Why Your Business Should Have a VPN

What is a VPN?

A VPN — or virtual private network — is a service that ensures your connection to the internet and what you do while surfing the web is private, secure and anonymous.

VPNs were first created as a way for employees to access an organization’s private network while offsite. They’re a boon for companies who have remote workers or employees who travel frequently who need to reach the network through a laptop, phone or tablet.

How have VPNs evolved?

VPNs have developed from their original use.  While they still provide employees access to network files and a way to share and store information, VPNs offer increased security.

VPN popularity has risen with the increase of cybercrime, which has increased exponentially throughout the last two decades. The FBI’s 2019 Internet Crime Report revealed that individual and business annual losses due to cybercrime totaled more than $3.5 billion. That’s an increase from $1.5 billion in losses in 2015.

Hackers have refined their approaches, meaning network security and VPNs have had to become more sophisticated, too. Not only can you securely sign in to a company’s network through a VPN, it allows you to surf the web undetected so websites can’t track your activity. Additionally, VPN popularity has made the technology more accessible and affordable.

Should you have a VPN?

VPNs provide a variety of benefits that will help your employees work while keeping your valuable data secure.

Accessibility

The ability to work remotely is one that employees have come to expect and businesses realize they must have, if even for temporary scenarios. VPNs allow employees to sign into the network through multiple-factor authentication. They can store, share and access files within the network to keep business operations running smoothly, no matter their location.

Privacy

VPNs enable users to hide online activity and disguise their computer’s IP address, which is a string of numbers and letters that identifies an online user. That’s how websites can track your activity and use cookies. Cookies can be beneficial in making your browsing experience faster and easier based on the activity. However, it can make it easier for hackers to track and target you in cyberattacks.

Security

Cybersecurity concerns are here to stay. A VPN provides increased security from cyberattacks because it encrypts all of the data you create online. When hackers encounter encrypted data, they come up against a protective wall. Not only is your online activity encrypted with a VPN, the files you upload and download are encrypted, as well.  

Many VPN providers also offer increased security options. You can track the devices on which employees access the network in addition to limiting the devices you don’t want to connect.

Versatility

Today’s workforce operates on more than just a desktop computer. Your organization likely has a variety of devices that access your network — tablets, phones, laptops, web cameras, smart televisions, voice service devices and more. When you invest in a VPN, you ensure that all of the devices and operating systems you use are covered under the service.

Interested in securing a VPN for your business? We can help. Contact us at InfomaxOffice.com.

Misperceptions about Managed IT Debunked

Even if you consider yourself tech savvy, information technology tasks that pop up without warning can seem annoying. If you’re not adept at navigating technological programs, necessary IT work can feel downright overwhelming.

Managed IT services — partnering with a third-party provider — can help your office regain control of your IT services. However, companies who don’t regularly work with an IT vendor may have misgivings about allowing another company access to their networks and devices.

We’ll shed light on common misperceptions about managed IT services.

Is Reactive

Is Proactive

Many companies may think working with an IT provider is necessary only in the event of a cyberattack, program failure, hardware damage or natural disaster. But reactive IT strategies leave you vulnerable to damaged equipment, security risks, financial liability and serious productivity loss.

Managed IT service providers work with your company to assess vulnerabilities before they become disasters. They can craft a proactive approach by presenting new options or changing common operations to boost security and maintain business functions.

A service provider may also develop a disaster recovery plan for your business. A thorough disaster recovery plan — or plan to get back to business as usual — is detailed and delegates tasks to a team of information technology professionals and internal employees who can restore your business’ data and systems as quickly as possible. It allows the organization to recover data, gain access to networking technology, reconnect power and repair software or hardware.

Is Expensive

Is Cost Effective

Many small businesses have switched to managed IT because they provide a variety of services and a team of IT experts. For one monthly fee, businesses that use managed IT services gain access to an entire team of professionals who specialize in specific facets of IT, rather than one professional who has to be a jack of all trades. Managed services typically cost less than it would to hire one full-time employee. Small businesses may find this a particular boon if they don’t have the budget or workload to justify hiring a fulltime IT staffer.

