What You Need to Know About Large Format Printing

You may have spent hours online creating custom wallpaper for an accent wall, but have you considered how that wallpaper was created? How about the large banner you had printed for an event? These projects wouldn’t be possible without large format printing techniques.

Large format printing is defined as printing on materials anywhere from about two to 15 feet in size. We sat down with Infomax’s John McGill, solutions engineer, to hear about some of the trends in the large format printing industry.

Customization

Banners and signs have traditionally been popular large format printing projects. They’ve long been used for everything from business advertising to personal display pieces. However, consumers are wanting more customization than ever. Customers can design their own wallpaper through online programs, which are then printed on a large format system. Artwork is also popular with sticky-sided vinyl portraits and pictures printed on canvas on the rise. The desire for more custom jobs means printers must be more versatile, transitioning from one job to the next.

Material

Growing in popularity is printed window perforated film. The medium is being used more and more as a creative means for advertising or informative signs. Floor graphics — printed on material with one adhesive side — are increasingly being used in the same way.  Currently, printing on fabrics is a bit of a fad. However, John warned that the material can often be finnicky.

Ink

Ultraviolet ink will soon reign supreme in the large format printing industry. Previously, eco-solvent inks were used, which could be messy and required a certain amount of time for the ink to cure — or outgas — before the printed material could safely be handled without smudging. Most recently, latex inks were used. However, the advent of UV ink is saving printers time and money. When a printer uses this type of ink, a UV light passes over the just-printed section, instantly drying the surface. Additionally, about 35 to 50 percent less UV ink is needed to cover a printing job than is required for eco-solvent or latex ink.

Efficient equipment

Many companies that provide large format printing are working with Infomax to secure technologically advanced systems for the best value, such as the Canon-brand Colorado printer. Clients know this machine is built with quality and value in mind. It also saves printers time with its automated creep and crawl correction. Unlike other printers that could set the project lopsided, newer large format printers, such as the Colorado, will automatically correct the material if it starts to go out of alignment.

How Managed IT Could Affect Iowa’s IT Skills Gap

Iowa’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country, hovering at about 2.4 percent since July 2018. For employees, the low unemployment rate is a reprieve from the 7.3 percent high nearly a decade ago, according to the Iowa Workforce Development. The low rate also means employees have more job choices. Employers are not only must secure skilled employees to fill open positions, they’re tasked with retaining their employees and finding employees with the proper skillset to fill open positions.

Iowa’s information technology employers not only need highly trained employees, but they also need specialists in the various fields within the IT industry. Iowa has one of the lowest rates in the nation of people graduating from post-secondary computer and information technology-related programs, according to an Iowa State University Iowa Community Indicators Program report.

So what are employers to do if they can’t find employees with the proper IT background? If they do find skilled employees, how do employers keep them happy? Managed IT services could be the answer. Managed IT services allow companies to use third-party experts to handle or supplement their IT needs.

Small businesses who don’t have a full-time IT professional may rely on a tech savvy team member for their technology dilemmas. That solution — or lack thereof — takes an employee away from their daily work while also leaving the company’s preventive and responsive IT services severely lacking.

“With managed IT services, Infomax can address many different business sizes,” said Doug Postel, Infomax’s IT director. “On the smaller end, we can bring in expertise for a single monthly fee that would be less than employing a full-time IT professional.”

Medium-sized businesses may likely have one or two IT professionals for more employees than they can manage. Additionally, IT professionals may not have experience with certain types of software, hardware or other industry intricacies. Employers could spend years training IT professionals, only to have the employee overwhelmed with knowing a little bit about a lot of facets of IT.

 “You could exhaust that employee,” Doug said. “When you hire a person, they have a certain set of skills. With managed IT, we bring a whole team of experts who have individual knowledge on security, firewalls, antivirus programs, software and hardware.”

With Infomax’s iGuard Managed IT, companies gain access to Infomax’s IT help desk. The help desk frees up the business’ existing IT staff to focus on specific projects instead of pesky password updates and software license renewals. Infomax’s IT team also maintains a company’s software licensing, security and data backup and recovery so IT needs are preventive, not reactive.

