The Five Percent Rule: Creating the Perfect Staff Equilibrium

In chemistry, equilibrium is created in acid-base combinations by using the five percent rule. Achieving chemical equilibrium in the products and reactants is akin to reaching an important state of balance. Though most businesses are far removed from the world of chemistry, five percent is still a useful measure to remember when balancing your IT requirements with staffing needs for other departments.

Although the number can fluctuate depending on your company’s focus and unique technology needs, five percent is often an excellent place to start when considering how to allocate personnel to the IT department. To put it in simpler terms, if you have 100 employees, at least five of them should be responsible for the IT needs of your business.

So, where exactly do you start? The first part of building an IT department of any size is to create a plan that accounts for both current needs and future growth. This can usually be done with the help of an IT consulting company or an in-house Chief Technology Officer.

Duties of Information Technology staff encompass a wide range of areas, all of which enable a company to store, receive, and send information. In some companies, the department’s role can include network management, software development, and database administration in addition to overseeing electronic communication tools, such as telephones, internal and external websites, and even email.

IT specialists may also provide technical support to a business or an organization’s employees and train non-technical workers on the business’s information systems. Advanced specialists may design systems and assess the effectiveness of technology resources already in use or new systems that are being implemented.

Additionally, a company’s IT specialists often work with external partners, including consultants, agencies, and vendors to develop the best systems for your business. They must always keep abreast of emerging technologies and how these advancements could be integrated into a business’s current systems.

Staffing for any role can require balancing current requirements with future needs. By incorporating the five percent rule into your staffing strategy, you can keep your company’s technology running smoothly.

What do you do if you only have 10 employees? It’s hard to hire half a person. That’s where outsourcing comes in. Working with an external IT company means that you’ll have a team of people monitoring your account, handling the day-to-day, and helping you achieve your technology goals. In fact, that’s exactly where Amshot comes in – we specialize in working with companies to transform and optimize their IT through Managed Services, Software Consulting, and Web Development. Are you ready to take technology off your plate so you can focus on running the rest of your business? Shoot us an email to set up a consultation and get on track to implementing a technology plan that meets your needs and helps your company – and vision – grow.

Avoiding the Perils of a Bad Backup Plan

One of the world’s largest source-code hubs, GitLab, has spent years building a business that not only caters to small and medium-sized businesses, but also marquee clients including IBM, NASA and Macy’s. In February, however, this powerhouse company almost lost its long list of clients due to a temporary, accidental data loss and a backup failure that took their services offline for several hours.

Fortunately, GitLab was able to correct the problem in a few hours, and in doing so, save many of its customer accounts. This incident could have been avoided with a robust disaster plan and a system that embraces Intelligent Business Continuity (IBC). The IBC standard – along with minimal downtime, cloud protection, redundancy for image-based backups, and minimal risk of corrupted backups or data loss  – is one of the main reasons we choose to partner with Datto when building solutions and data backup plans for our clients.

As GitLab’s experience shows, traditional backup methods, such as tape, disk or online only, are no longer sufficient for most business owners. These methods are unable to recover data quickly, have slower backup speeds, and often store files in only one location, raising the risk for potential theft as well as the consequences of losing data if those files become corrupted. An IBC solution, on the other hand, is a higher standard that ensures data protection, continuity, data security, and instant recovery, all of which help to mitigate downtime.

Here are some good questions to ask when selecting a backup solution for your data.

What risks do traditional methods present? Traditional backup systems carry a high risk of failure due to manual administration. In fact, 58% of downtime is a result of human error.

What common issues does a business face with data backup? Some of the usual backup concerns include accuracy, backup and retrieval times, encryption capability and data security.

What are the advantages of using an IBC data backup solution over traditional methods? There are many advantages to adopting a system with IBC, including a higher level of encryption and data redundancy in several locations and a fully automated backup process, meaning that very little manual management is required. This method also helps businesses avoid risk of downtime from local disasters, as backups are stored in multiple locations on both the local device and the secure cloud.

Why is it important for business owners to find the best backup system? Customer data has become one of the most important assets a business can have, regardless of size. Whether it’s customer names and addresses or confidential files, it is essential that electronic information is stored securely and backed up often.

At Amshot, we realize how vital data is to our clients’ daily operations, which is why we only select the best solutions. If you would like to learn more about our partnership with Datto or are interested in discussing the best solutions for your company’s data backup systems and disaster planning, contact us at 405-418-6282 or consult@amshot.com.

