thought it had finally figured out how to stop cybercriminals for good, a new threat arises: industrial control system (ICS) ransomware. It’s ransomware, but it’s unlike anything that has ever appeared in the business world before. In addition, threats spike during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s commonly said that data is more valuable than oil, making it the most valuable resource in the world. That makes cybercrime big business, and hackers are proving that they’ll go to any length to get their hands on a company’s most sensitive information.

As businesses adapt to stay one step ahead of criminals, hackers, too, are becoming much more innovative with their approaches. Here’s what ICS ransomware is, why companies need to know about it, and how a managed network service provider can help an office stay safe.

What Is Industrial Control System Ransomware?

Industrial control system (ICS) ransomware is a type of malware that targets the processes and technologies that industrial companies use to manage their operations. In business, this involves enterprise software on the backend that never faces customers or the public.

Although ICS malware was first discovered in 2010, it has remained relatively rare in the business world. Instead, such attacks have primarily existed only in state-sponsored espionage and cyberattacks against the critical infrastructure of a country. For example, CrashOverride (Industroyer), targeted Ukraine’s power grid in 2016. Havex, another malware with an ICS component, targeted the pharmaceutical, defense, aviation, energy, and petrochemical sectors in the United States and Europe.

ICS ransomware represents an evolution in both ICS malware and ransomware histories. They’re unique in that they not only target industries constituting a country’s critical infrastructure, but they also seek to cash in on the lucrative business of holding company data ransom. (Corporate ransomware earns hackers around $1 billion annually). Although rare, this blending of two different types of malware makes them particularly difficult to detect, prevent, and handle.

A Closer Look at EKANS

Until December 2019, there were only four identified ICS malware programs out there – until EKANS came along. Named after a Pokémon, it appears at first as a more typical example of ransomware. It makes its way onto a network, encrypts files, then displays a ransom note on all infected machines.

However, that’s where similarities end. EKANS is unique in that it contains a static kill list, a set of targets related to various industrial control system operations. When these operations are encountered on a machine, the ransomware systematically kills them and prevents them from restarting.

Remarkably, no self-propagation method exists in EKANS, making it both a primitive but troubling piece of code. That means it doesn’t spread technologically like most ransomware, finding new targets on the network then duplicating and installing itself like a virus. Instead, its operations require an interactive launch or a script to be executed. That suggests that the hacker already has access to the network through more hands-on means.

ICS ransomware, though rare, is troubling because it suggests that hackers are beginning to gain a deeper awareness of ICS systems. Likewise, though EKANS currently needs to be manually installed on a network, its ability to kill ICS processes on both the computer and server levels means that it can deliver a significant amount of damage to a company very quickly.

Fight Cyberattacks With a Managed Service Provider

EKANS shows that cybersecurity is more important than ever for companies in all industrial sectors. For businesses with a hand in critical infrastructure, it’s now time to review the existing attack surface and seek to minimize it. Consider deploying a managed service provider to elevate the level of security on a company’s network. A managed provider can enhance defenses against threats like EKANS by:

  • Introducing 24/7 remote monitoring to detect and prevent attacks as they occur
  • Segment networks to make it harder to access ICS processes from the outside
  • Properly configure servers and platforms for maximum security
  • Improve access and authentication methods
  • Implement regular, automated backups of data and systems to prevent them from being held for ransom
  • Enhance network visibility to spot unauthorized access before it has a chance to cause harm

Smile and Say Goodbye to Cybersecurity Threats

In the era of cybercrime, no company is truly safe. The evolution of ICS ransomware shows that cybercriminals will go to any measure to access valuable data and destroy critical infrastructure. What was once primarily a tool in state-sponsored cyber warfare is now making its way into the business world. That’s scary, but by taking precautions, it’s possible to remain protected against this new threat.

A managed service provider can go a long way to helping a company prepare and defend against threats like EKANS. By stopping the physical actors in their tracks, ICS processes remain undisturbed and able to carry out the vital functions they’re designed to perform.

Smile can help companies elevate their cybersecurity strategy. Reach out now for a conversation about network security.