Another cost benefit for small and medium-sized businesses: they don’t have to worry about working with three or more vendors for all their IT support. Costs and services are consolidated to one company with predictable expenses, and you don’t face the nickel-and-dime charges that may come with using a variety of vendors.

Is for Small Businesses

Is Scalable for Businesses of All Sizes

Managed service providers can complement your existing IT team. If you have one or two IT employees on staff, the managed services team can work with them to prioritize certain projects and offer help on an as-needed basis. Working with a provider can also free up your IT staff to implement projects that were previously on the back burner.

Your business also may only be interested in help maintaining security and providing training to employees. IT providers can scale your services to your needs.

Infomax can lighten your IT workload. Contact us today about our managed IT services here.

Do You Have a 2021 IT Roadmap?

An IT roadmap, or assessment and plan for your organization’s IT needs, is essential in helping your business meet its strategic goals. Because your IT protocols and infrastructure affect how your business runs, the plan should reflect your organization’s annual goals.

Operating without an IT roadmap is like starting a cross-country road trip in a vehicle that hasn’t been serviced in years. Your IT services and hardware may be holding your company back, and you risk data loss, business operation interruptions, security threats and lost revenue.

Your business has likely faced more challenges and changes to operations in 2020 than ever, making an IT roadmap even more important. An IT services provider like Infomax Office Systems can help your company assess your needs, identify possible risks and plan for 2021.

Here are some reasons your business should have an IT roadmap.

Business Continuity

Business operation disruptions translate to downtime and a loss of revenue. Unfortunately, 43 percent of companies that don’t have a business continuity plan go out of business after a major data loss. An IT provider can help assess the number of disruptions your company faced last year, their causes and how to combat those disruptions in 2021. You can work with your IT provider to create a disaster recovery plan as part of your IT roadmap.

Economic Security

A 2021 IT plan can help your business determine the amount of resources you should devote to IT for the coming year. A proactive plan minimizes unexpected budget hits, and a third-party IT provider can consolidate the variety of vendors you use in a year to one vendor with one fixed payment. Additionally, managed print services can analyze and optimize document output devices to make them as efficient and cost effective as possible. Additionally, cloud computing services are a proactive way to protect your data from being lost or compromised. Cybersecurity is a persistent issue, with one in five small and medium-sized businesses reporting they faced a ransomware attack in the last year.

Staying Current

An IT company can assess your infrastructure to see what hardware and devices may need updates. Because technology updates occur at lightning speed, an IT provider may suggest leasing some of your hardware, such as printers, copiers and scanners. Consider that 90 percent of companies don’t know how many printers they have or the amount they spend on printing. Leasing saves your company from fronting the cost of a new device only to have to replace it in a few years, and managed print services allows you to track your printing expenses. You’ll have the most efficient, cost-effective, updated machinery for a fixed monthly payment.

Infomax Office Systems can help your organization develop a 2021 IT roadmap, setting your organization up for success in the new year. Message us to learn more. 

Color Printing by Number

Large inkjet printer working multicolor CMYK on a vinyl banner.

Five years ago, color printing may have seemed out of reach for many small and medium-sized businesses. Color printers were seen as expensive and inefficient. As with all technology, color printers have evolved.

Businesses in every industry have found that in-house color printing is not only cost-effective, documents printed in color attract more attention and carry your brand further. If your organization has an eye for numbers, here are some statistics to keep in mind as you make up your mind about in-house color printing.

Attention

If your business is still printing all documents in black and white, you could be passing up the chance to grab and retain your reader’s attention. Studies show that color increases a reader’s attention span and recall by 82 percent. Consider all the documents your company is printing internally and externally. Do you want your boss or employees to read a long report? Are you hoping to gain or retain customers by sending marketing materials via mail or distributing them after a meeting? Not only is your audience more than 50 percent more likely to pick up a full-color piece of mail, they’re more likely to understand and remember what it says. Comprehension could increase by 73 percent when a message is portrayed in color.

Savings

Color printers used to be considered too expensive and inefficient for a typical office space. However, today’s color printers are optimized for high-quality, efficient use. Color ink is not as expensive as it used to be, and printers use less ink per print job than they used to. Newer systems can also print documents with high-quality color images within a fraction of the time it took in the past. Additionally, businesses save money by having an in-house color printer and sourcing materials themselves, instead of outsourcing printed materials and footing the bill for extra costs associated with using a print shop’s services. You’re also able to print the exact number of copies you need.