Overall, managed IT services can provide a business with a full team of IT experts for one consolidated monthly fee. Managed IT could also give time back to existing IT employees, allowing them to develop in their career while taking away stress.

“IT can be overwhelming for one person,” Doug said. “We can provide that net around an employee, and it allows business owners to know they don’t have their all their eggs in one basket.”

To learn more about our iGuard Managed IT Services, contact us today.

Inside look: Q & A with an Infomax printer technician

At Infomax, we solve our clients’ printing problems as soon as possible. While we have 24/7 remote support, some system snafus are best solved in person. Our technicians travel across the state to get your printer, copier and scanner systems fixed so your employees can get back to work.

Want to know more about how we do it? We sat down with technician Mike Cobb to learn more.

Mike Cobb has been a printer technician with Infomax since 1994.

Q: How long have you been working at Infomax? 

A: I’ve been working with Infomax since January 1994. I’ve seen a lot change with technology since then. In the late 1980s and ‘90s, most office printers were laser models. Now, inkjet has replaced most of the laser printers because they’re less expensive and are better at printing color documents. 

Q: Where did you learn about printer and copier systems?

A: My first job out of college was working on copiers in 1991. I worked at three other dealers in the Cedar Rapids area before I decided to move to Des Moines. 

Q: What are some of your favorite aspects about your job as a technician?

A:  I love traveling and seeing different parts of the state. We travel all through central Iowa and the rest of the state to service systems for our clients. I also love the feeling of fixing a problem and making the customers happy.  

Q: Have you had a challenging moment? 

A: Working on copiers and printers can be very challenging at times when you are stuck on a call and you can’t fix it. And while it can be frustrating, I also love a challenge and the feeling I get when I find a way to fix the problem. 

Q: What is something about your career that might surprise us? 

A: Good customer relation skills are a key to being a good technician. Facing printer and copier system problems aren’t on any business’ to-do list, so when they encounter an issue, it can hold up workflow in an office and cause stress. When I come to their office, I do my best to put them at ease and get them back to work as soon as possible. 

Q: What should business owners and employees know about printer repairs? 

A: Sometimes it takes a bit to find the problem, but a good technician will take it one piece at a time instead of replacing multiple items hoping that something fixes it. We want to fix systems with precision, not guess at what a problem may be. Anyone can turn a screwdriver, but not everyone can fix a customer. We do a great job of fixing all of the customer’s needs. 

Everything You Need to Know About Hosted Communications

When you think of a cloud, are you the type that envisions fluffy white water vapor trapped in the atmosphere? Or do you think of bits of data consisting mostly of old selfies and pictures of your pets whizzing around in a figurative holding space? For many businesses, the cloud means their lifeline to reach customers and operate on a daily basis.

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.

Here are some of the benefits a hosted communications system can bring to your office.

Simplicity
In a hosted communications system, the hardware and carrier services typically connected to a phone system are moved to the cloud, or data systems represented in various areas across the country. The clutter of traditional communication systems disappears. But hosted systems aren’t just for phone services. They encompass video, email, document and chat programs as well. With all those programs in one communications system, businesses have only one vendor that handles regular service and maintenance.

Security
Because the cloud is represented in multiple data centers, sensitive information is continuously stored. Disaster recovery is a cinch, and gone are the days of interrupted work because a phone line went down. Additionally, the data in a hosted communications system is encrypted, protecting against cybercrime.

“The security that we have with hosted communication is second to none,” said Doug Postel, Infomax’s IT director.

Accessibility
Ease of accessibility may be the best feature of a hosted communications system. The system 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. Hosted communications systems are also key for offices that have employees working remotely. Cell phones can be added to communications systems so workers can answer calls outside of the office. If the call is sent to a voicemail, the message is transferred from the individual’s cell phone to the voicemail connected to the hosted communications system. Calls from cell phones through the hosted system also show up on caller ID as the business’ phone number.

“The mobility of the system is a significant benefit,” Doug said. “Very few business owners will tell you, ‘I don’t want to take a call if I’m not in my office.’”

