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Capstone Works, Inc. Blog

Capstone Works, Inc. has been serving the Cedar Park area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

A Salute to System Administrators Everywhere

team workIf you’re a business owner who made it through quarantine thanks to your Managed Service Provider (MSP), there’s no better time to put your hands together for the IT professionals who kept your team in touch for the past few months. Friday, July 31, 2020, marks the annual System Administrator Appreciation Day. To celebrate, we are dropping a friendly reminder of all the ways outsourcing your IT to an MSP full of technology experts helps companies save money.

Improved adaptability

If our recent pandemic hasn’t made it abundantly clear, businesses can survive or perish based on their ability to adapt to the unexpected. When your company partners with an MSP to manage its systems, you can make decisions with the confidence that they will be implemented quickly. Adjustments that would require hours of training and research are now squarely in the hands of experts who are equipped deliver what you need.

Need to shift more of your workforce to the cloud? A team of IT professionals is on deck to jump in and make sure that transition is seamless. Need to move into a new office in a hurry? Your new conference room will be ready to go before you even step through the door.

In the end, being able to quickly shift directions while having tech-savvy experts assess upfront what the costs are will allow you to better budget these crucial decisions and save your business time and money.

Better vendor relationships

Being able to adjust and choose your technological systems wisely isn’t just a matter of having the right knowledge. If you’re handling IT on your own, you’ll need to develop relationships with technology vendors, manage the contracts and pricing structures that come with their services, and nurture those relationships, so you’re always up to date. When you add an MSP team to the mix, they act as a neutral partner who can manage those relationships with objectivity and make sure you’re only paying for what you use. Inserting an expert eye into this process streamlines your vendor relationships, allows you to control costs, and lets you shift your attention to more pressing matters, once again improving your bottom line.

Reduced risk

Of course, the most glaring risk for any company dealing with technology is getting hacked. Data breaches cost companies $200,000 on average, according to a 2019 report. Using an MSP boosts your security profile by adding a team whose primary focus is making sure your systems are secure and that your employees are aware of the latest risks. But the benefits of an MSP do not stop there. Nowadays, almost every transfer of data is subject to government legislation. Whether your company needs to manage and document compliance with HIPAA, DFARS, or FINRA, your MSP can guide you through these tricky regulations, so you don’t end up paying hefty fines.

Is your system running smoothly as you transition back to the office? If you feel the need to minimize costs and focus your energy on picking up steam again, now is the perfect time to hand off your IT duties to a team of dedicated technology professionals. Contact Capstone Works today to find out all the ways we can streamline your systems and save you money!

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The Remote Worker's Blues: Why is 'Zoom Fatigue' Zapping all Your Energy?

Although many of us thought we'd never tire of skipping our morning commutes and sipping tea in our home offices, it seems a new form of exhaustion is setting in. Known as "Zoom Fatigue," it's a special type of tired, requiring no physical exertion, to send you into a deflated funk. So, what's so taxing about merely looking at a screen all day? Several factors may be playing a role.

Why it Happens

There are many reasons why mental stress seeps in after sitting through fifteen Skype calls a day. Some of the odd anxiety and exhaustion inducing reasons you might be feeling more tired than usual are:

You See Faces in Your Sleep – Most team meeting apps provide only two ways to view your co-workers: Either a daunting block of mini mouths and eyes or one giant talking head. And, as it turns out, neither of these is particularly easy on the brain. Staring at everyone at once during a meeting is an unnatural shift in perspective that makes your mind work overtime, trying to process all those facial expressions at once. Alternatively, one giant face is off-putting because, well – when are you ever 10 inches away from the tip of Carol from accounting's nose? The result is subconscious mental stress that arises from feeling like you are either constantly in "performer mode" or always part of a weirdly intimate talk.

Zoom Silence is Deafening – Ever notice your heart skip a beat when no one says anything on a Zoom call? That's because silence on a video-conferencing app is usually associated with technical difficulties. Essentially, every time someone takes a natural pause during speech, they stress everyone else out. No pressure!

Everything is a "Meeting" Now – Whereas previously you might have popped into someone's office to give them a quick update on where a project stands or check-in about a small detail you misunderstood, these brief interactions now require more computer time by forcing you to go back and forth on an e-mail thread, engage in a chat, or request a full-blown "meeting."