How to Safeguard Your IT Environment from the Coronavirus

Undoubtedly, the current coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc to business operations around the world. In the U.S., many cities and states are implementing measures to reduce the community spread and recommend social distancing to limit the number of new infections. These measures seek to “flatten the curve” and prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading through large populations. However, they also create a new challenge for businesses.

In the years preceding this outbreak, most company’s business continuity and disaster recovery plan focused mainly on cybersecurity or natural disasters. Few foresaw a scenario where their employees could be in danger just by coming to work every day. As most organizations still rely on office-based workflows, losing the entire workforce suddenly could prove devastating.

Although the majority of businesses haven’t reached this extreme, now may be the right time to plan for the worst. Current estimates suggest it will take at least a year or two before a vaccine will become available, and companies can expect extended disruptions over this period. Planning for this scenario will be essential for business continuity and in many cases, the company’s survival.

Preparing for Future Disruptions with a Coronavirus Resilience and Disaster Recovery Plan

For all but a few organizations, eliminating the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic isn’t possible. Companies will have to make some sacrifices, but proactive planning can help organizations to weather this storm. Modern digital solutions can help to prevent a complete halt to operations. Implementing physical measures could also help protect employees whose on-site presence is essential.

Tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have all taken steps to allow employees to work from home. If a company’s staff only requires a laptop and internet connection to do their jobs, telecommuting is the best solution. Many organizations, however, operate in sectors that require humans to do physical tasks at a central location. In these situations, companies can remain productive while also keeping employees safe.

Measures to prevent spreading the coronavirus if employees cannot work from home include:

  • Encourage sick employees to stay at home
  • Thoroughly clean the work environment regularly
  • Provide sanitizers and disinfectants for all common areas
  • Screen employees for symptoms as they arrive at the office
  • Educate employees on how to practice good hygiene while at work
  • Request self-reporting from employees if exposed to an infected person
  • If anyone confirms a COVID-19 case, inform other employees but maintain confidentiality

Establishing a Work from Home Policy and Resilience Plan

If employees can perform their core functions from a computer, it’s worthwhile for the company to invest in a resilience plan. While similar to a disaster recovery plan, a resilience strategy should focus on restoring, responding, and resuming operations in a time of crisis.

A disaster recovery plan requires the company to establish a data backup policy, network redundancy protocols, and deploy anti-virus software that prevents data breaches. Resilience planning extends these capabilities by allowing staff to log in to company networks from home and access the same systems and tools to execute their tasks. Here are four steps to establishing a resilience plan for remote work.

1. Define Roles and Assign Responsibilities

Firstly, the company needs to know which employees can be productive while working from home. By mapping out the roles and responsibilities, the resilience plan will indicate the distribution of duties during a time of crisis.

2. Establish the Digital Infrastructure

The company should check that their networks have the necessary bandwidth to accommodate remote workers. Similarly, employees should have access to high-speed internet connections and laptops to perform their work. It’s also important that the company ensures they use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for all remote logins.

3. Use Collaboration Tools and Video Conferencing

Workspaces, collaboration tools, and virtual conference solutions can help employees to conduct meetings and communicate effectively from remote locations. Redirecting desk phones to mobiles or VoIP solutions will ensure employees can still take calls from customers or clients. With office productivity tools and cloud services, employees can work just as effectively from home as at the office.

4. Document and Communicate the Work from Home Policy

Finally, employees need to know what their responsibilities are when working from home. If they have to work from nine to five every day, ensure they understand they should report to their supervisor when starting work. This could be as simple as sending an email or logging into the system. Companies can also deploy remote monitoring tools if required.

Establish a Coronavirus Business Continuity and Resilience Plan with Smile Business Products

Smile Business Products enables organizations to streamline their operations and establish a robust business continuity plan for exactly these types of circumstances. With document management systems, Managed IT Services, and communication solutions, companies can ensure they limit the disruptions caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

If you need to extend your disaster recovery plan for business continuity during this coronavirus pandemic, get in touch with Smile Business Products today.

