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Use These Office 365 Productivity Tools

Office 365 has a lot of features, and many of them are underutilized. Whether collaborating on a report with a colleague down the hall or brainstorming in an airport terminal across the country, Microsoft has developed powerful tools to boost productivity. These four Office 365 programs are filled with useful functions aimed at streamlining your work environment and facilitating open communication.

One Note

Microsoft OneNote is a product that builds on the idea of the “sticky note” when it comes to organizing information. This versatile tool can be used to jot down notes, store random facts, organize ideas, bookmark images and create to-do lists. The familiar design offers an intuitive learning curve as you master page outlines, section hierarchies and jump links to other notebook pages. OneNote is a simple tool that automatically converts handwritten notes into typed text, reads notes and images so that they are searchable and can even turn audio recordings into organized meeting minutes.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is an essential tool for your department to get quick answers to questions, spontaneously exchange ideas and share information in an open digital environment. Since launching in November 2016, the chat-based collaboration tool has become a productive way to have meaningful discussions that solve problems. However, the messaging platform supports far more than instant conversations. You can create group tasks, share content, attach files, schedule meetings, poll co-workers, collaborate on documents and automatically schedule delivery of reports. This teamwork hub creates a shared workspace that integrates all files, ideas and conversations to make them visible and accessible to every member of the group.

Delve

Delve is designed to “harness the collective knowledge of your organization” and then deliver a curated homepage that brings together all content created in any Office 365 program. The personalized dashboard displays the documents that are most relevant to current projects. Files that have recently accessed, shared or favorited are given priority. The smart file manager also discovers and organizes similar information so that relevant emails aren’t missed, overlook pertinent data or forget an important late-night note. It is possible to even create boards that group project documents and share them with other Delve users. The collaboration tools also come in handy for quickly connecting with frequent contacts and checking on who is working on what.

Planner

Another new Office 365 productivity tool is Planner, a project management platform that provides a centralized hub for organizing and completing tasks as a team. Each project is arranged on a board that contains buckets. These hold task cards that include due dates, pertinent files and associated conversations. This allows users to easily switch from an overview of the entire plan to a screen that displays only the important tasks. From the Planner app dashboard, it is also possible to assign tasks to group members, check progress updates, create checklists and post comments to ensure that the project stays on track.

Office 365’s versatility and flexibility makes it the ideal resource for working productively when you are in the office or on the go. The fully integrated services help you cut the clutter, stay on task and collaborate more efficiently. For more information on how to use these tools, contact Roan Solutions.

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Why Businesses Need a Strategic Technology Plan

Businesses should strongly consider creating a strategic technology plan. Defined as an outline for the development of technology and information technology (IT) infrastructure, it plays an important role in a business’s future growth. Here are some reasons every business needs a strategic technology plan:

Protects Against Cyber Threats

One undeniable reason businesses need a strategic technology plan is to protect against cyber threats. Even if the business hasn’t been hit with a virus, malware, data theft or other cyber threat yet, it may be targeted in the future. With a strategic technology plan in place, you can identify and protect against cyber threats before they manifest into real problems.

An astounding amount of businesses have been hacked over the past few years. Unfortunately, cyber security experts expect this trend will continue as companies embrace bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. Whether you plan to use a BYOD policy or not, though, a strategic technology plan will create greater transparency into your business’s IT infrastructure, helping to reveal potential cyber threats.

It’s a Smart Financial Investment

Adopting a strategic technology plan can even increase business revenue. Granted, creating a strategic technology plan takes time, money and resources, but it’s usually well worth the investment in the long run. With a road map for your business’s IT development in place, the business will gain an advantage over its competitors.

According to an article published in Architecture and Governance Magazine, some companies have reported up to 700 percent return on investment (ROI) when adopting a strategic technology plan. In other words, if a company spent $20,000 on its plan, it may generate up to $140,000 as a result. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll generate a 700 percent ROI on a strategic technology plan. However, it’s safe to assume that it will offer a positive ROI to some degree.

Meet IT Project Deadlines

With a strategic technology plan in place, you’ll have an easier time meeting IT project deadlines. In a perfect world, all IT projects would be completed by the deadline and budget set forth in the project’s scope. As most seasoned project managers know, however, this doesn’t always happen. And when a deadline elapses, it can negatively affect the way in which customers perceive the business.