What Do You Wear to A Zoom? – Working in the office for most of your adult life, you know what work attire looks like. But when you work from home during a pandemic, dressing appropriately requires more brainpower. The anxiety of appearing onscreen in front of everyone and not knowing whether they all will be still in their pajamas or dressed for the Met Gala can leave you hemming and hawing for way too long over your appearance.

How to Fight It

So how do we combat the exhausting enemy? Here are a few methods to reduce some of the stress:

Check-In – Ask if anyone needs a break. Make sure you're not scheduling too many calls to close together. Be kind to each other. Just because we're all at home doesn't automatically mean we feel at home.

Ask for What You Need – Similarly, if you need to skip a call because your brain is fried, don't hesitate to ask. If you need everyone to be on mute while you give your presentation to limit distractions, make it known. Your typical social and facial cues may not get the job done in this new setting.

Get Comfortable – If employees need to stare at the floor or want to hold their cat while they work, don't take it as a sign of inattentiveness or disrespect. When you're on back-to-back calls and had to homeschool your child for two hours last night, finding personal ways to get in your comfort zone is a must to stay sane and focused.

Reduce Distractions – Cut down on multitasking and isolate yourself from family or friend-related stress while at work, if possible. Close open tabs. Shut your door. Do one thing at a time. Staring at fifteen over-zoomed co-workers dressed in pajamas hugging their cats is hard enough work as it is!

Give yourself a break - Set a timer to remind you to get in some steps, stretch your body, practice meditation, and hydrate.

If your team is struggling with "Zoom Fatigue," call Capstone Works to discuss remote workforce management, configuration, and collaboration tools to increase productivity and reduce stress.

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Remote Work - our new best friend

Well sometimes we need to re-think our best practices and COVID-19 has forced us all to explore new ways to work, communicate, and manage.  We've been a Microsoft partner and Microsoft Teams user for many years now, but I underestimated how Microsoft Teams would be used to manage and lead a remote workforce in this uncertain world.

As we moved to a 100% remote workforce on March 9th, we did so with full confidence in our Business Continuity Plan, being able to maintain 100% of our service delivery without needing our physical office space.  But even I'm surprised at how well the team can communicate and deliver services from their homes!  With a combination of VoIP telephone, Microsoft Teams, and a VPN to our network, each team member can continue to engage and resolve client issues!  This includes handling proactive maintenance and communicating with clients via email, company desk phone, AND video calls/meetings. We've fully serving every need our Client's have encountered while navigating this new and exciting (OK scary) business situation.

This transition has I'm sure raised several though questions for you and your staff as well. However, we've found that we need access to 6 things to seamlessly work "together" while apart.

  1. Well managed VoIP telephony - allowing for our phone tree to remain the same, outbound calls to come from our phone numbers, and provide a transparent Client experience.
  2. A secure team virtual meeting tool, like Microsoft Teams, allowing for chat, file-sharing, face-to-face meetings, and collaboration.
  3. Cloud services or VPN access to on-premise servers giving a remote work experience identical to being in the office.
  4. Regular team "huddles" (daily all-hands check-ins) to chat, maintain interpersonal connections, and define priorities for each day.
  5. Weekly public acknowledgment of individual contributions; we use a Microsoft Teams based peer review system and keep our eyes open for "great job" acknowledgments.
  6. Metrics and performance KPIs to keep individual performance and contribution visible.

Your list may vary, but in combination with our culture and tools, we've found remote work to be more productive, more organized, and nearly as interactive as in-person work.  Many of these success factors depended heavily on technology.  Each of our clients faced similar but unique challenges in adjusting to a full or part-time remote workforce. An existing relationship with a prepared, forward-thinking Managed IT Service firm helped them be nimble and quickly react to changing conditions with little to no impact on overall productivity in the face of perhaps the biggest threat to all businesses in our community in my lifetime.  I'm proud of the accomplishments of my team, and the positive impact we've each had in assisting our many clients in navigating these waters of transition.

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How Managed IT is Helping Businesses Stay Healthy, Prepared, and Informed Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty about what lays ahead, one aspect of our future couldn't be more apparent: the remote workforce is here to stay. As states move to reopen portions of their economies, we all need to be prepared to move back and forth between a traditional office setting and a home office setting as the situation in our communities’ changes over time. It was always a matter of when - and not if, but social distancing measures have quickly made cloud computing solutions and mobile workstations essential technologies for every business. And with companies scrambling to implement massive operational changes with very little notice, the advantages of using Managed IT Services have never been clearer.