Sharp Receives 14 Buyers Lab Winter 2020 Pick Awards

Anyone paying attention to the world of business technology knows that there have been a lot of exciting innovations in the past year. Technology is getting simultaneously more sophisticated and affordable, unlocking new ways to propel business operations to greater heights. Many of Smile’s partners, like Sharp, Lexmark, and Epson, have unveiled fantastic new products poised to change the way the modern business operates.

Every year, Keypoint Intelligence selects the most useful, innovative business products and awards them with a Buyers Lab Pick Award. In the Winter 2020 awards, Sharp received an astounding 14 of these awards, cementing its position as an industry leader in digital imaging. Here’s why that’s so exciting. When it comes to faxing, there is the email faxing available these days and is very advantageous check over here to know more.

What Are the Buyers Lab Awards?

Buyers Laboratory Inc, or Buyers Lab, was a product testing organization that started in 1961 and acquired by Keypoint Intelligence in 2004. Sixteen years later, it continues to test and report on OEM devices for a business consumer audience.

Keypoint Intelligence is a market research and insights organization widely regarded as an authority in the digital imaging industry. They research, test, and report on specialized printers, scanners, fax machines, multifunction printers, and other digital imaging hardware as they hit the market. These reports are online and include an analysis of:

  • Nine key performance points: Reliability, ease of use, productivity, image quality, IT administration, security features, maintenance, advanced features, and overall value.
  • Overall strengths and weaknesses: The most unique advantages and disadvantages are highlighted.
  • Expert recommendations: Keypoint Intelligence makes honest, unbiased recommendations using test data, firsthand experience, and industry insight.
  • Special reports: Many devices also receive field tests and environmental reports according to how the manufacturer has positioned the device in the market.

The product receives a score from one through 10 in each category. At the end of the year, the devices which ranked the highest across all performance points in a given category receive a Buyers Lab Pick Award.

What Products by Sharp Won?

The Buyers Lab Pick Awards represent a coveted prize for the leaders of innovation in the digital imaging industry. A quick browse through previous award winners reveals that it’s rare for a company to earn awards on more than three or four of their devices.

That makes Sharp’s domination of the Winter 2020 awards phenomenal. The technology leader won 14 awards across six categories:

1. Outstanding Color MFP for SMBs

When announcing the award for Sharp’s MS-C304 multifunction printer, Keypoint Intelligence noted the device’s solutions-readiness, security, and environmental data. Additionally, flexible pricing options for supplies and features made it an attractive option for small to medium businesses.

2. Outstanding MFP for Mid-Size Workgroups

The slightly larger device, Sharp MX-B476W, was determined the best MFP for mid-size workgroups (up to 80 users) due to its robust hardware, abundant options, and leading-edge security features. Users could enjoy up to 47 black-and-white pages per minute along with optical character recognition and seamless wireless connectivity.

3. Outstanding Color Copier MFP

Six of Sharp’s copier MFPs won a Buyers Lab Pick Award for their speed, versatility, and overall performance. These are all mid-range devices that deliver between 20 and 60 pages per minute. For the best color copier MFPs of 2019, Keypoint Intelligence chose:

  • MX-2651
  • MX-3071
  • MX-3571
  • MX-4071
  • MX-5071
  • MX-6071

4. Outstanding Monochrome Copier MFP

Sharp certainly didn’t pour all of its attention into color copiers and forget about the rest. Those same six devices also won in the monochrome copier MFP category, meaning that users now have an award-winning option for either color or black-and-white document output in the same device.

This isn’t the first time Sharp’s monochrome copier MFP line has earned recognition from Buyers Lab. Keypoint Intelligence also issues a Reliability Award, which is presented once every three years and goes to brands dedicated to building devices that last. In 2018, Sharp’s entire monochrome copier MFP line won the Most Reliable Monochrome Copier MFP Brand Award.

5. 2020 Outstanding Achievement in Innovation Award

In late 2019, Sharp rolled out its Synappx™ Smart Office platform. Designed to enhance office connectivity and collaboration while supporting mobile devices, it’s an innovative response to other printer integration software currently on the market.

However, rather than limiting itself to the integration with the printers, Sharp targeted the collaboration services market by bundling a host of connectivity tools designed to make meetings easier and more dynamic. Buyers Lab recognized Synappx Smart Office with the 2020 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Innovation.

