Balancing Real-time Information Access with Security

Think about the tasks you’ve completed today. Where did you get the information from to complete these tasks? How often were you searching through emails to find the information you need? Were your colleagues waiting for you to share information with them, or vice versa?

A lot of time is wasted each day simply trying to access the information we need to do our jobs. IT leaders are now tasked with facilitating real-time information access to drive a number of outcomes:

Streamlined communication - We know the average office worker spends 2.5 hours a day responding to an average of 200 emails, of which approximately 144 aren't relevant to their job. Employees need secure access to real-time communication and project management tools to help them work and collaborate at speed.

Quality control – Outdated methods of version control can lead to creating and saving endless new versions of documents, only to be sent back and forth via email. Centralised cloud-shared documents solve this challenge with tools for tracking and editing in real time.

Customer service - Sales and customer service teams can’t afford to waste time searching for customer information during a live conversation. To improve their productivity, while driving sales and increasing customer loyalty, it’s essential to have centralised and accessible customer information through cloud-based CRM tools.

At the same time, these new approaches to real-time information access require careful planning to ensure devices and endpoints are all secured through a zero-trust security approach. Unfortunately, IDC research shows that almost half of all companies are still treating endpoint security as a secondary issue, and aren’t addressing it with the strategic and holistic approach it requires.

Third party software solutions such as antivirus and firewalls can provide some assistance in securing endpoints, but they’re only one component of robust endpoint security. While they may be effective in preventing the majority of threats to devices, it only takes one unique piece of malware or determined attacker to pierce these basic defenses.

For organisations who want to securely deliver all of the benefits of real-time information access, it’s essential to deploy devices with robust inbuilt security features. HP Elite PCs are built with hardware-enforced security features and layers of protection within the OS to proactively prevent threats and quickly recover in the event of a breach. Some of these inbuilt features include:

  • HP Sure Sense uses proprietary deep learning algorithms and advanced neural network technology to instinctively recognise malware and protect against never-before seen attacks.
  • HP Sure Click6 protects from websites and read-only Microsoft® Office and PDF attachments by trapping malware in an isolated virtual machine.
  • HP Sure Start Gen5 prevents firmware attacks from completely devastating devices with the world's first self-healing BIOS.

While not a failsafe solution for endpoint security on its own, this level of device security should be a key component of any robust security posture. Although improving real-time access to information can offer significant benefits to workplace productivity, these gains shouldn’t come at the expense of risking your organisation’s sensitive data to a breach or attack.

At MicrotechDPS, this is why we’ve partnered with HP to offer their highly secure EliteBook range, powered by 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processors, and equipped with the most robust in-built security on the market. Find out more by visiting our productivity portal - Explore Workplace 2020.

The Essential Tools for Driving Workforce Productivity

In a disrupted world, every organisation is trying to create business continuity by keeping their people engaged with their work. As we discussed in a previous article, there are a variety of practices and processes that organisations can deploy to drive workforce productivity, but in 2020, the tools you offer your employees are more important than ever.

Nearly every role in your organisation relies on devices, software, and applications to fulfill their unique duties, while staying connected to your business and your customers. So, which of these tools has the greatest impact on productivity, and how do we get the best results from them?

Contextual communication

When it comes to productivity, some tools and technology actually eat up substantially more of our day than is necessary. The primary candidate for most people is email, as we know from one survey, the average office worker spends 2.5 hours a day reading and responding to an average of 200 emails, of which around 75% aren't even relevant to their job.

Thankfully, we now have a dynamic range of tools available to us for communicating with teammates, such as Microsoft Teams or Pexip. Rather than scanning email chains, and constantly clicking reply all, we can create contextual conversations with only the relevant team members we need to get the information we need.

Real-time collaboration

Once again, we know that email can be a significant drag on our employees’ ability to collaborate with each other on projects. Significant amounts of time are wasted by the need to search through folders and emails to find the latest versions of documents.

IDC data shows that the knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30% of the workday, searching for information. This is why cloud-based collaboration tools are essential for improving productivity. Through cloud-shared versions of documents and projects, each team member can have confidence they’re working on the correct version, and that all of their changes can be observed or restored in the future.

Role-specific applications

Across your entire business, you may have hundreds of applications being used by employees. Many of these applications could be used by a single employee, such as a web designer or a DevOps engineer. Regardless of how many other people are using an application, if it is essential for an employee’s role, it needs to be provided and regularly updated.

The consequences of not providing the right tools are, at best, lower productivity. At worst, your employees will find and download their own applications which may be less secure and non-compliant. According to Gartner, a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises will be through their shadow IT applications that employees download and use without permission.