A hosted communications system allows for better office collaboration and businesses are more accessible to customers.

“Chat functions are huge,” Doug said. “It’s vitally important for people to look at their business and say you don’t have to communicate with me the way I want to. As a business, I’ll work with you the way you want to.”

Cost effectiveness
Because hosted phone communications consolidate services, maintenance and hardware, companies have only one monthly fee to one vendor. Additionally, companies get the exact number of channels they need. With traditional phone systems, companies paid for a set number of channels. If they needed to add additional channels, they had to purchase another large set instead of just one or two more channels.

“I don’t have a nickel and dime fee for upkeep or maintenance calls,” Doug said. “With the services that are in the cloud, I pay just for what I need.”

To learn more about how Infomax’s hosted communications systems, call us at 1-800-727-4629.

Document Management Systems: The Filing Cabinet of the Future

Do you remember when businesses first began to use email? It revolutionized how we communicated and conducted business. Workers and customers no longer had to wait days for a response to questions or comments. Employees could share information in seconds, even copy others into an email thread. Spam and junk filters added extra security, ensuring that suspicious emails or unnecessary notices were cleaned out of the inbox.

Businesses have been using email for decades to send and receive notes and documents, but they’re likely using outdated technology to store them. If you’re storing your documents on a single computer drive — or worse, a filing cabinet — you may want to consider a document management system for your company.

Here are some benefits to using a document management system to store, track and manage your regular documents.

Storage

Digitally-archived documents are more visible and easily accessible than files lounging in manila envelopes in filing cabinets, said John McGill, solutions engineer at Infomax. Searching for a document by keywords or dates is much easier electronically in a document management system than leafing through papers. Additionally, if one paper document is damaged or destroyed, your business could lose priceless information for good. Digitally archiving documents through remote storage and automatic backup ensures that disaster won’t destroy them.

Security

Consider how easy it would be to lose a document in the dregs of a filing cabinet or how difficult it would be to keep track of a document multiple people take out of a file. Even if employees store their documents on their individual computers, those files could be destroyed or compromised if a computer is damaged or hacked or if a computer file is deleted.

“If two people work in the same office, only one of us can see the document at the same time in a paper world,” John said. “There also could be documents in an office that not everybody should see. There’s nothing stopping from me from going to that filing cabinet and looking at it.”

With a document management system, you can set permissions so only some employees are able to view documents. The system can also track who checks out or edits a piece.

Forms solutions

Businesses that work directly with customers may benefit from digital forms solutions that allow clients or customers to fill submit forms. The system will then convert forms and input data directly into the company’s management program. The document management system cuts down on clutter and archives forms for future reference.

Digital workflow

Not only do document management systems provide necessary storage and security, they also allow employees an easy system to keep track of tasks. Documents can be edited by different employees and departments. They system will notify another user when the file is ready for their input.

To learn more about our document management system and how it can work for your office, contact us today at 1-800-727-4629.

Why you should back up your data today

No one wants to have a Plan B. Most people spend so much time and energy on the original plan that they don’t consider a backup. However, your business’ sensitive information is too important not to back up in advance. Most businesses have years’ worth of sensitive data, including business, employee, client, financial and tax information, that they can’t afford to have compromised.

The good news is that if you spend a bit of time safeguarding and archiving your company’s data, you’ll spend much less time scrambling for a plan and trying recover your information if the unthinkable does occur. The solution is to schedule regular backups for your company’s important data and documents.

Organizations that still store many of their important files on paper — without a digital archive — clearly face the most risk if natural disaster strikes. However, storm damage can still wipe out digital files, especially if they are stored in the same facility. Findings from FEMA and the United States Small Business Administration indicate that the vast majority of businesses that suffer from a natural disaster fail within the first year or two following the damage. A survey of more than 500 IT professionals by cloud-based backup company Carbonite found that 40 percent of respondents believed their small business would go under permanently if they lost all its files. Worse yet, 58 percent of IT professionals believed they couldn’t handle the loss of any of important data. 