Harness the Best Business Technology with a Smile

Sharp’s achievements with this year’s Buyers Lab Pick Awards reflect the manufacturer’s dedication to innovation and delivering the best-in-class business technology to its consumers. As an authorized dealer, Smile is thrilled to be among the experts able to provide access to the latest and best from Sharp.

Whether in the market for a new multifunction printer, or just seeking to take advantage of the latest software solutions compatible with an existing Sharp device, contact Smile and get the business products the office needs to succeed.

Smile is an authorized Sharp dealer. Start a conversation now about which business solutions are best for the office.

Why Are Managed IT Services Imperative to Business Operations?

Ever experience the frustration of trying to configure an internet connection, multi-line phone system, or firewall that allows essential business software to run? When those challenges mean downtime for a company, it can lead to much more than just frustration. That’s why smart business owners turn to managed IT services to keep technology configured and optimized.

Managed services have truly taken the business world by storm. These professional services outsource many parts of a business infrastructure that were once left to business owners to plan, build, and troubleshoot by themselves. While running a business requires a certain type of genius, that doesn’t always mean that business owners have the expertise – or time – to fiddle with technology.

Managed IT services are imperative to business operations. Here’s why.

More Than a Competitive Advantage: A Necessity

Today’s modern business environment represents a digital labyrinth. It’s full of devices, software, and connectivity that empower a company to take full advantage of the data generation that defines the 21st-century business.

However, this level of complexity also means that an incredible number of possibilities exist when it comes to choosing the technology to drive a company. When creating the IT infrastructure of an office, there exist dozens of hardware and software options for any given need or challenge.

Additionally, the modern consumer is a technologically savvy individual who expects companies to meet them on this level – even startups. If a website, phone line, or other user interface doesn’t work, the potential customer will move on to a company with functioning infrastructure. Likewise, if a company’s infrastructure isn’t secure and suffers a data breach, consumers will unleash anger and distrust in a way that is typically fatal to a company.

That’s why many businesses turn to managed services, professionals that can correctly select, install, configure, and maintain critical infrastructure. According to CompTIA’s 7th State of the Channel Report, managed services are the single largest business service purchased by companies – and at least 90 percent of Fortune 1000 companies use them.

Managed IT Services Mean the Right Tools for the Job

Getting the right tools for the job the first time around is critical for a company’s viability. However, keeping pace with developments of business technology and cybersecurity is a full-time job.

Managed who specialize in cybersecurity in nuclear power plants, also specialize in it. These trained professionals know what tools work in a given scenario, and how best to apply them to meet a company’s needs. As a result, managed services tend to have a high return on investment due to things like:

  • Reduced acquisition expenses: The company pays a flat fee to the provider instead of purchasing a bunch of equipment with which they must experiment – with no guarantee that any of it will work.
  • Scalability: Managed providers think in the long-term, developing solutions that will scale with the company’s growth.
  • More uptime: The correct technology installed and configured correctly the first time around means a company is up on its feet faster and for longer.
  • A professional digital presence: A flawless digital presence is the first step to enticing a customer to shop – a managed IT service provider makes sure that phones, servers, and websites are running and secure.

How Managed IT Services Accelerate Operations

In addition to cost savings, managed IT services can amplify a company’s ability to handle work and respond more quickly to market demands. A managed IT services provider accelerates operations by:

  • Freeing up the internal IT department for higher-value initiatives: Simple help desk requests like printer jams and password resets can clog the workflow of an internal IT department. A managed service provider keeps internal IT free by providing maintenance.
  • Remaining vigilant for threats before they become breaches: Whereas a company might not notice a threat or breach immediately, a managed provider will due to the advanced tools that they deploy to aid with network security.
  • Keeping the budget controlled: Business infrastructure is notorious for having hidden expenses – a managed service provider eliminates them and presents a consistent, expected bill each month.
  • Introducing opportunities for improvement: An experienced provider can typically make suggestions that improve workflows or operations beyond what the company thought possible.

