TechWorx Blog

TechWorx has been serving for businesses, nonprofits, local government and school districts since 2010, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support and consulting.

Don't let data loss add to your list of 2020 surprises

We’re halfway through the year, and I don’t think anyone expected 2020 to go the way it has. Let’s rephrase this… no one expected 2020 to turn out like it has so far.

Understandably, many businesses are being extra cautious about their spending and doing what they can to prevent unexpected interruptions to their business. One costly interruption all businesses need to continue to prevent is data loss.

Data loss can happen a few different ways. Malware can cause irreversible data loss, and ransomware can cause irreversible data loss, provided you don't pony up the ransom to hackers. Your end-users can mistakenly cause data loss by overwriting or deleting data, but a disgruntled employee could do even more damage intentionally.

Your data is stored on delicate, mechanical devices that are extremely sensitive to shock and damage. Hard drives don’t last forever and will eventually fail, so if your data is only stored in one place, it’s just a matter of time before it’s lost if it’s not backed up properly.

Data Loss is Productivity Loss

When you lose any amount of data, it can be a burden on your organization. Take a single sales proposal. Let’s say a salesperson is working on a proposal and it accidentally gets overwritten or deleted. If they can’t restore it, they need to backtrack and do some of that work over again. Besides the obvious loss of time to make additional sales calls, it can lead to missing a quote deadline or even making a mistake on the recreated quote.

If an entire hard drive on your server is lost, you are going to lose a lot more than a single document. That hard drive might contain years of client data, the database for your business system, or your next six months of marketing materials. Suddenly it affects your entire company in drastic ways.

Depending on the industry you’re in or the type and severity of the data loss event, there are specific laws that may require you to report it.

A lost or stolen mobile device or laptop could be considered data loss and should trigger action from the company to prevent further loss and in some cases notify the proper authorities and clients.

Mitigate Your Data Loss

It’s simple, just don’t lose data. Your business doesn’t need to deal with the fallout of data loss. Fortunately, it’s not particularly complicated or even expensive to prevent data loss. You simply need to back your data up securely on a regular basis. You also need to make sure that you are checking that the backup was successful. Data backup is not necessarily a “set it and forget it” process, you need to make sure that there are not only successful backups but generational backups. This means having different data backup restore points that you can access to find good copies of files or folders to restore. Nothing is worse than trying to restore a corrupted file only to find that all of the backups have that same file corruption.

Redundancy Reduces Downtime

Your data - all of your data - needs to be stored in two to three places. One of those places is its original location – on your network’s on premises physical server or in a cloud server such as SharePoint. It’s important not to save files to your computer, because it is most likely not being backed up. Setting your file storage to a folder on your server will remove the risk of losing data stored on your desktop or laptop. As a user, you will not notice a difference in accessing these files.

If you have a physical server, the second place that all of your data needs to be kept is on a completely separate device on your network. This could be another server, a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, or better yet, a dedicated backup device designed to make regular ongoing backups throughout the day and push an encrypted copy of the data to a third offsite location. 

If you started out saving to a cloud server such as SharePoint or Azure, make sure you are backing that up as well. Just because it’s in the cloud doesn’t mean it’s automatically backed up. You will want to find a Microsoft or better yet, third party, cloud-to-cloud backup for your data.

For physical servers that third location shouldn’t be within your company walls. It should exist in a separate physical location, away from your business. This way, if your business were to suffer from a fire, a flood, a power surge, or any other damage-causing event, your data will be safely replicated and accessible. If your backup device can automatically push encrypted backups to the cloud, it will ensure that your business has a chance to function if a disaster were to strike.

We rely on a cloud-to-cloud backup to handle our company’s data. It does everything we mentioned above, and then some. It replicates all of our data throughout the day, and securely encrypts it and stores it in a separate offsite location just in case. We’re able to quickly restore data from it if we need to, it’s easy to confirm that the backup was successful, and we can access generational backups if files we needed to restore were not present in our most recent backup.

Our clients love the protection that onsite and cloud-to-cloud backup options bring, and we even run regular file recovery tests to prove that the backups is doing its job by simulating a real data loss and restore the missing data.

Data loss is the last thing that any business needs to be dealing with in 2020, and it is a relatively easy thing to prevent at the base level. Reach out to TechWorx at 814-806-3228 to learn how we can prevent data loss for your company.

