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Our Business IT, Networking, & Computer Support Blog

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Five Ways to Delight Customers with Excellent Service

Something we value highly here at The Network Support Company is delivering excellent customer service. From our business development managers to our technicians to our account managers, we aim to delight and surprise our clients with our attentiveness and level of engagement. The quarterly customer service surveys we deploy – in which we score 4+ out of 5 across the board – show that we’re hitting the mark.

Excelling in customer service, however, isn’t something that happens by accident. There are skills and behaviors that everyone in the service field can cultivate and polish, so that satisfying customers becomes almost second-nature.

Here are five ways to delight clients:

 

  • Listen. When an issue is first presented, take the time to listen, ask questions and take exceptionally detailed notes. This fundamental approach, which should happen at the very beginning of any issue or problem, helps facilitate efficient resolution and minimize a “knowledge gap” that could arise when multiple people are involved.

 

  • Be proactive, follow up and, most importantly, take ownership. Let the customer know that you are spearheading their issue or project and pushing things along – even when action lies with another department or even another company. Too many firms let an issue fall off the radar once it leaves their immediate sphere of influence.

Continue reading “Five Ways to Delight Customers with Excellent Service”

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How to Create a Solid “Bring-Your-Own-Device” Policy

With technology evolving rapidly, most employers simply can’t keep up with the pace of change as easily and quickly as their workforce can, so more and more companies are allowing employees to use their own devices on the job. From laptops to cell phones to tablets, today’s businesses are often powered with equipment not provided by the company.

The benefits of allowing personal devices are numerable: It saves the company money by not having to purchase new computers every few years; it increases productivity, assuming newer technology means a person can work more efficiently; it allows salaried workers to move projects along after official work hours, since their “work desk” is now often in their pocket or purse; and it improves morale, because, ostensibly, the employee is using equipment of their choosing.

But it also opens up new set of vulnerabilities for the employer, meaning it is imperative for every company to have a solid policy regarding the use of personal devices. Although there are many things to consider when crafting a BYOD policy, here are five points that every policy must address:

Security. Many questions arise; here are only a few. How do executives ensure that company data is secure when it’s accessible on someone’s personal smart phone? Should they mandate that a phone have a lock code (and mandate how quickly that lock should activate) and that a laptop have an appropriately strong password? What’s the rule on accessing company data via wi-fi or unsecured hot spots? Continue reading “How to Create a Solid “Bring-Your-Own-Device” Policy”

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Options for Lone Users Who Must Back Up their Data

The saying goes, “There are two kinds of computer users; those who’ve lost their data and those who haven’t lost their data yet.”

The truth of the matter is that, eventually, something will happen that will result in data loss: a virus, a lightning strike, a cyberattack, a stolen laptop, a server failure, a hard drive crash… the list goes on. Simply banking on the fact that they won’t happen to YOUR network or YOUR machine is foolhardy.

Technology companies such as TNSC exist, at least partly, because these dangers are lurking, and no one is immune. TNSC’s mission is to protect against glitches (manmade or otherwise) that plague technology. Their most basic safeguard method: backing up all data. That means replicating the files somewhere else – off of the user’s machine or network – so that, in the case of a data loss, the files can be restored. Backing up is vital. Non-negotiable. So they do it regularly – and with redundancy – for their clients, most of which are small-to-mid-sized businesses.

But what of the lone wolves? The one-or-two-person agencies? The freelancers? Those without an IT consultant who takes care of it for them? They’re equally vulnerable to viruses, their computer parts will fail, and their hard drives will reach end of life, and die. And, if their files are not backed up, they’ll lose them too, with little chance of restoration.

Fortunately, there are some simple solutions for lone wolves. Experts generally agree on a 3-2-1 backup strategy: Have 3 copies of your data – 2 of them stored onsite, but on different devices (like an external hard drive or DVD), and 1 copy off-site (like the cloud).

Onsite options:

Optical drives. This simple method involves saving documents and images onto DVDs or BluRays, which are then saved in a binder or cabinet. While inefficient for daily backups (it must be done manually) and for accessing versions of files, it’s good for storing pockets of data, such as medical records, tax files, etc.

External hard drive. This solution requires the user to connect the drive to their computer, usually by USB, and then install and configure the software that runs the backup program. Most external drives come with backup software, or a user can run the backup utility that came with the operating system. The initial backup can take hours, but after that, it’s only a few keystrokes and a few moments of backing up time. Pre-setting automatic backups, for when a computer is idle, is also an option. Continue reading “Options for Lone Users Who Must Back Up their Data”

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The Value of Humor in the Workplace

It’s a practically a daily occurrence: one of my coworkers – it could be any number of them, actually – walks by my office and pauses to hurl a well-thought-out insult. Of course, I’ll then lob one back, because that’s usually what leads to some uproarious laughter.