Efficiency

Did you know that documents printed in color can actually make your employees better at their jobs and customers happier? Color reduces errors by 80 percent, and readers can find information in a document up to 70 percent faster if it’s in color. This means that documents that are highlighted and color coded could help employees properly enter information and spot errors in forms, and do so faster. Similarly, your business can influence the information that stands out to customers by using color to send a message and emphasize portions of a document. From a workplace performance perspective, having a color printer in your office saves you time and energy on print jobs.

Sales

Since color documents capture and retain audience attention, your business’ bottom line could receive a boost. Colors convey meaning and emotion, all of which are layered into your organization’s logo and marketing materials. These portrayed values impact viewers immediately, and most consumers form opinions within 90 seconds of their initial interaction with a brand. Between 60 and 90 percent of that first assessment is based on colors alone. Not only are color documents portraying your organization’s values and capturing attention, documents containing color can increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent.

Infomax can help your business find a multifunction color printer that fits your organization’s needs and budget. Start a conversation with us today at InfomaxOffice.com.

A Virtual CIO Could Guide Your Small Business

 For small or medium-sized businesses, information technology tasks can be pesky at best and completely overwhelming at worst. Even more difficult to manage is creating an overarching plan for a growing business’ equipment and security needs. Many small businesses grapple with their IT needs. In fact, more than a quarter of small businesses don’t employ any full time IT staff, let alone a Chief Information Officer who oversees a company’s IT services. 

Without a CIO how can a small business oversee their equipment and programs while ensuring the security of their vital data? A virtual CIO could be the answer. 

A vCIO — or third-party organization — provides all the strategic and experiential IT knowledge of a CIO while saving your business the cost of a full-time employee. Additionally, the vCIO coordinates and advises clients’ existing IT departments. They may also implement strategic IT goals, plan the IT budget, analyze and reorganize processes and facilitate hardware or software changes. 

Infomax’s vCIO services can provide many of the same services, providing clients with a roadmap for IT projects and strategic development as your company expands. Here are some of the benefits of working with a vCIO. 

Thorough Inspections 

Before getting started, many service providers like Infomax conduct network assessments and inventories of your current IT system. This helps pinpoint potential risks and prioritize projects. By evaluating technology today, providers can identify and implement the solutions to take you where you need to be tomorrow. 

Preparedness 

A vCIO helps your business implement the daily IT tasks that prepare you to meeting strategic goals. Those services include crafting an overall strategy, business continuity planning, network planning and integration and cloud computing. They also can coordinate between your business and vendors, providing vendor management and application selection. Additionally, your vCIOs can connect with your team daily, providing project management, license compliance tracking and reporting. 

An Expert Team 

The above services could be a staggering workload for one or two existing IT professionals within a small or medium-sized business. But a vCIO comes with a team of skilled professionals that make up a third-party provider’s staff. The team of experts help you make important technical decisions and find the best equipment and applications to fit your needs and budget. 

Cost Savings 

Leveraging vCIO services is just like having an in-house CIO who understands your vision for success. However, you don’t have to provide office space or pay full time salary and benefits like you would with a CIO. A vCIO also saves you money by uncovering and resolving issues that can escalate into expensive problems later. 

Ensure Business Continuity 

Business continuity planning balances real needs with financial realities. There may be resources that you can’t live without for an hour, but others that could be down for a day or two. A vCIO works with your business to determine what protection you should prioritize. 

To learn more about Infomax’s vCIO services, read more here and message us at InfomaxOffice.com to get started. 

Document Management Systems Are Key to Remote Work

Some industries have taken advantage of document management systems — a digital tool to track, manage and store documents — for years. Businesses that operate on swift deadlines and thrive on collaboration understand the importance of having digital workflows. Organizations that host many appointments with customers or patients use form solutions to gather information. Companies with remote workers know that digital archiving is paramount to protecting sensitive documents through remote storage.

However, other businesses who have been forced to adapt workflows and connect remotely with both employees and customers may find document management solutions key to continuing business operations. Collaboration and secure storage can benefit any workplace, whether your organization is temporarily pivoting or intends to have remote workers as part of your workforce into the future.