IT Security

The Verdict: Law Firms Should Invest in a Comprehensive IT Plan

Popular culture loves to highlight the hard work that goes into creating a good legal strategy. From “Law and Order”, “Boston Legal”, and more recently “Suits”, viewers get a sneak peek into the client meetings, research and even courtroom performance of law firms. What is not often shown is the work that goes on behind the scenes, especially when it comes to creating a comprehensive information technology plan and securing client data.

Certainly, a well-researched, secure information technology strategy is a necessity for any business. Law firms, however, face a higher bar for security due to the elevated ethical requirement for client confidentiality. While some law firms can support an in-house IT department, many small firms don’t have the resources for this. Fortunately, there are many benefits for outsourcing IT service to an outside vendor, such as a more sophisticated level of security, data storage at multiple sites and greater workplace efficiency.

According to the American Bar Association, there are a few things legal firms should do before designing an IT strategy, including:

Creating high-level policies regarding the privacy and security of firm data. Policies should address the use of encryption, remote access, mobile devices, thumb drives, laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, cloud storage, Web email accounts and social networking sites.

Identifying points of contact with law enforcement, Internet service providers, the communications companies that service the firm and cyber forensic experts.

Working with your IT staff or vendor, conducting third-party vulnerability scans, penetration tests and malware scans. Antivirus software is essential, but it detects only a small percentage of new malware. Specialized services that detect sophisticated attacks may be required.

Performing software code reviews on Web applications and custom code to detect vulnerabilities.

Developing contractual security requirements for outsourcing vendors, cloud providers or other entities that connect to the firm’s network, including notification in the event of a breach.

These are things that we can help you with as we work with you to establish your IT strategy. Further, your IT solutions and software should be tailored to your unique needs – not just your needs as a legal firm, but strategies that further your individual tech goals. At Amshot, we offer a wide range of products and services to help law firms of every size create a robust, customized IT plan to fit their individual needs. A few of the legal sector-specific services we provide are:

  • Capturing of Billables
  • Case Management Software
  • Data Backup
  • Minimize Downtime
  • Mobility
  • Process Efficiencies
  • Stability

To learn more about how we can help your law firm create a strong, consistent IT strategy, contact us here or give us a call at 405-418-6282.

Sam Washburn art

Selecting Cloud Software

“The Cloud.” It isn’t always the easiest concept for people to understand. Where is it? What is it? Is it safe?

Even the most seasoned businessperson may be flummoxed by just how data can be secure when it’s just out there, somewhere. But they shouldn’t be. Business leaders need to be armed with questions when working with an IT consultant and walk away with the facts they need to make an informed decision about cloud software.

Great cloud software can allow a business to be more secure, efficient and effective. When weighing the decision of how to use it, business leaders can drop these questions on vendors to gain more information.

  1. How will you secure our data? Just as the security of your physical location is important, your data storage should be protected vigilantly. Be sure to ask any potential cloud storage vendors what measures they have in place to secure your information. Essential security measures include: Anti-virus detection, data encryption, firewalls, multistep user verification and regular security audits.
  1. Are your data centers protected from theft and natural disasters? Let’s face it, unplanned calamities can happen at anywhere and at any time. A quality cloud storage vendor should not only be prepared to withstand unforeseen events, but also meet industry standards, such as the Statement Standards for Attestation Engagements 16 (SSAE16). To earn SSAE16 approval, a cloud company’s system and data must meet a higher criteria of customer privacy, data center physical security and data redundancy (i.e. data that is stored in several areas).
  1. How easy is the cloud software to use? For smaller businesses without IT staff, it’s important to remember that your chosen cloud system will be installed and used by people at all levels – from novice to professional. If the program is difficult to access or it takes too many steps to store and retrieve information, there can be a negative impact on your staff’s willingness to adopt the new system and overall organizational productivity.
  1. What customer services are offered? Technical problems can arise at any time, even when using the best cloud systems. For this reason, your vendor should have assistance available online or by phone 24 hours a day, every day. The level of assistance is also important, as there are times you may need to interact with a knowledgeable engineer, not a customer service representative following a script.
  1. Are there frequent downtimes in the cloud system? One of the most important benefits to cloud storage is that it enables you and your employees access to needed files from any internet connected device. If your chosen vendor experiences frequent downtimes, it can make it difficult for you to access information when you need it most. Some cloud storage providers will post their downtime history online. However, if yours does not, be sure to ask.