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Virtual Collaboration Tools - Tips and tricks to keep you more productive

If you missed our training on May 14th with the NWIRC on "Virtual Collaboration Tools - Tips and tricks to keep you more productive", don't worry... you can still catch a recording of it here:

For attending or viewing our webinar, TechWorx is offering a free collaboration tool assessment for your business. Please contact our sales department  or call 814-806-3228 to schedule the collaboration tool assessment for your company. 

Training Description:

In this webinar, we provided you with essential tools and tips to improve your company’s virtual collaboration capabilities and be more productive. Whether you are avid user of collaboration tools or brand new to them, join TechWorx, one of the region’s top IT managed services, cloud and cybersecurity providers, to understand best practices for collaborating both internally and externally.

Throughout the webinar TechWorx will walk through common tools that are available to your company to improve communication and collaboration on projects and/or with clients. We will also highlight areas of concern to minimize data breaches while collaborating.

Topics covered:

  • Overview of common collaborative tools
  • Best practices for sharing data securely
  • How to prevent “Shadow IT”
  • Tips for running a video conference meeting
  • Tips for attending a video conference meeting
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Training: Best Practices for IT security while working remotely

If you missed our training yesterday with the NWIRC on "Best Practices for IT security while working remotely", don't worry... you can still catch a recording of it here:

For attending or viewing our webinar, TechWorx is offering a free cybersecurity checklist for you and a free vulnerability test for your business. Please contact our sales department  or call 814-806-3228 to schedule the vulnerability test for your company. 

Training Description:

Working remotely has become more and more common in today’s business culture. This usually meant that an employee planned with their team the days they would need to work remotely, typically one to two times a week. However, the coronavirus outbreak and accompanying lockdown in US has forced many employees into unfamiliar territory—not just working remotely, but also managing other complications such as school and childcare closings.

If you think cybercriminals will be sensitive to global events and refrain from attacking remote workers, sadly, it is the complete opposite. This is the perfect opportunity for them to take advantage of weakened security and prey on victims through cyber-attacks, email attacks and social engineering. The FBI has seen a surge in reported cybercrime since the pandemic. 

Join us for a free webinar on “Best practices for IT security while working remotely” Hear from TechWorx, one of the region’s top IT managed services, cloud and cybersecurity providers, on how to ensure you and your employees are properly set up to work effectively and securely. Topics to be covered include:

  • Data security best practices
  • Understanding cloud-based security applications
  • Physical security best practices
  • VPN access to your office network
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
  • Importance of continued cybersecurity training
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9 Microsoft Teams tricks that make it our favorite collaboration tool

 
What we love about Microsoft Teams is that no matter how much you end up using it, there's alwasy more undiscovered capabilities that can boost your productivity. Beyond the basics here are some tricks we found to get the most out of your Microsoft Teams experience.
 

1. Don't get lost in translation

Whether you work for an international company or have clients/suppliers internationally, you'll want to make sure your conversations don't get lost in translations. Teams has your covered. Inline message translation keeps everyone on the same page and communicating in their preferred language. Just click on the ellipses next to a message to translate it.

 

2. Real-Time translation using Microsoft Teams video conferencing captions

We just showed you how to translate your Microsoft Teams messages. But what if you’re in a video call and you don’t speak the other person’s language?

Using the “Translate to” menu, users sharing content can choose to add captions in a specific language. You can select up to 6 languages at once, which is great for webinar event administrators who want to reach people from various backgrounds.

You’ll also be able to download your meeting transcript once the conversation has finished. Click on Meetings then Live Event Resources to find your transcript.

Attendees can turn on live captions by clicking Subtitles On in the lower right-hand corner of their screen.

Microsoft Teams live events

 

3. Find Microsoft Teams users instantly with @mentions

When you have questions that only a specific expert can answer, don’t waste time scrolling through hundreds of contacts.

@Mention filtration in the search bar is a great feature for companies with lots of employees. All you need to do is type the username of the person you want to reach after the @ symbol in the search bar.

mentions in Microsoft Teams

Teams will show you the user you’re looking for – as well as any group chats you’re already part of.

Want to send a message? Click on the user and start chatting without leaving your current project or window.