Smile’s Managed Services Help Companies Succeed in Business

Managed IT services are more than just a smart move for companies that want to stay modern and competitive – they’re a critical element of success. These services empower companies by giving them access to the same infrastructure as their larger, more established rivals. That means a flawless digital presence, enhanced advanced threat detection, and the right tools for the job.

With most major organizations adopting managed services, their use is fast becoming the status quo. Soon, companies that don’t deploy them will either need a robust in-house IT department or risk falling out of the competition.

Smile helps companies access the best and most critical technology business solutions. Start a conversation with a specialist to get started today.

Effective Printer Fleet Management in Windows 10

Managing the printers can seem like a lot of work, but Windows 10 helps make it easy. Companies looking for a lightweight, convenient solution to keeping their printers up and running can take advantage of the numerous built-in printer fleet management tools in Windows 10.

The current Microsoft operating system is used on 51 percent of the world’s computers, and for good reason. Microsoft has been committed to creating agile, intuitive software that drives productivity and achievement. Unlike previous editions of the operating system, Windows 10 comes loaded with many useful features for an office environment not found in previous Windows versions. Among those are advanced printer fleet controls to truly customize the office’s workflow and digital environment.

Need a quick, easy printer fleet management solution? Try out the native Windows 10 tools. Here are six tips and tricks to get the most out of a print environment while still enjoying cost savings.

6 Tricks for Printer Fleet Management in Windows 10

The average multifunction printer is a sophisticated, versatile device designed to support the office with all of its document processes. Whether printing, photocopying, scanning, or faxing, office workers can accomplish whatever they need from the convenience of a single workstation.

However, to truly unlock the efficiency-driving power of these devices, a business must first configure them. Windows 10 makes that easy to do.

1. Quickly Add or Remove Printers

When it comes to adding or removing printers from the network, Windows 10 does all the heavy lifting with its Wizard. Simply go into the Settings tab (the gear in the Start Menu) and type “Printers” into the search box. Select Printers & scanners to quickly add a device. To remove one, select the device from the list and select Remove device. In both cases, Windows will do the rest.

2. Customize Printing Preferences

Printing preferences refer to the way that all jobs are printed from a particular computer regardless of the printer. These need to be set on every device in the office and are useful when multiple computers or users print different jobs. From Printers & scanners, find the device on the list. Then click Manage. From here, there will display an option to adjust the Printing preferences. (Choose the Advanced tab for more specific choices such as document options).

3. Adjust Printer Settings

In contrast to printing preferences, printer settings affect all computers printing to a specific printer. To access the printer settings, navigate again to the Manage pane. Select Printer properties or Device settings. This window enables users to change things like the printer’s name, whether or not duplex printing is automatic, things like color management, and security settings for the device.

4. Manage the Print Queue

The list of jobs that have been scheduled to print constitutes the print queue. It’s where the computer sends jobs when the printer is busy to prevent the printer from becoming overwhelmed by commands (thereby causing it to freeze). Accessing the print queue can be helpful in many cases. If a job has been sent to the wrong device, or the wrong job sent to print, deleting it from the print queue prevents it from printing.

Each printer has its own print queue. From Printers & scanners, select the device to which the print job was sent. Click Open queue to see a list of documents sent to print, including who printed it, how many pages, and what the file size is. To pause, delete, or resume the print queue, use the options under the Document tab.

5. Set Printing Availability Times

A print fleet management feature new to Windows 10 involves the ability to enable or block access to printers from computers during certain times. This is useful for preventing unauthorized printing in the office. To set the printer’s availability, navigate to Printers & scanners. Then, choose Printer properties. Availability times are found under the Advanced tab.

If the Advanced tab is grayed out, return to the General tab. Select Change Properties, then navigate to the Advanced tab and change the availability settings. Click Apply, not OK when done.

6. Assign User Printing Permissions

Windows allows administrators to set user-specific document permissions, including whether or not a specific account can print. This is a valuable feature for controlling access to printers and documents alike. It’s possible to set permissions for individual printers under the Security tab of Printer properties.

However, to manage user permissions for all printers, log into the computer as the administrator. Click the Start Button then type “run” into search. Select the Run app and type “spool.” In the folder that appears, right-click on PRINTERS. Under the Security tab, choose Advanced. Set individual user permissions here.

