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Ryan Emerick

4 Must-Haves for Your Home Office

Like many of us here at Kite Technology, you likely spend some time working from home and/or have at least several employees working remotely. We have found that having the right home office equipment can make all the difference in empowering users to have a better experience and be more productive when working from home. In this post, we share some of the tools that can enhance the work-from-home experience.

HD Webcam

The first item on this home office list is a high-quality webcam. This simple technology is affordable and easy to use, but it can completely transform your virtual meetings. All team members can benefit immediately from a dedicated camera for their home office setup. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and countless other platforms can use the video input to better connect team members at home during internal calls, significantly increasing the sense of togetherness for a geographically dispersed team. Additionally, using video in meetings with clients or prospects goes a long way in building trust and allows you to pick up on body language you would otherwise miss in a call. Although virtual video meetings are not a replacement for in-person meetings, they certainly are more efficient and a great option to consider when unable to meet in person!

Pricing for webcams varies significantly, but purchasing a better, high-quality webcam is worth the investment as it gets you a higher-quality video recording. Most models are USB-based webcams that will be plug and play with any desktop or laptop workstation. One key point to note is while most laptops do come with basic built-in cameras, the video quality is usually grainy and will not be nearly as good compared to dedicated webcam hardware. In addition, webcam hardware comes with basic built-in microphones to pick up your voice. Depending on the model, some even come with a feature that reduces background noise.

Look for an HD webcam that will record in 1080p resolution inside today’s video meeting tools as a starting point for best results. Some webcams do record in higher resolution, but they will not necessarily provide much of a picture improvement. The other key specification to pay attention to is the video frame rate. Common options range between 30 or 60 frames per second or FPS. The higher the FPS number, the better the footage will be since it directly translates into the overall “smoothness” of the video capture. Finally, consider shopping well-established brands when looking for webcams as these will have the best support across systems and typically fall into the $75-150 price range. Getting a good HD webcam will provide reliable operation and work-from-home benefits for many years to come.

Laptop Docking Station

A docking station is one of the best tools for team members working remotely using a laptop. You can substantially transform your home office experience by using a docking station via a single cable or even an older snap-in-place unit to connect to full-size monitors. Going from a single smaller 13″ – 15.6″ laptop screen to two or even three full-size monitors is a significant boost in user experience and productivity.

As laptops have become thinner and more portable, they come with fewer ports than they used to. Docking stations can provide additional USB ports, full-size ethernet networking ports, and more, allowing for connections to accessories such as printers, webcams, chargers, and more at a moment’s notice, saving time. Plugging the dock into a physical ethernet networking cable will also ensure low latency video calling and downloads for a better work experience. Because you can connect to docking stations with a single cable and easily unplug, your laptop remains fully portable for use at home or in the office.

There are a variety of docking stations on the market, made by many laptop manufacturers and 3rd parties. Price can range quite a bit depending on the feature set and capabilities. It is essential to ensure compatibility with your specific laptop model. When shopping for a good solution, we recommend a USB-C-based dock to communicate and charge newer laptops as this is the best option for most home office uses. There are also thunderbolt docking stations for more advanced computers and applications. Either way, having a dock will substantially improve the work-from-home experience.

Sound Bar or Computer Speakers

Another solution you can purchase that can substantially enhance your home office is speakers for your desktop or laptop. This small addition can really level up your experience at home. Speakers can help your meetings or training videos have better audio and improve the quality of your IP Phone system calls. If you choose to do so, you can even play background music while working to make for a more relaxing office experience. The list of uses is infinite!

Larger desk speakers plug into the wall and use an auxiliary connection; however, even a bluetooth or USB-powered sound bar will provide ample audio volume for more compact home working spaces. Since desktop workstations do not come with built-in speakers and monitors are also increasingly omitting speakers, dedicated sound devices are becoming critical to success at home, so make sure that you have a set of speakers on your shopping list! You may even already have a device sitting around the house that can be connected and used as a speaker.