Laughter. Fun. Humor. They’re as much a part of The Network Support Company as the servers, computers and cables that we use. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Dwight D. Eisenhower said “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” We subscribe to that. From Day One, our founder and CEO Jim Kennedy has recognized that people who enjoyed being at their workplace would perform better at their jobs. From the start, he’s been good at letting our people be who they are, as long as the environment is safe and non-threatening.

There’s some basis for allowing it. Studies show that a fun, humor-friendly work environment:

  • Breeds a cohesive team mentality, because people bond over finding the same things funny
  • Encourages better attendance because coming to work isn’t viewed as a chore
  • Allows people to “be themselves” without worrying about being seen as a goof-off or cut-up
  • Does not distract people from work or their ability to concentrate
  • Contributes to employees’ overall health, because laughter has been proven to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system
  • Reduces employee turnover and burnout
  • Boosts creative thinking

Continue reading “The Value of Humor in the Workplace”

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Three Ways the Internet of Things Saves You Things

The Internet of Things (IoT), the network of physical objects embedded with technology that allows them to collect and exchange data, unquestionably makes us a “smarter” society, but, aside from its inherent geeky coolness, the way the IoT enables us to improve our lives is what is catapulting it into mainstream usage.

On a larger, corporate level, the technology – which relies on electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity – is being used for smart grids, intelligent transportation, smart environments, and even smart cities (officials use it to monitor things like availability of parking, vibrations under bridges, and levels of trash in city containers.)

But on an individual level, it can help us become more efficient (saving us time), more frugal (saving us money) and even more fit (saving us from illness).

Early adopters of this sort of technology may be using it, in fact, without even knowing it’s a part of the IoT. Take, for example, Waze, billed as “the world’s largest community based traffic and navigation app.” Users join with other drivers in their area, who share real-time info – such as traffic jams, accidents or police activity – which helps the collective community better decide which route to take, saving them time (and even gas money or a traffic ticket!), and easing what could be considerable frustration. Continue reading “Three Ways the Internet of Things Saves You Things”

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Will Desktop Mini Computers Catch on in Business?

A popular trend amongst desktop manufacturers is making business class desktops that are much smaller, but just as powerful as their space-hogging cousins. These computers, which mount to the back of a monitor and are known as mini’s, are a welcome innovation for many users, but one, in our experience, that has yet to infiltrate the business world.

Some of this lack of adoption has to do with the fact that there’s been no real marketing push from the manufacturers of these micro machines, so there’s a real possibility that many purchasing managers are unaware of their presence in the market. And the rest has to do with the fact that, cost-wise, there’s not much difference between them and a popular form of standard desktop, so there’s no economic incentive to change to the new technology just yet.

Lenovo computer pic for Erik's blogThat means cubicle-dwellers are still, for the most part, working on standard business desktops: either the larger Micro-Tower that eats up half the leg space under a desk and prevents stretching (for blood-flow or even catnap purposes), or the Small Form Factor, which is stacked on a desk and ends up being covered with sticky-note reminders of work to do, following that catnap. Continue reading “Will Desktop Mini Computers Catch on in Business?”

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Layered Approach is Best Defense Against Ransomware

Recent news that a hospital in Los Angeles forked over $17,000 in ransom to hackers who infiltrated its record-keeping system, and held the data hostage, renews fears about the safety of our most sensitive information. If hackers can capture records and hold them for ransom – which most companies pay with rapidity, by the way – couldn’t they also compromise the data itself, leading to a compromise in care?

The answer is yes, which is pretty scary. But it appears that, mostly, criminals don’t want to hurt people. They just want to make money – and they know that their victims will take the easiest and quickest path to restoration and simply pay the ransom to retrieve their precious data.

Because no network is invulnerable to the category of cyber-attack known as “ransomware,” the best weapon against them is simply a strong defense. And the best defense is obtained through a layered approach.

The best first line of defense is to have a good firewall. This product filters traffic as it comes into a network. But a firewall out of the box is not enough. It’s important to utilize the firewall’s security services (at additional cost) by licensing the firewalls to unlock features such as:

  • Gateway Anti-virus: anti-virus scanning at the firewall level as internet traffic comes in as opposed to an anti-virus that is on the workstation level.
  • Intrusion prevention: this feature blocks traffic that is identified as a worm/Trojan/or other type of exploit. It also can be configured to block traffic from certain countries where the attacks are known to originate. For example, you can block all traffic coming from Russia or China, two common places of origin.
  • Content filtering: setting up rules based on key words and groups such as “gambling,” “pornography,” “weapons,” etc., as well as categories of sites that are prohibited in a workplace environment, since many of those types of sites contain embedded threats which can infect a user’s machine.

A second layer of defense is to install anti-virus software on the local machine. If traffic does not originate from the internet – such as someone bringing in an infected laptop to the network – it’s important for all other machines to have active anti-virus installed on them.