A strategic technology plan can help businesses meet IT project deadlines by providing key resources for project workers. They’ll know the current state of your business’s IT infrastructure and whether it can support the tasks needed to complete the project

Communicate Your Business’s Vision

Finally, a strategic technology plan can help communicate a business’s vision to investors, customers and stakeholders. This is particularly important if the business relies on external funding to support its operations. If investors and stakeholders don’t have full confidence in the business’s abilities, they probably won’t provide the needed funding.

It is possible to communicate a business’s vision and secure funding in the process by using a strategic technology plan. This plan details your business’s current IT infrastructure while also revealing plans to upgrade it in the future. After reading your strategic technology plan, investors will be more confident in your business’s abilities.

These are just a few benefits of having a strategic technology plan. Contact Roan Solutions for more information on how to develop a one of these plans.

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How to Choose a Business Antivirus Solution

Businesses these days should be concerned about security, which means that they need to spend considerable time and resources on creating an effective cyber security plan. Some businesses believe that all they need to do is install a firewall and then they’re protected. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Cyber threats come in many forms, and it’s much better to be prepared for every scenario. 

One of the things businesses of all sizes can do to protect against cyber security threats is install antivirus software. However, there are so many choices out there, it can be hard to pick the right one. Here’s more information:

Find All-Inclusive Solutions

There was a time when simple antivirus software was enough to protect against these cyber threats. However, times have changed because threats have gotten more sophisticated. Sure, viruses still exist but now there is adware, malware, Trojan worms, and even malware.

The goal is to find antivirus software that can guard against every imaginable problem and not just a handful of them. It’s important to take the time to find the best software possible.

Encourage Reliability

One thing businesses need to look out for is that the antivirus solution should be reliable. The software should have an established reputation for its reliability. However, reliability also pertains to how the software itself performs. Several things you want to look at are:

  • Compatibility. Antivirus software needs to be compatible with all installed operating systems. If the software isn’t quite compatible, it won’t offer the best possible protection.
  • Automate Scans. Be sure that the software is able to perform automatic scans. This makes it easier to insure the system is protected as well as it could be.
  • Conflicts. It’s important to check for conflicts with other pieces of software that were installed. The goal is to find software that can protect the network without impacting anything else.

Reliability is one of those issues that businesses don’t often consider. It is so important to check software and system specs before installing.

Assess the Reputation

Another important thing to consider is the reputation of the software. It’s important to not only read general reviews but to also consider what other businesses in your industry tend to use. Certain software programs could be better than others for a specific type of business. Some antivirus software programs may even be better equipped to handle specific industry issues and insure compliance standards are met.

Antivirus software programs are a vital part of any cyber security plan. These programs can be set up run automatic scans, which means that users won’t need to remember to perform the scans. Some programs can even help make the repairs. For more information on which antivirus software programs to use, contact Roan Solutions.

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Why Businesses Need a Strong Firewall

It’s true that businesses need to protect their valuable assets. In today’s world, the valuable assets aren’t just physical – they’re digital as well. Data breaches can negatively impact a business. Once sensitive information falls into the wrong hands, it can be devastating. Businesses could lose revenue and even be forced to shut down.

The good news is that businesses of all sizes have tools, such as firewalls, that are designed to prevent these data breaches and malicious attacks. Here are some reasons why businesses should consider installing a strong firewall to protect their data:

Offers the First Layer of Protection

In many cases, a firewall is often the first line of defense between a company’s network and the outside world. If the firewall is weak or nonexistent, unauthorized outsiders could gain access. Think of the firewall as a literal wall, or barrier, that acts as a block between the network and the outside world. If the firewall itself is secure, this can prevent most malicious attacks and data breaches from occurring. When a firewall is installed, it can prevent a good percentage of possible attacks. If one isn’t installed, this can leave the network vulnerable.

Prevents Access to Bad Websites

It’s true that firewalls act as a barrier between the outside world and a business’s network. However, a firewall can also do its work from the inside. Internal users and employees often pose the biggest threats when it comes to cyber security. For example, when someone accesses a website that has malicious code this puts the whole network at risk. Firewalls can be configured to prevent employees from accessing these websites. Not every website is created equally and a bad site can easily contain malicious code. It’s better for the business if the firewall blocks this.