While Mother Nature is unpredictable, cyberattacks can be just as difficult to guard against. About 43 percent of cyberattacks are targeted at small businesses, according to Small Business Trends. The networks that house your company’s information could be compromised through malware. Worse yet, your business could fall prey to ransomware malware, which locks users out of a network until they pay a ransom to hackers. Ransomware attack frequency is growing at about 350 percent annually, according to Cisco. Safeguard your data before an attack occurs.

Even if businesses are lucky enough to escape natural disaster damage and cyberattacks, data files can become corrupted through user or program error. Regularly backing up data ensures that data can easily be restored in the event of data corruption, much the same way as edit history on a document can restore the file.

How often should data be backed up? A proper backup solution program should archive your information multiple times a day. Luckily, Infomax’s iGuard solutions automatically backup your data every 15 minutes, ensuring that your business can recover from almost any emergency situation. Our automatic solution works for your IT professionals. It secures your data to guard against cyberattacks. Additionally, we help your company stay compliant with legal requirements, such as HIPAA, SOX and GLBA. If your data is not breached or lost, you don’t lose yours or clients’ valuable and sensitive information.

To learn more about our backup solutions, contact us at 1-800-727-4629. 

Regular cybersecurity training for employees keeps your business safe

Despite businesses’ best efforts to use encrypted networks, firewalls and other cybersecurity measures, cybercriminals hack millions of networks each year, and cyberattacks are still on the rise. The majority of successful cyberattacks on companies originate through emails. Infomax knows that training employees to recognize cybersecurity threats is a necessity.

Not only is it imperative to protect a business’ confidential data and documents, but protecting against cyberthreats also saves a company’s finances. For instance, ransomware — a type of malicious software or malware that denies user access until a ransom is paid — is forecast to cost U.S. companies and organizations about $11.5 billion in 2019, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

“We can put out lots of safeguards to make the company secure, but it doesn’t matter if employees don’t know what to do,” said Doug Postel, Infomax’s IT director. “In about 80 percent of ransomware cases, it’s not the technology that gets hacked — it’s the person.”

Doug walks us through how to train employees to recognize cyberthreats.

Regular training

Periodic training is key to keeping companies safe from the latest cyberthreats. Cybercriminals are extremely tech savvy, organized and always advancing their tactics. At Infomax, we keep track of trends so our clients don’t have to. We send regular training tips and tests to our iGuard Managed IT services clients so they can keep up to date. Training often includes a video or a timely examination of a recent security breach in the news.

“We look at a breach that’s happened, how to prevent it and what to look out for,” Doug said.  “There are new threats every day. If you’re not in a subscription mode where you’re getting updates to threats constantly, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable.”

Careful downloading

Approximately 92 percent of malware is delivered through email phishing, according to  Verizon’s 2018 Breach Investigations Report. It’s imperative to teach employees about safely receiving and downloading email files. Many companies use filtering systems for emails, but they aren’t 100 percent foolproof, Doug said.

Cisco’s 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report found that in 2017 hackers most often used Microsoft Office formats — such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel — to hide malware. Other files hackers often used included .zip and .jar files, as well as PDFs. As a general rule, employees shouldn’t download any files from an email that they weren’t expecting to receive.

Caution clicking

About 91 percent of cyberattacks originate through phishing emails, according to research by PhishMe. To test employees, Infomax often sends test emails similar to phishing attempts employees could receive. Phishing emails are often sent from email domains that have one or two letters off from a company’s actual email, or the email address will include “.org” or “.net” instead of instead of the accurate domain.

Emails prompt employees to click a link that will take them to an unsecured website or download malware. Some links will mirror accurate website employees frequently visit. The imposter sites prompt employees to sign into their accounts, allowing hackers to gain secure passwords.

Similar to downloading documents, employees should only click on links they were expecting to receive and that they thoroughly inspect, checking email domains and links against past emails they have received. A telltale sign of phishing attempts is that they often try to send recipients into a panic by including an urgent warning. Additionally, it’s always safer to navigate to a website you have previously visited rather than to click on a potentially phony link through an email.