 

4 – Follow Teams channels to reduce information overload

Not only do you have emails and phone calls to keep on top of, but you might also be managing various collaboration tools, workforce optimization packages, and people too.

Following channels that matter most will help reduce the amount of unnecessary information coming your way.

To follow a channel:

  • Click on the ellipses next to a channel
  • Click on the Follow option

3

 

5 – Have some fun with GIFs

When it comes to finding useful tips, lots of companies focus heavily on solutions for productivity and efficiency.

They can forget how important it is to build a company culture through your communication tools.

GIFs and custom reactions help strengthen bonds between users at a time when remote working is making face-to-face interactions less likely.

All you need to do is click on the GIF button underneath your “Type a new message” box and enter a keyword to find dozens of GIFs.

GIFs Microsoft Teams 751x425

 

6 – Customize your Microsoft Teams background

Video conferencing is a great way to bring teams together, regardless of where your users are.

However, people may be reluctant to join a video meeting if their environment is messy or distracting.

The good news? Microsoft Teams changes all that.

You can blur everything behind you in a video, for absolute privacy.

To do this, simply:

  • Click on your audio and video settings screen when you join a meeting
  • Choose the ellipses “…” for more options
  • Tap on Blur my background

You can also add custom backgrounds like an office environment or company logo, rather than blurring out the background.

 

Microsoft Teams Custom Backgrounds

If you’re looking for something a little more exciting than a blur, you can customize your video with virtual backgrounds.

Microsoft introduced virtual backgrounds for Microsoft Teams in April 2020. Microsoft said it designed custom backgrounds to let you replace your real meeting background with a “fresh and bright home office.” 

To find virtual backgrounds, launch a video chat and tap the menu:

How to launch Microsoft Teams custom background 271x300

 

Click Show background effects. 

This will bring up a sidebar with some alternative background options. 

Microsoft Teams custom background 1 768x531

You can only use stock photos from Microsoft for now but watch this space. 

Soon, Microsoft claims that it will be opening the door for you to use your own custom backgrounds from pictures you choose yourself. 

 

7 – Learn quick keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Teams

There’s nothing worse than spending 20 minutes trying to find the function you need when you’re in the middle of a meeting or working on a project.

That’s why it’s a good idea to learn the keyboard shortcuts available in Microsoft Teams.

Here are a few of the basics you need to know:

  • Go to Search (move straight to the search bar): Ctrl + E
  • Turn your camera off Ctrl+Shift+O
  • Mute yourself: Ctrl+Shift+M
  • Background blur: Ctrl+Shift+P
  • Zoom: Ctrl+= to zoom in or Ctrl+- to zoom out
  • Go to your files: Ctrl+6

To get a complete list of all your keyboard shortcuts, enter /Keys into the search menu at the top of Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams keyboard shortcuts 768x697

 

8 – Get peace of mind with Data Loss Prevention

Data Loss Prevention in Microsoft Teams appeared as part of the Enterprise Connect update in 2019.

DLP is available for Microsoft 365 users with E5 licensing and users with the Advanced Compliance add-on.

Data loss prevention features are already available in Teams through OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. However, the latest feature is particularly useful for helping to detect sensitive information in chat messages. This is excellent for people worried about things like compliance regulations.

Not on E5? Contact TechWorx at 814-806-3228 or  to find out what additional data loss prevention options we can provide your company based on your Microsoft 365 subscription level.

 

Microsoft DLP 1 850x351

 

9 – Microsoft Teams meetings with intelligent capture

Finally, one of the best Microsoft Teams tricks we’re looking forward to is coming out later this year.

To celebrate Microsoft Teams 2nd birthday, Microsoft has announced a range of new features – including intelligent capture within meetings.

Microsoft Teams 2 years 768x403

 

If you’re writing content on analog whiteboards, and need to enhance brainstorming sessions, Microsoft Teams offers intelligent capture and “content cameras.”

Using USB cameras, Microsoft Teams Rooms service will be able to capture, focus, enhance, and resize your whiteboard images.

This means that even if you’re standing in front of a whiteboard, Microsoft will still be able to show off whatever’s written behind you

 

There you have it. Plenty of amazing Microsoft Teams tricks that you can use to transform your collaboration sessions!