UPS Battery Backup

The last item to add to your home office wish list is battery backup. Power outages can occur at any time taking your internet connection offline, unexpectedly powering down your PC, or even causing damage if a power surge occurs. Being prepared for a quick flicker or prolonged downtime is key to staying productive in your home office. You can use a UPS battery backup for desktops specifically to plug in a computer, monitors, desk phone at home, and more. You can even connect your internet modem and Wi-Fi access point to keep them online.

These UPS battery packs are quite affordable, ranging from $100 – $250 and providing selectable power ranges. More expensive models have larger batteries which can help power gear for longer. Higher-end units also come with monitoring software and even display screens indicating how long the unit will be operational. Having office electronics connected to a UPS will ensure that the expensive equipment used every day is protected since these units also serve as surge protectors. They will sacrifice themselves and internal fuses instead of letting an overcurrent event fry sensitive electronics plugged into them. As an insurance policy at home, it is well worth putting one on your home office list if you spend any time working beyond the office walls.

If some or all of these tools would be helpful to your or your team members’ home office setup, connect with the IT experts at Kite Technology Group. We can help your business leverage technology solutions like those mentioned above to create a more productive and effective work-from-home experience. Our team can evaluate your needs and help your business implement powerful remote work strategies that enhance team collaboration and drive business success. Contact us today to learn more!

Ryan Emerick

Ryan Emerick

Client Experience Manager
Kite Technology Group

Understanding Redundant Internet Connections

A reliable internet connection is critical to the productivity of most businesses today. Without it, your employees cannot work, teams cannot be productive, and you may be unable to serve your clients. An internet outage or disruption can cost your business hundreds if not thousands of dollars for every minute offline. With mission-critical systems such as phones, email, and work applications living in the cloud, losing internet connection is like losing electricity.

When there is an internet outage, there is little that you can do until the Internet Service Provider (ISP) brings their connection back online. Waiting for the ISP to solve the issue can be highly frustrating for you, your employees, and customers as your ability to serve them is affected. That is where having a redundant internet connection comes in – it minimizes the impact that internet disruptions can have on running your business and serving your clients.

What is Redundant Internet?

Redundant internet is a second internet provider link that allows a company to continue working if one connection point experiences interruption. Also known as a failover internet connection, redundant circuits ensure that there is no single point of failure in the connection path to the web. Think of a redundant circuit as a backup generator that can power on at a moment’s notice and keep email and data flowing without skipping a beat.

Your IT provider can configure a redundant connection in different ways depending on your most essential business systems. For example, suppose calls are the primary tool for conducting business. In that case, your IT Provider can set up IP (Internet Protocol) Phone systems to always operate based on the redundant link.

What is Needed for Redundant Internet?

When planning for a redundant internet connection, the main requirement is getting 2 unique ISPs at the desired location. Using different ISPs gives the best chance for continued internet uptime and operation. In the event one ISP experiences a problem, the other service should be unaffected.

Another requirement is a firewall capable of automatic failover.  Finally, you will also need the proper system configuration to respond to network outages. An IT Provider like Kite Technology can make recommendations on developing a suitable redundant internet solution to meet your business needs.

Types of Internet Connections

Internet connections come in several types and price points and redundancy occurs when you have two or more active connections. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Cable internet service providers use coaxial connections to deliver service and are the most common and widespread option. Cable internet can provide high speed at the lowest price points. Often, Cable service is delivered across aging infrastructure which may present occasional service outages.  Another concern with Cable service is that it is normally shared access, meaning the users in a geographic area (neighborhood) are sharing the bandwidth, and significant usage in that area will impact the speed available to others in that same area.  
  2. Fiber-based internet is another strong option to consider. Fiber provides some of the highest speeds for businesses and is becoming more cost competitive. Fiber provides a dedicated service that is not impacted by the activity of neighboring users, and for the most part Fiber is delivered on fairly new infrastructure which has significantly better uptime.
  3. Dedicated access internet circuits were previously the gold standard with names like T1 and EOC. Those copper-based services provided great stable connections with solid uptime, but are being depreciated in favor of fiber based direct connections.
  4. Wireless point-to-point internet access or mobile 5G solutions are also coming into the market. The major carriers like Verizon, and T-Mobile and even new startups like StarLink are significantly improving the wireless access to the internet. These are both residential and business class services and work well for rural and other areas not in reach of the classic copper and fiber services.