Powerful and secure devices

Particularly with so much of our workforce now away from their desks and using portable devices, it is essential to ensure these devices are powerful, well configured, and secure. One survey by Robert Half Technology found that employees waste an average of 22 minutes each day dealing with poorly configured devices - which translates into about 91 hours, or more than two weeks per year.

Powering productivity increasingly hinges on your ability to provide employees with the right devices for their role, and also ensuring each device has up to date applications, updates and patching for operating systems and security software.

Here at MicrotechDPS, this is why we’ve partnered with HP to offer industry-leading PCs, powered by Intel® processors, that are designed with workforce productivity in mind. Find out more by visiting our productivity portal - Explore Workplace 2020.

Remote worker outside with x360 laptop

Five Tips for Keeping Your Remote Workforce Productive

It is a challenge that many businesses have been grappling with in recent years, but the disruption caused by Covid-19 has brought the question into stark focus in 2020: How do you keep a remote workforce productive?

As we try to drive business continuity in such unprecedented circumstances, many of us are having to quickly reengineer our workforce operations to keep the wheels of our business turning. Yet we also know that some elements of remote work will probably remain with us, with 80% of workers now preferring jobs which offer flexible working, and 30% of people valuing remote work options over holiday time.

Thankfully, we have the technology for keeping a remote workforce productive if we use these new tools in the right way. By combining the right technology with our people and processes, we can continue driving productivity well after the current disruption is over.

Encourage a schedule to prevent burnout

It may seem counterintuitive, but many employees will actually end up working longer hours in remote work scenarios. This is due to two factors:

  1. A lack of separation between their work environment and home environment makes it harder to switch off.
  2. Managers creating unreasonable levels of work to be completed in an attempt to maintain accountability.

To prevent burnout, we need to remember that employees shouldn’t be working longer hours just because they aren’t commuting. Encourage employees to stick to an office hours schedule for completing their work.

Provide the right tools for each role

Few factors will limit productivity more than not providing your employees with the technology and tools to do their work. Yet an astonishing 80% of the workforce were reporting back in 2019 that they don’t have the technology to do their jobs properly.

Whether we like it or not, our employees will find the applications they need for completing their work with or without our permission. To limit the use of shadow IT and malware, it’s a good idea to create an inventory of the applications each employee needs on their device and ensure they’re consistently updated.

Create accountability in every role

Although we still want to maintain a level of mutual trust with our employees, there is obviously a need to maintain some level of accountability, particularly when we can’t physically see our employees’ working.

Tools such as Slack can be great for tracking project progress but it’s a good idea to create a similar tracker for each employee’s workload. This could even be a simple cloud-shared document or spreadsheet that outlines their list of tasks and deadlines for completion.

Regular meetings provide reassurance

While accountability is important for productivity, so is the reassurance employees need that they’re on the right track. Even if there aren’t any specific priorities to discuss at the time, it’s still important to hold regular meetings to understand any challenges they might be facing and to check their all-around engagement and mood.

Modern conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams or Pexip offer tools for bringing the face-to-face element of these meetings to life. Combining weekly one-on-one meetings with twice weekly team meetings seems to be the ideal mix for most managers.

Keep the morale high with engaging comms

Remember that many people appreciate the general chitchat that takes place in the workplace each day. Just because you aren’t all in the same room, doesn’t mean you can’t maintain some polite banter about current events, or even which shows you’re all watching on Netflix.

Use messaging tools such as Skype, Slack or Microsoft Teams to keep a lifeline of communication across your team or the entire business. While it’s helpful to share success stories about completed projects, try to balance the work chat with some fun conversations so that people don’t just feel like robots.

Of course, keeping your workforce productive requires the best available technology so your employees can complete their work each day. Here at MicrotechDPS, this is why we’ve partnered with HP to offer industry-leading PCs, powered by Intel® processors, that are designed with remote workforce productivity in mind. Find out more by visiting our productivity portal - Explore Workplace 2020.

FlowForma Partnership

MicrotechDPS is pleased to announce a new partnership with FlowForma. Through this regional partnership, we will be bringing FlowForma support into the APAC region, to provide exciting process automation opportunities to our clients.

FlowForma is the leading provider of Process Automation tools for Microsoft Office 365.

Forms, workflow, and document generation are brought together into a single integrated tool with FlowForma, allowing the streamlined and code free implementation of Process Automation across a range of business areas, increasing organizational efficiency and productivity.

Flow forma is designed to be configurable by those who best know the needs of your business, and is agile enough to adapt and change as needed, in order to fit into even the most dynamic business environments. Using the Flow Designer tool, complete solutions can be implemented quickly on the SharePoint platform.