Administrator support

It’s important to have a company culture that reinforces cybersecurity efforts. Business administrators can ask Infomax to train and test employees on cybersecurity efforts. Managers will receive a countback of who has participated in that training.

“If an employee fails a test, it’s a chance for us to reinforce that the error could have cost the company tens of thousands of dollars,” Doug said. “It’s a great chance to provide further training.”

To tighten up your workplace’s security, contact us today.

“We take the headaches off of the business owner,” Doug said.

How managed IT can change your business for the better

When was the last time you or your employer focused on IT support for your company? Maybe you work at a small business that has fewer than 50 employees, none of which include a full-time information technology employee. Perhaps your IT staff is comprised of an unintentional IT team of one or two employees who happen to be tech savvy. Maybe you work at a medium-size company that outsources much of their IT services to multiple vendors: one for system firewalls, one for storage and data backup, another for phone systems and the list goes on. Isn’t it time for your business to be more intentional about your IT support in this world of complex technology?

Many small businesses have made the switched to managed IT services — IT support from a third party — such as ours that provide a variety of services and a team of IT experts. For many reasons, small and medium-sized businesses find managed IT services to be beneficial.

For one, businesses that use managed IT services gain access to a team of professionals who specialize in specific facets of IT, rather than one professional who has to be a jack of all trades. With Infomax’s iGuard Managed IT, clients know that more than 40 professionals with expert-level experiences work for their business. They also don’t have to worry about dealing with three or more vendors for all their IT support.

“What we can bring to the table is consolidation,” said Doug Postel, Infomax’s IT director. “We can give them security in knowing we can take care of the threat mitigation with firewalls, help with policies, phone systems, disaster recovery and backup.”

Another benefit of managed IT services is the cost effectiveness and predictability of expenses. Managed IT services that include a team of professionals often cost a company less than a full-time IT employee. Expenses are predictable because a company can choose their services and plan for the same costs each period. At Infomax, we also work with a company’s existing IT personnel.

“We can take care of that IT person and make sure they have the time and resources to focus on the objectives of the company. We really look at being able to build a support net around them,” Doug said. “We provide businesses IT for a predictable and manageable cost. We’re able to give the business owner peace of mind, and for one flat fee they know everything is taken care of.”

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 staff work with businesses before breaches occur, periodically going over IT priorities. At Infomax, our iGuard Managed IT team even provides our clients with regular security awareness training to ensure employees are up to date on how to keep company data safe.

“For small businesses, we really become a one-stop-shop for their IT support,” Doug said. “For medium-sized businesses, we provide more necessary time and resources for their existing staff.”

If you are interested in managed IT services, contact us today.

The Future of Printing in 2019

The last decade has brought numerous changes in technology and how it affects an office workspace, and the last year of 2010s will be no different. Though consumers often think of how technological advancements affect their computers, many overlook a process they complete daily: printing. We asked Greg Bailey, Infomax’s director of sales, to discuss printing trends in 2019. Here are some of those trends.

Security

Cyberthreats keep pace with the growing number of devices connecting to the internet. All businesses print confidential information, such as employees’ or customers’ personal information, sensitive company data or financial documents. It’s possible for hackers to tap into networks and see documents that are sent to presses. For these reasons, security is going to be one of the biggest demands in the printing industry for years to come, Greg said. Infomax’s printer and document management services provide multiple layers of protection.

Pay-as-you-go models are going to be more popular in coming years so clients have more flexibility in printing and know budgeting costs before they complete a print job. The perk is that businesses and administrators can monitor who is printing and which types of documents are printed. For some of these models, users will sign in before printing or use an ID badge to collect classified documents. Infomax’s print services also track and allow usage-based billing for individual clients, departments or projects so companies know where much of their printing costs originate. Additionally, more printers have document capture services that are adding more security by storing sensitive documents when they are printed. Print-to-voidance — which prevents sensitive documents from being stored on a system after they’re printed — could also gain in popularity. 