Digital Workflows

Most businesses have faced shifts in operations throughout the first and second quarters of 2020. Your employees could be faced with more work, cumbersome processes and other difficulties while working remotely. Additionally, your business could be facing an increase in demand for certain products and services.

Document management systems offer digital workflows, which allow managers and employees to measure a volume of work and understand where projects stand in the process of completion.

These digital workflows can increase productivity by automating content-based tasks and create computer-aided work models that complete repetitive jobs quickly and accurately. That doesn’t mean you have to leave these tasks completely in the hands of the digital workflow. The program allows you to be as hands-on or hands-off as your work requires.

Digital Archiving

As employees are working remotely, they’re accessing company networks through potentially vulnerable internet connections. Additionally, everyone is working through the trials of life at home where computers and laptops could be damaged. Document management systems provide digital archiving, keeping your company’s documents and data secure in the face of cybersecurity risks or potential hardware damage. On-site and remote storage options, automatic backup and structured or unstructured organization methods keep you covered so you never have to worry about your files disappearing or being unavailable if your server crashes.

Not only do document management systems provides a secure way to store documents digitally, most systems come with customizable administrative controls so managers can restrict access to sensitive information or share documents selectively. Storing documents digitally also makes it easier to search for and find data.

Forms Solutions

For businesses that rely on form completion for collecting data like customer history, inventory tracking or client invoicing, a document management system can cut down on an unwieldy process. The amount of resources consumed by creating multiple duplicates, forwarding information and making it available for reference by employees can translate to a convoluted and time-consuming paper chain.

Forms solutions can help your organization control and enhance this exchange of data through automatic file routing, work prompts and progress notifications that streamline manual processes and eliminate additional data entry. These forms also can be accessed from anywhere.

Tips to Save Small Businesses Money on Hardware, Devices

Small business owners and managers know that an itemized, efficient budget is essential to their bottom line. Office equipment and supply expenses can be a drain on a budget that could otherwise be allocated to other operational costs.

You could save costs on office equipment by following these tips.

  1. Get an IT assessment. A third-party IT provider could conduct a network assessment and inventory your current IT systems. This process can identify system risks and provide a list of updates and projects your business should prioritize. A proactive approach can save your business countless dollars in cyberattacks or system failures.
  2. Use eco-friendly equipment. Offices that have switched to energy-efficient appliances and hardware have seen a decrease in monthly utility bills. Many printing manufacturers offer a line of energy-efficient devices.
  3. Lease your hardware. Leasing allows you to obtain new office equipment immediately and gather funds as you use it. Budgeting also becomes easier as businesses can plan on the same monthly payments for a year or two instead of guessing as to what their budget should be for a new piece of equipment paid in full. Businesses also are able to switch out hardware when they need equipment with updated technology.
  4. Find hardware with multiple purposes. Multifunction printers — printers with scanner and copier functions — make sense for small businesses who have to stretch their resources in many directions. Multifunction printers are a solid investment and prevent you from wasting spaces and resources on a variety of devices.
  5. Consider using refurbished equipment. Many manufacturers or dealers offer refurbished options at a discount. Your provider can provide a thorough examination of every machine. They can repair or replace worn parts to make sure that your refurbished machine runs like new so you get maximum value.
  6. Receive regular maintenance. Similar to an IT assessment, receiving regular repairs on office equipment can stave off larger issues that upend workflow, costing you money in both expensive repairs and business operations. Managed IT services are the best model to save your resources and receive a return on your hardware investments. Instead of paying large fees each time you need assistance, your IT needs are covered in one monthly payment to one vendor.
  7. Scale your services. Most businesses need a variety of channels with which to communicate with staff and with customers. A managed IT provider can set your business up with a hosted communication system, which encompasses phones, audio and video conferencing, instant messaging and VoIP — voice over internet protocol. A hosted communication system is run through the cloud, and services are scalable so you can add channels as your business grows, paying for the exact amount of services you need.

Why UV Gel Ink Is the Best Technique for Large Format Printing

Large format printing jobs need to have a level of craftsmanship many other printing jobs don’t require. Banners, posters, trade show displays, window graphics and other wide format printing projects are often meant to be displayed and have more permanence than other documents a business regularly prints.