Blocks Malicious Code

One of the biggest cyber security risks a business is faced with comes from the threat of malicious code, which is code that is designed to cause businesses harm. This kind of code can come in multiple forms, such as viruses, spyware, malware, ransomware, and more. Sure, there are software programs that can be installed that will detect these threats, but businesses shouldn’t rely on them. Firewalls can also be configured to scan for viruses, and these firewalls can often check places that the software programs don’t. In order to fully protect against these threats, businesses should use both options.

It’s true that businesses of all sizes need strong firewalls. They provide a first line of defense so unauthorized users can’t gain access. They can also prevent users from accessing questionable websites and also block malicious code, such as viruses or spyware. For more information on how firewalls can help your business, contact Roan Solutions.

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Why Use a Hybrid Cloud

Not every cloud solution is exactly the same, which means that businesses need to find the best option for their needs. Businesses that decide to utilize the cloud can choose a public cloud, a private cloud, or a combination of both. In other words, a hybrid cloud mixes resources from both a public cloud and a private cloud. Even though public and private cloud infrastructures can stand on their own, many companies prefer a blended approach.

Businesses need to find the best cloud solutions for their unique requirements. Since not every business is created equally, it makes sense that the cloud solutions should be customizable. Here’s a look at why businesses should consider using the hybrid cloud:

Enhanced Security

One of the concerns customers have about cloud computing is that it poses security risks. Although all cloud solutions are generally thought to be secure, hybrid clouds enable businesses to take security to the next level. IT departments are able to use dedicated servers for different types of information, which creates a more secure infrastructure. This means that it is possible to give highly sensitive data an extra layer of security, if necessary.

Highly Versatile

One of the ways that the hybrid cloud really shines is that it allows businesses a greater amount of versatility when it comes to their architecture. It’s true that dedicated servers have different performance requirements. The goal for businesses is to align their own needs with these requirements. Hybrid cloud solutions gives companies a chance to customize their architecture to best serve their own performance needs. This type of versatility is especially useful when it comes to storing sensitive data.

Meet Compliance Standards

When it comes to industry compliance, cloud computing can be tricky. Because of the increased security and greater versatility that cloud computing allows, it is much easier for businesses to meet their compliance standards, such as HIPAA compliance. The goal for businesses that face audits from compliance organizations is to develop their network security in a way that meets these standards. Hybrid cloud solutions are a perfect choice since businesses can use a mix of private and public cloud solutions.

Increased Predictability

When it comes to managing their IT infrastructures, businesses appreciate that hybrid cloud models increase stability and predictability. For example, for many business applications, a public cloud will work fairly well. However, when developing and testing new products or services, the public cloud is not the ideal choice for storing data. In these cases, storing data on private, using dedicated servers is the ideal choice, especially since businesses can control the dedicated server specifications to meet their own performance standards.

Businesses should consider using hybrid cloud computing to satisfy their unique needs. For more information about cloud computing and how it can benefit your business, please contact Roan Solutions.

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4 Ways to Protect Businesses from Data Breaches

Although there have been some high profile data breaches, businesses of all sizes are also affected by these security issues. The problem is, once a business is targeted, this can cause a lot of headaches. Not only can businesses lose revenue, they can also lose credibility if the situation escalates. Here’s a look at what businesses can do to protect against security breaches:

Know the Risks

There are considerable cyber security risks that businesses can face when it comes to cyber security and it helps to be informed as to what they are. Things like malware, viruses, ransomware, and spyware can all cause a business considerable damage. Therefore, it is important for business owners to help keep their businesses protected by educating employees. The company also should know the businesses’ points of weakness to help keep on the forefront against attacks, which will be helpful when creating a security plan.

Encrypt Data

Hackers are always looking for an easy way to access data. If a company fails to encrypt their data, it makes the cyber criminals’ jobs so much easier. Companies can make use of full disk encryption tools that are found on most operating systems. Extra caution should, however, be taken because encryption only works when users are not logged in. Along those same lines, no information should be transmitted over public WiFi networks, and all emails should be encrypted.

Store Data Properly

Most small businesses have their data stored in various locations. There is sensitive data such as personally identifiable information and credit card numbers that should not be stored randomly. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of organizations know where all their sensitive unstructured data is stored. It may be helpful for the business to assign a specific person the duty to monitor and protect the sensitive data of the business. Alternatively, a spreadsheet outlining all the sensitive data, the people responsible and their locations can be useful.