For businesses that need to do more with less, the cloud is a game changer. Understanding the cloud on a basic level allows leaders to make informed decisions about the role it can play in their business. If you’re looking for better insight, more engaged clients, faster innovation, consider exploring cloud solutions to move ahead of your competition.

These are just some highlights on what the cloud offers. Luckily, you don’t have to navigate it alone – at Amshot, we help our clients vet software providers to make sure they’re choosing the right option for their business. We also support software and train users. We look forward to discussing the specific areas where technology will add value to your business. Contact us here to start the conversation.Selecting Cloud Software

Business Leaders’ Guide to Avoiding Hacks

It seems these days that hacker is a job title with a bright future. Take a few extra clicks through the web and you’re bound to read either a story about hacking or the actual information that has been hacked – emails, business financials, personal info, or even your grandma’s secret fruitcake recipe.

In 2017, businesses must go on the defensive to protect their intellectual property, customer data and revenue in an online world which has more and more troublemakers squeezing through the cracks.

And let’s be clear it’s not just governments and corporate giants which are the targets. Businesses on Main Street are too. Small and medium sized businesses, often with not a lot of IT or security resources are becoming juicy targets for the hacking bad guys. According to new data from Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report: “Last year, phishing campaigns targeted small businesses (PDF) 43 percent of the time. That’s up 9 percent over 2014 and a stark contrast to the mere 18 percent of attacks that focused on small businesses in 2011 … Symantec’s report reveals a 55 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in the amount of spear-phishing campaigns that target employees of a business of any size.” (Source) In 2014, Russian hackers (those guys are popular) grabbed customer information from more than 400,000 business websites, getting away with more than 2 billion passwords. And they haven’t slowed down. (Source)

Here are some steps that any business can take in order to make themselves a little less vulnerable against anyone prowling around the web. Remember, the best offense is a good defense.

  1. Define the boundaries for your employees: A few bad clicks on phishing emails or strange web downloads are dangerous moves which could turn your company’s online security into swiss cheese. Educating your employees and creating acceptable use policies for what they should and shouldn’t do on the internet can make a big difference in whether a company network becomes a secret home to malware. Keeping them up with the latest threats will raise everyone’s radar.
  2.  Control the admin keys: Even a small organization can create a hierarchy for who has administrative access to the company’s server, email dashboard and enterprise software. Allowing all employees admin access can create a stew of changes, which can often be traced back to employee making something work for them on their device. “Security policies and mechanisms must be put in place for company data access from personal devices,” said P.J. Gupta, a mobile security expert and the founder and CEO of iPlum to BusinessNewsDaily.com. “Tight control on who has the privileges to run which enterprise apps from which devices helps minimize the risk of data loss or corruption.” (source)
  3.  Treat email differently: Many of the most notorious hacks of the past few years came from people sharing a lot of information in the body of unsecured and non-encrypted emails. If a business is worried about what is being sent over the email transom internally, then training can come first, but an encrypted email service might be next. Services are available which will warn an employee if they are sharing sensitive information like a credit card number or an attachment of client contact information.
  4. Double-check Who’s Logging In: If you are worried someone is going to break down your door, sometimes the best solution is to just have two locks instead of one. Adding an extra step can frustrate and dissuade a bad guy just enough to make them give up and find an easier victim. On the digital side of a business, that more and more often means the addition of Two Factor Authentication. You are seeing this on everything from your bank to your favorite social media platform. Two Factor Authentication means that a password isn’t enough to get you to your data. These extra steps can include a secret piece of knowledge – i.e., “Mother’s maiden name” – or a fingerprint, voice password or PIN.
  5. Verify unusual requests with a real person: Bad guys have begun impersonating employees e-mail addresses to request that co-workers transfer funds to external accounts. This can result in losses of tens of thousands of dollars. If a request for external payment seems unusual, verify with your co-worker via phone or face-to-face.

Those are just a few simple steps a business can take to keep their cybersecurity guard up going into 2017. For more information or assistance contact Amshot at 405-896-8152 or consult@amshot.com.

Amshot Protecting Against Hackes

A Different Way of Introducing Ourselves

If you follow Amshot (and you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this), you may have noticed something new amid our technology- and IT-related posts. To commemorate Amshot’s tremendous growth over the last four years, Oklahoma City-based artist Sam Washburn is developing 40-60 sketches for an Amshot-themed art project whose overall connectivity will be revealed upon completion of the last piece. Each week we’ll reveal another way Amshot helps its clients. Each drawing will stand on its own while contributing to the larger image, just as each of Amshot’s services contributes to the company as a whole. We want to show what makes us unique.