Is Redundant Internet Right for Your Business?

If you rely on the internet to get your work done and service your clients, a redundant connection is strongly advised. A failover connection could pay for itself several times over in the event of a single period of downtime. Hours or days of productivity could be lost if the internet goes down, which has a significant impact on the bottom line. Technical issues, construction, natural or building level disasters at an Internet Service Provider are just a few of the threats beyond your control. Having a redundant internet connection is a best next step to keep critical data constantly flowing.

Here at KiteTech, we continually monitor and test emerging technologies for the benefit of our clients. We take pride in helping our clients leverage technology like redundant internet access to help them operate more effectively and securely. If you would like to learn more about how our IT Services can help you improve your business performance, please reach out. We’re here to help!

Ryan Emerick

Ryan Emerick

Client Experience Manager
Kite Technology Group

Benefits of Software Subscription Services

Businesses and users today have more options than ever when selecting the right computer software for their needs. Fifteen years ago, perpetual software licenses were the only way to purchase the programs that you needed. With the dramatic increase in connected and cloud-based devices, subscription software licensing or Software as a Service (SaaS) has dramatically changed the computing landscape. Here are some ways that subscription-based programs differ from perpetual purchased ones and how making the change can benefit your business.

Cost

It may come as a surprise, but subscription versions of software can often have a lower upfront cost and a lower total cost than traditional licenses. Instead of spending more than $300 upfront to install a program, subscriptions are priced monthly and end up saving you a significant amount of cash flow due to their structure. Shifting from massive Capital Expense upgrades towards a lower monthly operating expense allows for increased flexibility and lower risk for your company. Also, suppose you no longer are using the program or want to upgrade to a different version. Subscription models allow for the easy cancellation of your access, which can provide significant savings and flexibility. Finally, this incentivizes companies to offer a great product to avoid having users cancel their subscription to the service. This means that they are willing to provide discounts or superior service compared to a one-time purchase program where you have already spent your hard-earned money.

Infrastructure

Maintaining a local infrastructure to run applications or manage software versions and keys can be a massive headache for any organization. The decision to upgrade an email or file server compared with moving to a cloud subscription for the services involves a considerable upfront cost of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the significant added complexity of running locally based systems. Vendors like Microsoft, Adobe, Dropbox, and countless others have designed their latest programs to be managed and hosted in the cloud as a part of their monthly fee. This enables subscription software to cost significantly less money and time to manage day to day since you are not responsible for the hardware running things. It also ensures workers can always get to the information they need without downtime, making companies more efficient in what they do day-to-day.

Security

Securing company and customer data is more critical than ever in a technology-driven world. Subscription software allows vendors to quickly patch vulnerabilities as well as alert users of security concerns. With the threat landscape evolving every day, purchasing a perpetual version of a program means that it can easily become exploited or compromised during the period you plan on using the software. Older versions of Microsoft Windows and other common programs become “unsupported” as they age since they no longer receive security fixes. This leaves customers who have paid left behind when it comes to compliance and regulatory laws, not to mention the additional

spend and hassle of purchasing a secure current version of the program they may already own. What a hassle!

Feature Updates

In addition to the patches along the way, subscription software is designed to automatically provide users with the latest innovations and features that developers create. Over several years of paying for a program service, there are often hundreds of improvements that come out: Faster performance, more customization options, improved integrations with other programs, updated visuals. These are just some of the benefits of paying monthly for the key line-of-business applications used heavily every day. Just like smartphone updates to the operating system or your installed applications improve how they operate, paying for the subscription version of a program keeps you working on the latest and greatest that the programmers have to offer- providing you with a better overall user experience and improved efficiency and productivity.

Vendor Support

Finally, we get to vendor support for a product as it relates to computer programs. When you have a question about an application or need help with an issue like application bugs or incompatibility problems, one of the key options for resolving these issues is to contact the vendor directly. Unlike traditional single purchase software with a finite lifecycle, subscription services include product support so that you can contact the vendor directly for help. When you have a question, it will be much easier to reach the right vendor resource to assist. On the other hand, traditional software packages have restrictions, “End of Support” dates, and support contracts that are often sold as separate add-ons to the product suite, costing you extra cash up front. This results in limitations to how long you can use the program and a less than ideal help experience when you run into problems and call tech support- not a good situation when you’re relying on this software to work efficiently every day.