The quality of the product begins with one of the most elemental components: the ink. UV gel ink is revolutionizing large format printing by providing outstanding image quality, efficiency, cost savings and safety measures.

The efficiency of UV printing has appealed to professionals for several years. When printer ink hits the substrate — or base material — UV lights closely follow, curing the ink. Now, UV gel ink is making a preferred method even better.

Canon introduced its UV gel ink in 2016, and the Canon/Oce Colorado is one of the best large format printers on the market using UV gel ink. The ink is in a gelled, solid state when at room temperature. When heated, it turns liquid enough to be jetted by inkjet printheads and transferred onto the substrate. Commercial printers consider UV gel ink the Cadillac of printing methods. Here’s why.

Quality

The image quality provided by UV gel is second to none. When the ink hits the media on which it’s printed, it reverts to a gel. This means that there is no overlap between ink droplets, but the droplets are able to seize onto the substrate. Colors don’t bleed into each other or across the material, so the image maintains vibrant color with crystal-clear quality.

The technology also works when printing on a variety of media, allowing image quality upgrades on wallpaper, wall and floor graphics, light coverings, window film, canvases, fabric and vinyl banners and posters and many other materials.

Efficiency

Because the curing process is so quick, machines are able to print at extremely high speeds, which is important for production printers who know that time is money in the commercial printing industry. The LED-UV curing system is able to move independently from the printing carriage. This ensures that curing is uniform and doesn’t slow down the printing process.

Printers also use up to 40 percent less ink when outfitted with UV gel ink because less ink soaks into the material, according to Canon.

Cost savings

Not only can companies save on ink costs with this new technology, but they also could save on energy costs. The low temperatures used in the curing process make the machine more energy efficient. Additionally, the ink allows printers to use the most cost-effective materials because the gel adheres well to a vast majority of substrates. The gel ink also doesn’t contain water, and the lack of heat used in the curing process means that there is no swelling or damage to the printing media.

Safety

Because it contains no water and exists in a gelled state, UV gel ink cannot splash or spill like regular ink. This feature means the ink doesn’t pose as much of a risk to employees. The gel ink is also low-odor, making it safe for constant use in a closed workspace.

The Colorado series of Canon/Oce printers has some of the best models on the market that use UV gel ink. To learn more about how UV gel ink and the Colorado printer can revolutionize your production printing process, message us at InfomaxOffice.com.

How to Maintain Operations While Working Remotely

The ability to work remotely is one that most office employees and employers have come to expect in the digital world. Even if employees and employers don’t see remote working as essential to operations, business partners and clients certainly want to be assured that a company can maintain productivity if employees are out of the office.

It’s imperative that organizations have a plan for employees to work remotely, whether it’s on a regular basis or temporarily. Here are some of the office systems we can help your organization prepare.

Servers

When employees aren’t in a centralized location, access to the organization’s server is necessary for employees to store files and connect to other network devices. Our Complete Cloud services — powered by Avatara — ensure that businesses can maintain access to the network even if they are offsite. With Complete Cloud, all servers, storage and other infrastructure are moved to the cloud, represented as multiple secure data centers across the country.

All computers and technological systems are hosted in the secured cloud so remote workers don’t have to be physically connected to a tangle of hardware while in a home office or other remote location. Additionally, data is regularly backed up and encrypted with cloud computing so cyber security presents no issue.

Laptops

Desktop-as-a-Service, or DaaS, is a secure way for your employees to gain access to their desktops without storing all their files directly on the device. DaaS is a type of cloud computing that allows businesses to project a workspace through a device.

That means all data, applications and even the desktop are stored in multiple geographically dispersed data centers. Software programs allow users to access these desktops on laptops, desktop computers, tablets and cell phones, even if they are outside of the typical office space.

Documents

Offices often have a more controlled environment than a remote working location. That means the organization’s important documents could be more at risk to be damaged or compromised. Additionally, employees may find a once-easy collaborative task cumbersome if they have to send drafted documents back and forth through email. 

Our document management system stores, tracks and manages files digitally where employees can securely access them and work on documents simultaneously. The software program allows employees to easily search for files. Additionally, the documents are securely archived, negating the concern that employees could lose or damage documents that result in data or revenue loss.