With our extensive experience in workflow and process automation projects, MicrotechDPS is ideally suited to help you leverage your existing Office365 platforms with the added productivity and efficiency of process automation through FlowForma.

FlowForma's no code methodology and rapid prototyping capabilities mean a quick and painless transition to process automation, allowing your business to continue unimpeded as you implement your new workflow procedures.

 

About FlowForma

FlowForma, the leading provider of Process Automation tools for Microsoft Office 365® has been revolutionizing the traditional BPM space with an innovative approach to developing award winning products that empower users to create and streamline processes smarter and faster, utilizing the familiar SharePoint platform, without any coding.

FlowForma is a Gold Microsoft Partner, with over 150,000 users across Europe, America, and Asia. The company is headquartered in Dublin with offices in London and Boston and is motivated by its values to innovate, evolve, and achieve with employees, customers and partners.

 

Cyber Security Month: Don’t Sleep on These Three Rampant Threats

In 2019, cyber-attacks are increasingly sophisticated, and much more organised than the proverbial teenager sitting in a dimly lit room seeking notoriety. As we transition from 2019 to 2020, more devices will enter the workforce, bringing with them more connectivity demands alongside more mission-critical applications and data. What does this exponential growth create?

Among other things, it creates more opportunity and potential entry points for cyber-crime.

One of the greatest challenges to protecting an organisation in the digital era is the ‘shape-shifting’ nature of security threats.1 New and unknown possibilities enter the threat landscape on a daily basis, highlighting why security is such a prevalent area of focus for organisations.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner recently released the Notifiable Data Breach Statistics Report for the period 1 April to 30 June 2019, and the findings highlight one thing; the large majority of data breaches occur at the hands of malicious or criminal attacks.

So, in the spirit of Cyber Security Month, we thought it pertinent to highlight three rampant threats that are contributing significantly to these numbers.

1. Phishing

Phishing is the digital form of social engineering. In a phishing attack, the attacker or entity seeking to obtain sensitive information poses as a seemingly trustworthy source or organisation, and leverages email and malicious websites.2

For example, a staff member receives an email from their bank, or perceivably from their bank. The email prompts the staff member to follow a link before entering their personal banking details owing to a ‘technical error that wiped customer data’ or something of that ilk. Once entered, those details are compromised and can be used for fraudulent activities, or your data/computer may become corrupted with ransomware or some other form of malware. If a compromised password is a common one that the staff member uses across multiple accounts, then the potential damage is even greater.

The key component to a phishing scam is the aesthetics, they’re designed to appear as legitimate pieces of communication from the sender, including branding and logo. They also send you to a seemingly legitimate website, but it’s actually slightly different. For example, the real web address might be ‘www.nab.com.au’, the phishing site might use an address like ‘www.nabb.com’.3

2. Ransomware

As mentioned above, ransomware can appear through a phishing scam, but can also weave its magic through illegitimate websites and web-attacks. Ransomware is a form of malware that prevents users from accessing their system or personal data and holds it hostage until a ransom payment is made via credit card or virtual currency. Once payment has been made the user is once again granted access.4

3. Malware

Malware, as you might expect, is short for malicious software. We touched on one form of malware just before in ransomware, but there are many other forms as well, including viruses, trojans, spyware and essentially any other toxic piece of software with ‘ware’ at the end.5

All forms of malware are intentionally designed to cause damage to a device or network.6 They traditionally infect through web-based attacks but aren’t immune to doing so through USB drives or a compromised network connection – typically a public and freely accessible one.

So, what can I do to protect my business you ask?

MicrotechDPS recommends every organisation puts these safety measures in place to best mitigate against the above threats:

  • Up to date endpoint devices. Leverage built in security tools that help proactively protect against cyber threats. We partner with HP and Intel® who house the world’s most secure portfolio of PCs courtesy of the Sure Suite of embedded technology.
  • Employ strong password protection strategies. If you use the same password for more than one account, you are putting your data at risk.
  • Improve staff awareness of the threat landscape. Educate them on how to properly detect a phishing scam, as well as illegitimate websites and potentially malicious download files.
  • Employ a wider reaching security strategy. No one aspect of cyber security is more important than the other. With new threats emerging daily, your security strategy must be a holistic one.

If you would like to discuss your organisation’s security strategy, please don’t hesitate to reach out and give us a call. 


1 Cyber-Security Special Edition, HP Innovation Journal, Copyright © 2018 HP Development Company, L.P.
2 https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/attempts-to-gain-your-personal-information/phishing
3 https://www.malwarebytes.com/ransomware/
4 The Cyber-Security Field Manual: Ten steps every business should take to protect against cyberattacks, Copyright © 2018, HP Development Company, L.P.
5 https://www.avg.com/en/signal/what-is-malware


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