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A reminder about working from home securely

dad working from home 

Over the last few years working remotely has become more and more common in today’s business culture. This usually meant that an employee scheduled themselves to be working remotely one to two days a week. However, the coronavirus outbreak and accompanying lockdown in US has forced a large number of employees into unfamiliar territory—not just working remotely, but full-time working from home.

If you think cybercriminals (and regular criminals) will be sensitive to global events and refrain from attacking remote workers, sadly, it’s the complete opposite. The FBI has seen a surge in reported cybercrime since the pandemic.  

Given these circumstances, we thought it would be good to remind everyone about maintaining good cybersecurity practices at home.

Physical Security

The first so-obvious-it’s-not-obvious tip is to make sure your work devices are physically safe, and that you avoid offering unauthorized views of confidential information. Here are a few ways to shore up physical security while working from home:

  • If you need to leave your home for supplies or other reasons, make sure your work devices are either shut down or locked—including cellphones you might use to check email or make work phone calls.
  • If you live with a roommate or young children, be sure to lock your computer even when you step away for just a bit. Don’t tempt your roommates or family members by leaving your work open.
  • If you can’t carve out a separate work space in your home, be sure to collect your devices at the end of your workday and store them someplace out of sight. This will not only keep them from being accidentally damaged, but will also help separating your work life from your home life.

Separate work and personal devices

Easier said than done, we know. Still, just as it’s important to carve out boundaries between work life and home life while working from home, the same is true of devices. Do you have a child being homeschooled now and turning in digital assignments? Are you ordering groceries and food online to avoid stores? Best not to cross those hairs with work.

While it may seem cumbersome to constantly switch back and forth between multiple devices, do your best to at least keep your main work computer and your main home computer separate (if you have more than one such device). If you can do the same for your mobile devices—even better. The more programs and software you install, the more potential vulnerabilities you introduce.

  • Don’t pay your home bills on the same computer you compile work spreadsheets. You can not only create confusion for yourself, but also end up compromising your personal information if a cybercriminal was able to breach your company.
  • Don’t send work-related emails from your private email address and vice versa. Not only does it look unprofessional, but you are weaving a web that might be hard to untangle once the normal office routine resumes.
  • Speaking of homeschooling, it’s especially important to keep your child’s digital curriculum separate from your work device. Both are huge targets for cyber criminals. Imagine cyber criminal’s delight when they find they can not only plunder an organization’s network through an unsecured remote worker, but they can also collect highly valuable access to your child’s school network, which garners a big pay day on the dark web.

Cybersecurity best practices

Other working remotely best practices may not be all that different from those you should be practicing in the office, but they are easy to forget when you are working in your own home environment. A few of the most important:

  • Be wary of phishing emails. There will be many going around trying to capitalize on:
    • Fear related to the coronavirus
    • Offer advice or health information
    • Offer information on stimulus checks
    • Offer information on stimulus loans or grants

Scan those emails with a sharp eye and do not open attachments unless they’re from a known, trusted source.

  • Related to phishing: Expect to see a rise in spoofing emails to initiate fraud. Your organization, vendors, and clients may be sending you many emails about new workflows, processes, or reassurances to employees. Watch out for those disguising themselves as high-ranking employees and pay close attention to the actual email address of senders.
  • Beware of overexposure on social media, and try to maintain typical behavior and routine: Do you normally check social media on your phone during lunchtime? Do the same now. Once again, watch out for scams and misinformation, as cyber criminals love using social media to lure in their victims.

Other security precautions

Not every organization was prepared for this scenario, so it’s only natural that some may not have the level of remote security in place that yours does. This could lead to your company being compromised by a vendor or customer’s lack of preparedness. Make sure to get yourself up to speed with the guidelines that your organization has in place for remote work. Ask for directions if anything is unclear.

Not everyone has the same level of tech savvy—the only stupid question is one that isn’t asked.

On a different note

This is a big adjustment for many people. Your first few weeks of working from home may left you irritated, uncomfortable, unmotivated, or just plain exhausted. Adding cybersecurity tips to the list may just add fatigue right now. We understand. Take it a day at a time, a step at a time.

When working from home, find a comfortable working area where you can assume a healthy posture, minimize the distraction from others, and where your presence has the least impact on how others have to behave. Take breaks to stretch your legs, and give your eyes a rest. And if you enjoy working from home, now is the time to prove to your employer that it’s a viable option in the long run.

Stay safe, everyone! Now more than ever.

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