Use Layered Security

Protecting your business most often starts with measures such as having strong passwords that incorporate capital and small letters, special characters, and numbers. These passwords should never be written down and should ideally be updated at least every three months. Multi-layered security, on the other hand, will allow the access of a system only after the user verifies using a password and another factor such as a fingerprint to verify an identity. Continuous update of tools will help detect malware that may have found is way into the system.

While data breach is a major concern for most businesses today, it is something that can be prevented through proper storage of data, use of layered security, proper data encryption and understanding what risks the business faces internally and externally. Contact Roan Solutions for more information.

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What to Know About Compliance Regulations and Cyber Security

Cyber security is a big concern for businesses today. Due to the rising risk of data security breaches, more regulation is being put in place to avoid unwanted intrusion on information. High profile breaches have led to business searching for better cyber defense strategies in collaboration with governments to help reduce cyber-crime activities.

Whether small, medium or a large enterprise, understanding and implementing cyber security protocols and rules will be of much benefit for the business. What are the benefits the company is set to enjoy when implementing an integrating standard for better IT system? Here’s more information:

Reduce Human Error

Human error is a crucial contributor to the rise of cybercrime. With the rise vulnerabilities within the business networks, security policies are the best chance to reduce the discrepancies that can be caused by employees. Compliance with regulation will ensure the lack of information on security policies is dealt with and the staff is aware of the laws. Furthermore, they learn to safely use social media platforms and develop good cyber security practices such as strong passwords. Additionally, employees can be trained on specialized security procedures involving the system admins, business setup, and help desks in case of a mishap.

Protect Data

A significant benefit derived from regulatory compliance and ethical cyber security practices is the assurance of data security. Under the SSH communications security, the use of trusted access is utilized. As an organization complying means critical controls of the cyber system in the business are only allowed privileged access and segregation of duties. Furthermore, if the firm handles credit card information, the PCI-DSS regulation helps reduce fraud and protect customer credit card information.

Improved Credentials

As an organization, it is required meeting various regulations as a standard by authoritative governing bodies. By complying and implementing the framework standards, they not only get to meet the required standards but also builds the ability to demonstrate their care for the security of the firm and its customers. Additionally, adopting the frameworks will put the business in a better position to comply with future data regulations and cyber security practices. An example is the SOX regulation on financial firms to help ensure valid financial statements within services.

Assess and Evaluate

For cyber security and compliance regulations to work, regular evaluation and assessment of the current implemented policies needs to be conducted to know their performance. This will help the company to identify the weaknesses and loopholes in the regulatory requirements. Once with an overview of the practices that need implementation, tools for regulatory compliance can assist in simplifying the monitoring process.

More and more companies are becoming targets of cybercriminals, and they are expected to increase with the increased penetration of Internet. However, there are precautions that any business owner can take to reduce losses from online criminal activities, and many of these are regulated within certain industries. Contact Roan Solutions for more information.

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Know How to Identify Fraudulent Emails

When it comes to cyber security, businesses no doubt spend valuable resources on creating and implementing a security plan. However, no matter how solid these plans are, employees will always be the weakest link. One of the biggest issues originates with employee email accounts. Many don’t even know how to identify a fraudulent email, which means that it is likely they would perform an action that will likely cause a security breach, such as click on an attachment. Here’s more information on what to look for when determining if an email has a malicious intent or not:

Be Educated on the Types of Scams

There are several types of email scams out there and it is important to know what they are. Some of these scams have been around for a long time and others are fairly new on the scene. These scams include things like Ponzi schemes, CEO fraud, bank scams, phishing, and more. Not only that, but some emails are designed to encourage the reader to click on links or attachments that are malicious. Some of these are even designed to infect a computer or network with a virus, adware, or even ransomware.

Know What a Fraudulent Email Looks Like

Being able to identify the types of scams is only one part of being able to spot a fraudulent email. What if the cyber criminal is trying a tactic that not many people know about or the reader never learned about the scam or fraud contained within the email? No matter what the details are, fraudulent emails all have similar characteristics. Knowing what they are can help prevent the employees from falling victim. Here’s a look at what they are:

  • Obvious typos. Typically, fraudulent emails are filled with typos, such as misspellings and grammatical errors. Sometimes, scammers do this on purpose. Other times, it can show that the individual who composed the email wasn’t a native English speaker, which could be a red flag that the email originated from someone wanting to cause harm.
  • Personal information. Cyber criminals often use email to obtain personal information about either the reader or the company. If the email asks for the information, chances are pretty good they want to use it in a bad way.
  • False email address. Another telltale sign that the email is fraudulent has to do with the email address. More often than that, the email address isn’t legitimate. If you think an email might possibly be the real thing, be sure to research the email address just to be safe.