Of course, technical solutions can never be 100% foolproof, but a layered approach – coupled with consistent monitoring and maintenance, such as patching (which addresses known viruses) – is always non-negotiable.

A third layer of defense is user education and you can click here to see an article. Everyone who has a computer and access to the network needs to be diligent and aware of things that could open the door to a cyber-attack, such as spoofed emails, emails with unsolicited attachments, pop-ups on their computer screens, and more.

While these three defense methods are indeed vitally important, they’re not enough to do the job alone. Tools such as Malwarebytes (which references a database of known threats and scans machines for them), Open DNS (a third-party service where internet traffic is checked against a list of known malicious or otherwise “bad” websites and blocks traffic to or from them), and other forensic tools (which we’ll discuss in a future blog) should also be part of any arsenal. In today’s world of always escalating cyberattacks – an arms race for the new era – it’s important to keep your defenses up to date.

Sure, companies can pay ransom for retrieving data seized through a ransomware infiltration, but the best scenario would be to avoid an attack altogether.

For more on TNSC’s SecureIT product, click here

 

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What’s Behind the Cloud’s Silver Lining?

Up to now, IT decision-makers have learned how to understand, choose, and implement IT infrastructure that resides and runs in their company’s own server room.  They knew, for instance, if they needed a new email server, that HP and Dell are good brands. They knew that they needed to purchase Windows and Exchange licenses.  They knew to hire someone knowledgeable to properly setup and maintain that email server. And if that server broke, they knew who to call to get it fixed.

But because of the rise of cloud-based services, companies no longer automatically put servers in their own buildings. They now have to consider using cloud-based services – applications and systems already set up in the “cloud” (the Internet), and run by people we usually don’t know or ever see. Cloud service providers promise that, for a monthly fee, they’ll provide all the IT function we need. A popular example is Office 365, Microsoft’s hosted email system. Instead of dealing with the complexity and capital cost of installing Exchange on a company’s servers, companies pay Microsoft to host it for a low monthly fee.

This means, however, that the decision-makers now need to weigh the benefits offered and decide which cloud services are best for their business. And because it’s a different and still relatively new way of doing IT, most in the industry have yet to fully grasp all they need to consider.

Here are some things to look at when comparing the pros and cons of onsite servers vs cloud-based services; they’ll help prompt questions when vendors come calling:

Cost model

  • Onsite: Usually, purchasing a server and software meant a company made a large capital expenditure for systems, and would use them for as many years as possible before having to do it all over again.  This usually allowed companies to upgrade at their own pace, based on budget.

Continue reading “What’s Behind the Cloud’s Silver Lining?”

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TNSC: Celebrating 20 Years of Integrity, Service and Inspiration

When I started The Network Support Company in my home in 1996, I didn’t set out to build the most technically sophisticated tech company, or the biggest tech company, or even the most profitable tech company. I started this company – 20 years ago this month – because I wanted to experiment with the concept that good people can finish first. As a generally recognized “nice guy,” the dismissive “nice guys finish last” platitude always bothered me. So, to test this, I knew I had to infuse the values of caring for others and integrity into the very foundation of my company and make it apparent in everything we did or said.

Simply stated, I started The Network Support Company because the places where I’d worked earlier in my career didn’t represent what I valued. From my perspective, they didn’t care enough about their clients or their employees and they were too willing to compromise ethical standards for personal benefit. I believed that, rather than focusing on the outward signs of success, if we simply focused on doing the right things and treating people the right way, then sophistication, growth, and financial success would naturally follow. Continue reading “TNSC: Celebrating 20 Years of Integrity, Service and Inspiration”

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An Employee Weighs In: Five Ways Management Can Increase Morale and Productivity

Several years ago in corporate America, the wave of the future was to set up expansive open spaces and plant employees in giant cubicle farms, allowing them easy access to their coworkers and even upper management. It also saved money on real estate.

While that model probably facilitated conversation (and ramped up the distraction level, too), it also contributed to a pervasive “cubicle culture” that identified cubicle dwellers as nondescript worker bees, expected to buzz around and do their jobs… to keep the honey flowing. As long as the bees did their jobs, the bee farmer-bosses were happy.

The problem is, this environment does little to positively influence employee morale. For some of us, simply doing our jobs to keep the bosses happy doesn’t make for a fulfilling work life. Some of us need, and appreciate, more. For me, even though my workspace is a cubicle, I’ve found “more” at The Network Support Company, because management here does several things that fuels our morale and makes each person feel valued.

Here are the top five:

Allow employees to give input: At my first performance review at TNSC, my manager said one thing they wanted me to do was help improve the company’s processes and procedures. I thought, “wait, they want MY input on that?!?” I actually had some suggestions about our status check procedures, so they brought me in and I gave them my ideas, which they started using. Continue reading “An Employee Weighs In: Five Ways Management Can Increase Morale and Productivity”

IT Support Services CT, NY, NJ, PA, FL