Managed IT helps businesses stay healthy

Currently, by helping companies implement the latest solutions in order to work remotely, Managed Service Providers (MSP) have assisted in slowing the spread of the virus by:

  • creating completely mobile workforces that can relocate to the safest or most comfortable locations in order to stay in place for the long haul,
  • allowing any infected employees to easily self-isolate while leaving their work accessible to other team members,
  • mitigating the possibility that office buildings will be contamination zones when social distancing rules are eventually eased.

Managed IT helps businesses stay prepared

No business could have been able to anticipate the stark shift that was headed their way when the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the global economy. But companies with outsourced IT enjoy the ability to scale quickly and, even more crucial, determine what these changes will cost ahead of time. No need to panic if you need to add infrastructure or implement new technologies in a hurry; simply talk with your service provider and the process is in motion. At a time where uncertainty rules the day, this added flexibility is an unbelievable asset.

Managed IT helps businesses stay informed

Business leaders have a lot on their plates and no one can fault the CEO of a growing business for not being an expert on the latest advanced obfuscation techniques hackers are using, but when a company is suddenly forced to reorganize its entire operational workflow, it's imperative to have a dedicated team of experts making sure you're using the latest cybersecurity protections and are staying in compliance with relevant regulations like FISMA, HIPAA, or GDPR. Amid massive uncertainty, MSPs have enabled leaders to remain focused on the aspects of their business they know best, while still staying informed and up to date.

With businesses starting to open in the next few weeks or months, those companies that have been working with a Managed IT Service Provider will also undoubtedly be healthier, more flexible, and better prepared to face whatever challenges may lay ahead. With a holistic approach to IT services, MSPs like Capstone Works help businesses maintain a higher standard of IT preparedness than most companies would be able to achieve in-house. If you're looking for assistance with your IT issues, contact Capstone Works today.

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BYOD Management Part 1

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies are here to stay. The flexibility, familiarity, and increased productivity that personal devices provide has forced companies to adapt to this workplace revolution in a hurry. Yet many companies are still struggling to strike the right balance between personal freedom and corporate responsibility. In part one of our two-part article, we'll detail a six-step plan for developing the strategy and policy necessary to manage BYOD effectively.

Gather Your Team

Don't go this alone. As you begin making a detailed plan for allowing the use of personal devices, get your employees involved, and keep in mind, the more the merrier. You want as much feedback, input, and honesty as you can handle. Taking the time to wade through everyone's concerns is the best way to get the full picture. You need to determine how much freedom your employees are expecting, what your IT department can handle, and any concerns your legal department might have so everyone has raised red flags before issues arise. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a BYOD policy so you'll need to restructure your management style to fit the employees you have, the systems you use, and the regulatory requirements your company must meet. The goal is to create a strategy that doesn't compromise data security yet still satisfies your employees.

Think Long Term

The goal of your company is to grow, so when developing a BYOD policy, don't be reactive, be proactive. Ensure that, as you design your solutions, they can support a greater number of devices or users when needed. Make sure your policies won't need to be rewritten every time a new sub-contractor is hired, or a new technology emerges. Today your employees have cell phones and tablets, in a few years (or months) they might be keen on wearables or smart desks. Ideally, you want to be endpoint independent in your approach so you can quickly adapt to innovative new devices and emerging platforms.

Assess Risk and Assign Access

Now that you have an overview, it's time to decide the details of how you'll protect your sensitive data.

Start by deciding which devices are acceptable within your company. You'll accomplish this by weighing a combination of factors including what devices or apps your employees are already using (another great reason to check in with your staff before designing your policies), and which types can be easily monitored going forward. Create a list of acceptable devices and applications and be specific. A "choose your own device" model where employees select from a list of acceptable devices can help bridge the gap between secure options and personal preference.

Also, decide what sets of data you'll allow to be transmitted on BYOD devices. An effective way of doing this is by adopting the principle of least privilege. This principle restricts access so users can only use the exact data and software required to do their job. In addition, implement multi-factor authentication to make sure you’re putting as many barriers between hackers and your company data as possible.

If you feel you need assistance from top-level experts, contracting a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can also help. Using an MSP like Capstone Works simplifies the process by having dedicated IT experts who can quickly assess your situation and create customized BYOD policies for your business. Contact Capstone Works today to learn more about how we can help.

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(512) 343-8891 x2

715 Discovery Blvd
Suite 101

Cedar Park, Texas 78613