Communication

Efficient and effective communication is essential to a company, internally and externally. Hosted communications systems — or internet-based communication applications — ensure that the process remains smooth. These applications work through the cloud so your employees don’t need to be connected to in-office phone systems and all data is secure. Calls from cell phones through the hosted system also show up on caller ID as the business’ phone number.

Additionally, the program can allow a group of employees to collaborate and edit a document in real time and facilitate a video or phone chat for employees working in different areas.

Infomax can help prepare your organization to work remotely. Learn more at InfomaxOffice.com.

How to Avoid an IT Wreck

Before heading out on a road trip, most people make sure their car’s oil is changed and sufficiently filled, their brake pads are functioning properly and their tires aren’t bald. However, it’s just as important to perform regular maintenance on your car when you’re driving close to home. Starting the workday with a dead car battery is extremely inconvenient. Driving with warped brake rotors on the interstate during rush hour can be downright dangerous.

Most people understand the responsibilities and dangers that can come with driving a vehicle, but daily stress makes it easy to put off regular servicing. Your IT systems can suffer from the same negligence.

Small and medium-sized businesses likely have hundreds of devices that require regular maintenance — everything from computers, tablets, desk and mobile phones, servers, routers, printers, scanners, copiers and other machines.

Your office may perform full-scale system checks or data backups once a year or before beginning an ambitious project, but what do you do to ensure your equipment is functioning properly and securely on a regular basis? Can you or your employees recognize the signs of a breached or failing system?

We’ve got answers to your questions to keep irksome issues from turning into a complete wreck.

How do IT issues occur?

IT flareups are often the product of long-term issues that employees may not have recognized or that the company has not prioritized. It’s easy to see how more pressing work or more exciting projects can get in the way of fixing a system or device. If your office has only one or two IT employees on staff, small issues may fall through the cracks.

How can you keep an eye on your IT Services?

First, you need to set terms of reference for all employees. Make sure they understand how the systems and devices they use on a daily basis should work. Train employees to recognize common problems and provide a procedure to follow when issues occur. That way your employees aren’t driving around with the check engine light on for days without popping the hood of the vehicle or calling a mechanic.

Regular meetings are a great way to stay on top of your IT systems. Depending on your operations, a monthly meeting might be sufficient with all departments represented. The meetings should be streamlined, focusing on a plan of action to take care of the parts of your IT system that need regular maintenance — or ones that need special attention — until the next meeting.

How does managed IT help?

Third-party IT services providers, such as Infomax, supplement your existing IT team and allow your organization access to experts in various facets of IT. With Infomax’s iGuard Managed IT, clients know that more than 40 professionals with expert-level experience work for their business. Most importantly, managed IT provides business owners and employees peace of mind knowing that they have a team of professionals who are working proactively — not reactively — to keep your business safe from cyberthreats.

Managed IT providers work with businesses before breaches occur, periodically going over IT priorities. At Infomax, our iGuard Managed IT team even provides our clients with security awareness training to ensure employees are up to date on how to keep company data safe. iGuard Managed IT Services also entails regular data backups, ensuring that systems can be restored in the event of cyberattack, natural disaster or user error.

How does complete cloud computing keep your IT in line?

Infomax’s Complete Cloud Services — powered by Avatara — are similar to our managed IT services. However, our complete cloud services allow your company to completely hand your IT needs over to a team of experts.

It makes the most sense for businesses that don’t have full-time IT employees and want to staff to focus on their initiatives instead of pesky IT tasks. For instance, your mechanic wouldn’t expect you to rotate the tires on your vehicle while they change the oil.

With complete cloud services, our IT experts work even more proactively to protect and maintain your devices and IT systems. Additionally, all servers, storage and other infrastructure are moved to the cloud, represented as multiple secure data centers across the country. All computers and technological systems are hosted in the secured cloud, taking away the clutter of hardware your organization previously stored. Your business will never again need to buy new hardware, manage device upgrades or download new programs.

To learn more about how Infomax can help keep your IT systems running smoothly, contact us at 1-800-727-4629 or visit www.infomaxoffice.com/support/contact-us/.