Printer Fleet Management with a Smile

Printer fleet management doesn’t need to be complicated – with the native tools of Windows 10; it’s not. Windows 10 offers offices everything they need to manage their printer fleets without blowing the IT budget.

Whether setting printer permissions or configuring settings, offices can enjoy the full potential of their multifunction devices with a lightweight, easy-to-use management solution. That’s just one of the many benefits that this operating system offers to keep a business running.

Are you not running Windows 10 yet? All previous Microsoft operating systems are now obsolete. Contact a specialist at Smile to update to Windows 10 today.

How to Avoid the Latest Ransomware Scam this Tax Season

There’s hardly a source of funds or data that cybercriminals won’t go after, and as tax season gets underway, they’ve got tax refunds in their crosshairs. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been diligent at stopping hackers from stealing tax returns, cybercriminals are doing what they’ve always done – adapting to circumvent security. In 2020, the IRS warns tax filers to beware of novel hacking attempts, such as ransomware, to get their hands onto personal information and money.

Electronic filing of tax returns opened in mid-January 2020. Corporate tax services singapore – cfo accounts & services listed the latest in tax season cybercrime and several tips for filing taxes safely.

How Hackers Are Using Ransomware During Tax Season

Although ransomware isn’t a particularly new tactic (it’s been around since 1989), it’s a lesser-known approach that continually surfaces in surprising ways. One of those ways involves how hackers steal personal information and refunds during tax time.

Ransomware targeting individual and business tax filings first surfaced in 2017. In the attacks, users received an email claiming that the IRS had authorized the FBI to investigate fraudulent tax filings. Users were encouraged to complete a form and return it to the FBI to verify their identities and tax information.

There was one catch: the email didn’t come from the FBI, and the form was phony. When users clicked on the link, they unwittingly installed ransomware onto their machines, which locked all files in exchange for a ransom sent to some email address.

Other tax-related ransomware attacks are more sophisticated. Last year, the IRS noted that dozens of fake tax filing sites had sprung up, which relied on ransomware to steal refunds. With these sites, users filled out their tax returns and submitted them as if all was normal.

The service then promptly froze the files and demanded a ransom for those tax returns, while submitting them with altered bank account information. Only after the tax return had been securely deposited into the criminal’s account and the ransom has been paid will the tax returns be “returned” to the user.

In most cases, the user then went on to file their tax returns like normal, only to be rejected by the IRS due to a duplicate filing. The IRS estimates that there around 649,000 fraud cases that stole $3.1 billion in tax returns in 2018.

Tips for Safely Filing Taxes

Although hundreds of thousands of individuals may have their tax information stolen, millions more file safely every year by adhering to a few basic safety practices. To safely file taxes, always make sure to:

1. Choose a Reputable Tax Filing Service

Many reputable services exist online – many are free, while others are paid. Always make sure that the chosen filing service is legitimate and secure. Every year, the IRS publishes a list of vetted filing options for individuals wishing to file electronically or in person. Before entering any personal information, make sure a chosen filing service is on that list.

2. Review and Strengthen Cyber Security Measures Before Filing

As the two examples above show, many cyberattacks targeting tax information involve malware or compromising the files on a computer in another way. A strong cybersecurity strategy can help prevent this. Therefore, review and strengthen a computer’s cybersecurity before filing. Make sure that all software is updated, properly configured, and able to detect the types of attacks criminals typically use.

3. Ask About the Cyber Security Defenses of a Chosen Preparer

Hackers don’t just target individuals. They also go after tax preparers like accountants, as the computers of these professionals likely have the sensitive information of multiple individuals housed on them. Before handing over a company’s financial details, ask what defenses a preparer has in place. Their response will go a long way to establishing whether they’re a safe, reputable service.

4. Inspect Communications From the IRS (or Government) with Care

Ransomware attacks aren’t the only type of fraudulent communication from cybercriminals during tax season. Treat any communication from the IRS or other government agencies with care. Remember that the IRS never:

  • Contact individuals or businesses by email, text, social media, or phone to discuss tax filings.
  • Demands payment in a specific form or immediate payment.
  • Threatens to bring the police or open an investigation.