As the software industry evolves, the antiquated single purchase licensing model holds less appeal than ever for today’s organizations. How can a program bought 5+ years ago support security requirements, cloud demands of a decentralized workforce, and a continually changing technology landscape? The resounding answer is that it simply cannot. Software Subscription Services are here to stay, and there are more benefits than ever to making the switch today.

Identifying Wire and Payment Fraud

Within all types of businesses, payment frauds pose a serious risk to your bottom line. Attacks related to wire transfer or email and invoice phishing are on the rise as hackers look for an easy method to get payment from unsuspecting victims. In addition to mistaken payment to these cyber-criminals, fake invoices are the #1 disguise for distributing malware programs involved in ransomware and other system compromises. Here at KiteTech, we have seen a measurable increase in the number of fake payment requests sent out by scammers. In the age of working from home for a larger number of users, ensuring payment reaches only legitimate vendors is an area of critical importance to organizations of all sizes. Here are some ways to help recognize this type of fraud and stop it before it occurs.

1. Is the Source Legitimate?

Be suspicious if you are asked to pay or update information. Phishing emails with invoice or payment information requests may look like they’re from a company you know or trust. They may look like they’re from a bank, a credit card company, a social networking site, an online payment website or app, or an online store. The logo and headers are often copped from a real vendor but this can be spoofed so that it actually redirects to a malicious location looking to steal your data and payment.

2. Are You Expecting a Bill?

Fake invoice scams take advantage of the fact that the person paying the bill may not know whether any product or service has actually been purchased. Instead of confirming with the vendor directly or a knowledgeable coworker, recipients either quickly make decisions about requested payments and often go ahead with payment to a false vendor. If you are not expecting a bill or are unsure of the reason for payment, it is always better to get confirmation and full knowledge of the origination instead of making an assumption and approving a transfer.

3. Is it Accurate?

Often wire fraud and invoice fakes use an address very similar to a legitimate resource with a few letters or numbers switched in their website or information. Carefully review the URL and domain of any digital payment to check for discrepancies. In addition, payment based scams often fail to clearly state what the bill is for. If unsure of the validity, it is always best to call the company in question directly in order to ensure that the invoice originated with a real organization and not a criminal.

4. What Payment Method is Being Requested?

It is important to not provide ACH / Wire transfer information in any case where a request is suspect. The FBI reports that over $3.5 billion in losses occurred in 2019 alone related to phishing and cyber-crime payments. If the sender claims that there has been a change in the payment method, check how previous invoices were issued. Were they by regular mail, email, or another method? Were previous payments done via credit card, but now they want you to make a bank transfer? While credit card fraud is also very serious and users should take care with providing this information, a bank transfer is much more difficult to trace and recover lost payment from. Criminals are getting more sophisticated in their methods and the ways that they request payment fraudulently. Wire Transfer fraud is estimated to be the fastest-growing form of cybercrime in the U.S. with a 480% uptick in reported complaints between 2017 and 2016 alone. The best way to prevent losses is to call and verbally approve all Wire and Bank transfer charges with the authorized parties inside of your organization and within the vendor requesting payment. Taking the time to diligently verify payment requests as they are made is well worth the time investment to protect your business.

With wire and payment fraud being on the rise, it’s more important than ever to make it a priority to educate your employees so that they will be able to recognize and avoid these and other types of attacks. Implementing a company-wide Security Awareness Program that trains and tests your employees’ ability to recognize cyber-attacks is strongly recommended. Contact us today, to learn how Kite Technology can help you implement an effective Security Awareness Program in your organization.

adam atwell

Adam Atwell

Cloud solutions architect

Adam is passionate about consulting with organizations across the country to help them develop and execute a cloud adoption strategy that meets their business needs and future objectives. Adam oversees and manages our company strategy for Microsoft 365 adoption and is responsible for future growth and development inside Microsoft 365 and other cloud technologies.