Sam Washburn art

If this sounds a bit unusual, it is. Amshot isn’t your typical managed services company, and the way we celebrate our anniversary shouldn’t be typical, either. Although we have been around since 2004, when our founder, Michael Thomas, began installing wifi hotspots around Norman, we have turned a corner over the last year. We are young as a development company, but we’re growing up quickly. We continue to add developers to our team and are equipped to handle anything we encounter, from a ground-up software project to embedding our developers in clients’ companies to save them the expense and headache of staffing an IT department.

Sam Washburn art

As anyone who has tried to do so knows, recruiting developers and IT professionals is hugely challenging and the market for them is always hypercompetitive. A company first has to find qualified developers and then assess their skills — skills that often difficult for non-developers to assess — or hire a recruiter to find candidates instead. Companies must provide attractive compensation and benefit plans. They must know what they need from these highly technical staffers. And they must do all of this when the unemployment rate for them is less than 1 percent. Let us worry about IT and software development so you can focus on your business’ core activities.

Through this project, Sam sought to add some levity to the serious business of improving and protecting clients precious IT resources. Each piece of his collage will illustrate a small part of Amshot — culturally, professionally and personally. The result will be equal parts Wes Anderson and Where’s Waldo. We’re anxious and excited to see what our highly talented collaborator comes up with.

Sam’s first three installments focus on understanding clients’ businesses and helping to improve them; protecting clients from threats; and helping clients make correct decisions in today’s difficult and confusing environment.

At Amshot, our employees aren’t cogs, and our clients aren’t, either. We hope Sam’s work demonstrates this.

Sam Washburn art

Why You Should Outsource Your IT

Growing businesses face certain universal milestones: seeking outside investment, professionalizing human resources, and, perhaps to the greatest chagrin of business owners, figuring out what the heck to do about information technology.

Does a business bite the bullet and hire an IT manager? Can it afford to hire a good one? How does it even find a qualified person with the shortage in the workforce?

Does a business hire somebody’s brother-in-law who “knows about computers” or that guy who built a website for a friend?

Does a business seek bids on a freelancer website?

If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably started a business. Figuring out what to do about your computing needs seems daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Rather than gambling with your company’s valuable data or hiring a technical staffer you may not need, consider managed IT services.

Managed services close the gap between setting up a single workstation and having an entire department on call. Many can set up a PC or laptop and configuring email or WiFi access. A much greater skill level, however, is required to network machines securely; set up virtual protected networks for secure, remote access; connect mobile devices securely to the network, both at the office and everywhere else; and troubleshoot when something goes wrong.

Business owners typically don’t think much about IT until something goes wrong — and something always goes wrong. Employees download viruses that compromise the system, or the company grows enough that it taxes the IT resources in place. Something will always happen.

We call this the “break-it-fix-it” model of IT management. Rather than plan for security, growth and future IT needs from the beginning, businesses wait for a fire and then call an IT professional to put it out. This is not only costly, as anyone who has had to hire a consultant to respond to an IT-related emergency can attest, but also very inefficient. Just like it makes more sense to keep a room clean rather than wait until it’s filthy, designing your network with future needs in mind will save many headaches years later.

When a business uses managed services, it hands off IT responsibility to firms like ours. When we do our job, our clients not only won’t have to worry about putting out IT-related fires; these emergencies are few and far between because the system will have been set up correctly and meticulously planned.

Outsourcing IT makes sense for many businesses, but there are several things to consider. Typically, businesses outsource tasks that are time-consuming and don’t relate to their core competencies. Potential outsourcing clients should consider what they want, with specific, agreed-upon metrics, and whether the partner is a good fit. Businesses often overlook the need to have a designated person to manage the relationship. To really make outsourcing shine, it’s not enough to hand over the work and forget about it.

Managed IT services have the potential to save money and free up personnel to grow the business. It makes sense for many small to medium-sized businesses. Does it make sense for yours?

Quick tip – HTML signatures for iOS6

iOS6Before iOS6, email signatures on your iPhone/iPad have been limited to just plain text, and one signature for all accounts.

In iOS6 you can add logos, links, and styled text to you email signature. You can also specify different signatures per account.