File with a Smile: Safely and Securely

For many Americans, filing their taxes may mean sizeable refunds. For hackers, the season may mean several refunds acquired fraudulently. While the IRS has improved its ability to detect and thwart criminals in recent years, tax filers must remain diligent. Novel attempts to steal personal information or refunds, such as using ransomware, are on the rise.

Using a reputable tax service or professional is the best way to prevent the theft of personal information or a tax refund. It is also considered a step against criminal defenses that can be used to prevent big crimes in future. However, even professional preparers aren’t immune to cybercrime. Before filing this tax season, take a moment to review the company’s current cybersecurity strategy. It may just be what guarantees a refund.

Smile helps companies implement the best cybersecurity strategies in their business with IT solutions and secure MFP’s. Get started now with a specialist.

Secure Document Management Solutions for Government Agencies

Providing municipal services to the public requires excellent responsiveness and transparency from government agencies.

In the state of California alone, there are over 3,000 special districts, 482 cities, and 58 counties that require a government office to oversee policies and provide resources for the general public. The provision of shared data between agencies upon the change of state legislation helps a vast network of city municipalities keep up with public service demands.

The lack of proper document management is an issue among some government agencies. Once an office falls behind, other services suffer; documents can’t be found, misplaced or not scanned.

In this article, we’ll explore the main problems that cause government offices to slow down productivity and discuss why document management solutions can drastically increase overall efficiency.

Why Document Management Impacts Municipality Efficiency

Every service provided by government establishments requires the exchange of a wide variety of documents each day. The rate at which municipalities exchange or process documents for city or public services is the reason why offices are taking steps to improve productivity.

There are a few reasons why government offices require proper document management:

  • Infrastructure Repair: The longer a government department puts off the repair of roads, bridges, and other transit systems, the more it costs to source funds to complete new construction projects. Since around $441 billion was spent in 2017 on national infrastructure and approximately 77% of the funds secured by local governments, many municipal establishments must source funds themselves and exchange documentation with local contractors.
  • Outdated Transparency Websites: In 2009, the Transparency and Open Government memorandum was issued, a policy which sought to increase the efficiency of local governments by sharing government information more openly with the general public. Continuous documentation is required to update the transparency features on websites so civilians can stay informed on state-wide regulatory issues.

If local governments considered the use of document management services, they could provide resources to citizens more efficiently, improve city services, and keep up with infrastructure repairs.

5 Document Management Solutions to Help Improve Government Facilities

How does a document management service help improve government efficiency at a local level? Here are five document management solutions that can speed up the exchange of municipal service.

1. Digital File Sharing

A digital document management system means the exchange between government, public, and national resources is streamlined and offers more productivity amongst the agencies. That means all files are processed faster, and contractual development can move along quicker than it used to be.

2. Comprehensive Data Storage

Another benefit of the managed documentation system is that all files are organized and stored in a convenient location, which may be accessed exclusively by authorized government officials. Governments can store sensitive documentation in a secure digital management system. Put cybersecurity funds to better use by protecting a more efficient documentation system.

3. Document Workflow Consultation

Government workers won’t have to keep a pile of documents on their desks to be delivered later, and there’s less chance of losing emails with vital information. Document workflow consultants can help resolve any issues a government office has with data and information exchange. The result is faster document processing and improved infrastructure developments.

4. Automation of Document Sharing

Mandatory document filing and sharing processes can take up a significant portion of the day for government workers, which causes the development of city infrastructure or budget plans to take longer. Without manual processes, a government facility can quickly process documents, share information across their platforms, and focus on developing and executing municipal strategies.

5. Conversion of Paper to Digital

An extensive collection of paper documents is filed away inside government facilities’ record departments, taking up space that could be utilized by other service branches. Managed document specialists help municipalities convert paper documents to digital forms so that they can store safely secured on a digital platform.

Increase Government Efficiency with Document Management Solutions

Does a local government establishment require a reassessment of the documentation process? The answer is YES, especially if the process is still entirely manual. It may be time to consider converting to a more convenient digital platform. Improperly organized documentation within a municipality can lead to an overall degeneration of civil services and resources over time. With the implementation of document management services, local governments can issue documents for citizens faster and improve services throughout an entire city.