Being able to identify a fraudulent email is an important skill that all employees should have. It is a good idea to put all employees through security training where they learn how to identify these bad emails as well as what to do about them when they do show up in their inboxes. Contact Roan Solutions for more information.

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Employee Education Slashes Cyber Security Risks

There are countless cyber security threats that can affect businesses, and the ultimate goal is to protect against each one of them with every strategy they have at their disposal. Cyber security threats include ransomware, malware, CEO fraud, and viruses. While businesses typically use strategies such as installing the latest cyber security protection software and installing firewalls, this is only a small piece of the puzzle.

Often, it is the unplanned situations that pose the biggest risks and unfortunately, it is very difficult to plan for them. Employee education, however, is something that can help considerably. Here’s a look at how keeping employees informed can help minimize the risks:

Why Employees Are the Weakest Link

Hackers understand that employees are often the weakest link in the cyber security chain. They know that on some level, employees really can’t be controlled. Sure, companies can require certain rules for creating passwords or mandate that employees stay current on all software updates, but ultimately they can’t control whether or not someone opens a bad email or visits a suspicious website while at work. Since hackers know this, they often exploit it by sending suspicious emails designed to look legitimate. The way to minimize this risk is to educate employees not only on the standard policies for cyber safety, but on how to really spot a security threat when it arises.

Teach Them About Security Best Practices

It’s true that it is up to management and the IT departments to establish and enforce cyber security policies. However, there is only so much they can do. Unless employees understand what’s at stake on a deeper level, it is difficult to get them to abide by the rules. Not only that, but there are unplanned situation, such as opening an infected email, that no policy can enforce. Their education needs to be thorough so they can always make the right decisions. Practices such as creating great passwords, staying current on all software applications, and controlling how data gets stored can all help increase security companywide.

Educate About all the Top Security Risks

Sure, you can inform employees as to what the policies are concerning cyber security. However, there is only so much management can do. Unless employees really understand what the top security risks are, it will be a little difficult to get them to fully comply. Not only that, but when they are educated against the risks, they will be able to react if something unexpected happens. For example, company policy can tell them not to open any suspicious emails, but they need to know what a suspicious email really looks like before they can truly follow the policies.

As you can see, educating employees about cyber security can really help keep the company safe from these threats. For more information on the best way to educate employees, contact Roan Solutions.

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Why Businesses Should Use Strong Passwords

It is true that passwords are the first line of defense to protect businesses form security breaches. The problem is, it all depends on the type of password that is used. Weak passwords are too easy for hackers to crack, which means that weak passwords leave the network vulnerable. Strong passwords, on the other hand, offer an extra layer of protection against security risks. Here’s a closer look as to why strong passwords are so important:

Weak Passwords Are Easy to Guess

Hackers are masters at understanding people’s behaviors. They understand that people often use key personal information as inspiration for creating their passwords. If they are able to get a hold of people’s personal data, they could guess, through trial and error, what the passwords are. If businesses were to require that employees create unique, strong passwords that have nothing to do with personal information, this would make it much easier for a hacker to simply guess.

Protects Against Dictionary Attacks

Attacks known as “Dictionary Attacks” can occur if the passwords are too weak. There are both online and offline versions of this attack. In this type of breach, the hacker either uses an automated program to test different iterations of a suspected password until they find the one that works, or they get a physical copy of a file that contains information about the password. In both of these dictionary attacks, strong passwords minimize the chances that this type of attack will work.

Guard Against Brute Force Attacks

Technically speaking, this type of attack is an offshoot of the standard “Dictionary Attacks.” Brute Force Attacks are where the hacker tries to guess what an individual’s password is once it is realized they can’t obtain the information any other way. Typically, a program is used to help the attackers guess the password by creating possible versions of it and then comparing it to what is in the files. However, if the password were strong enough, this would be a difficult attack to execute.

Strong passwords are an important part of every cyber security plan for businesses of all sizes because they can either slow down or stop most of the above-mentioned attacks. Passwords should be random and contain a variety of characters, such as lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, and symbols. Individuals should also stay away from using personal information.

IT departments need to work closely with the rest of the company to insure that the passwords are as effective as they can be. Contact Roan Solutions for more information on how to create a winning password strategy companywide.

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