If you already have an HTML signature that you’d like to use, here is what you need to do:

 

  1. Start by sending yourself an email with the HTML signature in it.
  2. Next, go to your iPhone (or iPad) and open that message.
  3. Tap and hold the signature text.
  4. Select all the text and images of your signature.
  5. Copy the selected block of content.
  6. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Signature
  7. In the text field, tap, hold, and paste your signature.

[box type=”info”] Note: This will copy only plain or styled(bold, italic, or underlined) text, plus images and links. It won’t copy text colors and font sizes.[/box]

If you have multiple accounts on your iPhone be sure to select the “Per Account” field at the top of “Signature”.

[jcolumns]Plain text signatures on 3 email accounts:iOS6 Signature area

[jcol/]For business, something a little more jazzy:20130206-132623.jpg [/jcolumns]

 

I.T. Solutions for the Tush

I.T. problems? We like to solve them, but we have an I.T. issue of our own.

Idle on the Tush

The problem is – Office work is hard on the body!

If you don’t sit at a desk for hours every day, you’re probably scratching your head and saying to yourself, “How can office work and sitting be so bad for you?” Well, it’s not just bad, it’s a serious health issue. Here are a few reasons why.

 

James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D.  Answers the question: What are the risks of sitting too much?

“Researchers have linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including:”

[jcolumns]

  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • increased blood pressure

[jcol/]

  • high blood sugar
  • excess body fat around the waist
  • abnormal cholesterol levels.

[/jcolumns]

Those of us whose jobs require 6 to 8 hours a day sitting at a desk need to perk up your ears and listen to your body. It’s probably telling you that something isn’t right. Are you’re knees stiff when you stand up? Does your backside feel numb? Are your shoulders aching and full of knots? How about your eyes, are they tired of staring at a computer screen? Then it’s time to get UP!

 

 Amshot found a really great solution – tech stlye: It’s called “UP” by Jawbone

“UP is a wristband and app that tracks how you sleep, move and eat—then helps you use that information to feel your best.”

up-by-jawbone-lowres-002One of the features of the wristband is that it lets you know when you have been idle too long. It will vibrate on your wrist, letting you know that you haven’t moved in an hour. So get up, stretch your legs, take a walk, go get some fresh air, MOVE!

All features include:

[jcolumns]

  • Sleep and nap tracking
  • 24/7 activity tracking
  • Food and drink tracking
  • Mood tracking

[jcol/]

  • Insight engine
  • Idle alert
  • Smart alarm
  • 10 day battery

[jcol/]

  • Water resistant design
  • Day and night form tracker
  • Power nap
  • Simple Sync

[/jcolumns]

Amshot Solutions is already using UP and committed to becoming more aware of sitting too long in our office. We think that every desk sitting, computer pounding employee should do the same.

Information found at mayoclinic.com & Jawbone

Break out the Blue Beanies, let’s celebrate web standards.

Today is the 6th Annual International  Blue Beanie Day! Let’s celebrate Web Standards, Best Practices, HTML, CSS, and all the other languages and technologies that make up the fantabulous “WWW” – the Internet!

Web standards guru, Jeffrey Zeldman, wore a blue fuzzy fez on the cover of his book, Designing With Web StandardsWorn on this day, it symbolizes that you support the Web Standards Project and the ongoing effort to wrangle every one else to comply with these standards as well. It also makes a statement that you agree and are willing to design websites using best practices.

“Standards keep the web from fragmenting into tiny fiefdoms best viewed with a particular browser or plug-in only. Web standards keep our content portable and accessible across platforms, devices and operating systems. Each November 30, we celebrate. You wonderful people can help spread the word.”

-Jeffrey Zeldman

I won’t bore you with all the boring, nerdy details of what web standards and best practices are exactly. All you need to know is that it’s all good, but if you really want to find out, have a look at Zeldman’s page. There are a lot of good links to check out.

If you really want to show off your support for web standards,  Take a self-portrait wearing a blue beanie (toque, tuque, cap) and upload it to the Sixth International Blue Beanie Day 2012 – flickr pool! on Flickr.

And maybe Jeffrey will favorite you’re  photo like he did me last year!

janell gets a zeldman favorite

You can also upload your photo to Instagram, and announce it on Twitter using the hashtag #bbd12. For extra fun, add a blue beanie to your social network avatar on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, etc.

Thanks for supporting web standards!

http://www.zeldman.com/bbd/

 

Awesome Video on Oklahoma During 1960-1970