Smile Business Products understands that the governments within the state of California may need resources for document management because the current documentation process can’t keep up with demands.. Contact us today to learn more about setting up a document management system that adapts to the challenges of local governmental predicaments.  

How Can Sharp Interactive Whiteboards Increase Classroom Participation?

Educators have a tough job trying to keep students focused on their lessons.

Many school boards believe they need to increase the interest in studies or participation in classroom lessons. However, with advancements in educational technology, schools have new avenues to create an interactive environment for students to enjoy the learning process.

In this article, we’ll explain the reasons schools struggle to keep a student’s attention and discuss the benefits of interactive whiteboards in classrooms.

The Educational Challenges Presented to Schools

Teachers, administrators, and faculty have searched for many years for ways to involve students more in classroom activities and improve curriculum interest. The rate at which students drop out of school or get involved in dangerous activities is increasing at an alarming rate.

There are several reasons why students may lack interest in completing their education:

  • Student Can’t Pick a Career Path: Students who don’t complete their high school diploma are estimated to earn an average income of $606 per week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This might affect how interested students are in continuing their education. With more motivation to pursue a career, students may be more likely to complete their education.
  • External Influences: A troublesome home life or other external factors are some of the top reasons why students choose to leave school. Educators who increase a child’s interest in learning can help sway students to learn or grow their career instead of getting involved in problematic activities.
  • Lack of Interest in Learning: Nearly 26% of high school dropouts said that they left school because they were too bored in the classroom environment. If all schools implemented strategies for innovative learning, such as an interactive display in each of their classrooms, children might be more likely to enjoy their classes.

Many school districts are now turning towards the use of interactive collaboration boards and software to keep students involved inside the classroom. If more schools worked to promote interest in studies, more students would continue their education.

6 Ways Education Technology Improves Student Participation

How do interactive whiteboards help students gain interest in their studies? Here are six ways education technology improves the learning experience and participation in schools.

1. Easier to Teach

A digital whiteboard provides everything a teacher needs to put the subject curriculum in an easy-to-read format. They’re cleaner and much easier to use than projector screens. Also, information from computers can be placed directly onto the board, instead of sharing them in books or pieces of paper. Teachers spend less time grading papers and more time focusing on providing quality education.

2. Increase Student Activity

A 2013 study found that students who interact within a learning environment learn better and receive a better overall education. Teachers can help students learn to work as a team or provide engaging activities with educational technology.

3. Teach Students with Different Learning Styles

Each student is different in how they learn, and educators have strived for years to find ways to cover each students’ learning styles in the same classroom. Interactive boards allow visual, audio, or kinetic learning experiences. Students can follow along on personal devices to markdown answers, which can show up on software whiteboards.

4. Less Distraction During Lessons

Ordinary whiteboards or chalkboards can cause students to become disengaged within the learning experience. Both teachers and students stay connected during a lesson with integrated learning apps, presentation material, or notes that are directly displayed on the whiteboard.

5. Less Money Spent on Materials

Many schools today face rising pressure to manage their budgets and still provide students with quality education. Interactive board technology doesn’t require paper, books, or expensive equipment to complete daily learning activities. Students and teachers spend less on material for school.

6. Students Get a Quality Education

Compared to other industries or public services, most educational facilities are still a little behind in adopting new-age technology. However, classrooms no longer require paper and pen to complete learning sessions since the learning platform can be entirely digital. As a result, students can learn more throughout the school year than conventional teaching methods.

Improve the Learning Experience with Education Technology

Does the classroom lack the proper tools to keep students interested in their studies? Now is the time to revamp the learning platform. Students can quickly become bored and give up on school if they don’t see a reason to attend class. With the installation of educational technology, school districts can increase the quality of education they provide to students and reduce overall costs.

Smile Business Products understands how hard it is to keep students engaged in their lessons. Increase education quality, student interest in studies, and spend less on materials each year by implementing educational technology. Contact Smile Business Products today to get started providing a new horizon of learning experiences and fulfillment.