Artificial intelligence

Technology continues to advance, no matter the medium or method. Printers are no exception as artificial intelligence enters the industry. AI is generally defined as the ability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior. Though it might sound fanciful, AI technologies are already helping to make printing processes more effective and efficient.

Printers already use AI to automate more routine tasks, freeing up time for employees to work on more strategic work. Some of those routine tasks include direct mail and catalogs, according to Xerox. As more data about mail recipients becomes available, AI can use data to create more relevant content in mailings to specific recipients. Additionally, software allows a printer to optimize document layouts to minimize waste. Data about a printer also can be sent back to manufacturers to compare data to expected performance, determining if software updates or adjustments need to be made. However, the use of AI in the industry is not yet widespread.

“Manufacturers are beginning to use artificial intelligence, but they’re still in the infancy of that,” Greg said. “There are peaks and valleys.”

Flexible format

Though it used to be a luxury, color printing has taken over. Businesses and their clients want the eye-catching visuals that come with color-printed products. And inkjet printers reign supreme in their abilities to create crisp visuals as well as text-based documents. The next few years will also bring a growth in large-format printing that allows marketers to reach a bigger audience through printed banners, stickers and posters. Clients will have easier accessibility to large format printers, such as the Canon Oce Colorado, one of the large-format printers Infomax currently has in the showroom.

Changing technology

Here’s one thing we can always count on: technology will advance. Many businesses want to stay on top of current trends and outfit their offices with updated systems that save money, perform better than previous models and provide more security. That’s why Infomax provides printer leasing options for their clients, and Greg said he only expects that program to gain in popularity. Most clients take advantage of that program and upgrade their presses after a few years.

Call us today to learn more about our printing services at 1-800-727-4629.

Spring cleaning for your networks

Spring cleaning is often associated with cleaning out the sand, salt and other built-up winter soot. However, spring cleaning shouldn’t just be for your home. Most people spend 40 hours a week at work, and even the less physical aspects of an office could use some tender loving care. Consider cleaning up your networks. It’s essential to keeping them secure and running smoothly.

Your networks are the basis on which your business runs. If they aren’t secured, you can lose valuable data to cybercriminals. Our managed IT staff can help you through this process and monitor your security in the future.

Here are a few tips to get started.

Encrypt and secure your wireless network

If you set up your Wi-Fi network years ago, you may be using easily hackable, outdated encryption. The current standard for Wi-Fi protection is Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 — or WPA2. Second, make sure your wireless network has as random of a name as possible, avoiding dictionary words. Seasoned hackers have a list of the top 1000 most common network names with a list of passwords that could likely crack your wireless network. A unique name makes that network more difficult to find. Lastly, create a lengthy password with a mix of letters, symbols and numbers. You’ve likely already been warned about passwords time and again — to much frustration. There’s a reason for that. Get creative and create a password of more than 16 characters for the most protection. Remember, most Wi-Fi devices will store this password, so the aggravation of entering a long, complicated password should be minimized.

File away your old data

Don’t let clutter clog your network and slow it down. File away anything on your network you haven’t touched in the last few months. This is also a great time to organize files into one spot and back them up on a data recovery service. Emails should also be deleted or properly archived. Few things are more overwhelming than a cluttered inbox. While deleting unnecessary correspondence, organize other emails into labeled folders.

Determine space in your bandwidth

As you clean out your network, monitor the space in your bandwidth, which is the amount of data that can be transferred from one point to the next during a given time. As a business grows, it’s possible that its bandwidth may need to as well.

Talk with employees

No matter how secure your network and password are, daily use can still compromise it to cybercriminals. Teach employees about best practices with password creation and teach them how to recognize spam emails and hyperlinks. Additionally, limit access to your company’s critical data to as few people as possible.

Filter network traffic

Give your employees a leg up by filtering the traffic that enters your network. Use pop-up blockers and email filtering services to monitor any suspicious content that could be coming into your network.

Get rid of old devices

Old, unused devices can not only slow down your network, but they can also be a vulnerable access point for cyberthreats. Unplug and properly store or dispose of those unused fax machines, printers, copiers, computers and phones.