SharePoint for Success

Why your business should be using Microsoft SharePoint

Communication amongst coworkers shouldn’t require a trip down the hall. Teamwork shouldn’t mean mile-long email threads. And project management shouldn’t involve searching through files for the latest version. If these are issues you’re facing at work, you need Microsoft SharePoint.

Here at amshot, we understand that collaboration is a major key to business success. Microsoft SharePoint offers document sharing and project management tools that streamline communication. But, that’s just scratching the surface. Keep reading to learn more about SharePoint and what it can do for your business.

What is Microsoft SharePoint?

If you searched for Microsoft SharePoint on Google, you’d find a few different definitions and a lot of technical jargon. But, we hate sounding like robots. In plain English, Microsoft SharePoint is a collaborative server environment that enables document and data sharing within a company. Typically, SharePoint is set up as a series of intranet sites. Each site corresponds to a different department within the company. Now, onto the specifics.

SharePoint can be broken down into three primary components. Each one contributes unique functions and builds upon the previous element:

  1. Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) provides basic functionality. This includes user access to versioning, email alerts, and shared calendars.
  2. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) builds upon the WSS foundation to produce SharePoint’s interactive functionality. Allowing users to employ a wide range of applications to use in different business scenarios. This includes (but is not limited to) Collaboration, Documents Management, Records Management, Workflow, and Personalization.
  3. Microsoft Search Server is an Enterprise Search engine that offers in-depth indexing and searching capabilities within your intranet site. This can be integrated into a MOSS Web-based interface.

Get Better Business Results

SharePoint provides many advantages when it comes to optimizing your operations. As a provider of customized SharePoint sites, we make it our business to stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Here are some of our favorite features and how they can benefit your business:

  • Versioning saves you time & money.
    Never waste time searching for the latest version when you could be working. SharePoint automatically keeps a version history of all documents and data in the system. Have you ever accidentally deleted part of a project? With SharePoint, you’ll stay stress-free because you can revert projects to an earlier draft at any time.
  • Easy to use.
    Role-based access keeps your team on task. User permissions allow you to decide who sees what and can be edited at any point. With 7+ compliance standards met out-of-the-box, SharePoint makes it easy to get your intranet started. Plus, designated users can have access to modify the site and further encrypt sensitive data.
  • Unmatched reliability.
    Not only is SharePoint user-friendly, but it also boasts a financially-backed 99.9% SLA (Service Level Agreement). This means users are guaranteed reliability and quick uptime from their intranets. Also, Microsoft takes several security measures to ensure user data protection, which includes: data encryption, regular backups, customer-selected regional data location, identity protection, not disclosing data center locations, and signing the Data Protection Agreement.
  • Stay ALERT!
    Keep your teams informed on the latest project developments. SharePoint lets business leaders manage alerts for their employees. And with the right user permissions, end-users can handle their own. Set alerts for calendar events, new uploads, document/data modification, and more.

Customizing with Care

At amshot, our team has extensive experience in creating and deploying SharePoint intranet sites. Even more, our software development team can customize it to suit your needs. We will build it to your specifications, down to fonts, colors, photos, permissions, and the widgets that are included on the site.

Microsoft SharePoint is a great tool to manage your company’s workflow and streamline collaboration. It can increase productivity and eliminate clutter in project management. To learn more about how amshot helps you put SharePoint into action, contact us for a free consultation.

Can Lawyers Handle the Truth?

Forget the filing cabinets and invest in the benefits and innovations in legal technology

 

Technology is changing the culture of the legal system. Before a reliable alternative was available, lawyers were toting around bags filled with hundreds of sheets of paper— but with the customizable software and accessible technology available today, it is time for the legal industry to upgrade their technology.

As masters of IT and software development, we like to understand all things tech, and our clients in the legal industry have allowed us to gain valuable insight about attorney’s technology needs. We know that protecting your documents, communicating via secure channels, and tracking billables in an easy, manageable way are all important aspects of your profession. Let’s talk about how amshot can streamline your legal workflow.

EVIDENTIARY SUPPORT

Technology has increased productivity in the workplace, and that applies to law firms, courthouses, and cubicles too. In the recent past, legal technology has replaced the filing cabinets filled to the brim with paper and provided a way to simplify the life of a lawyer. Here are just a few more advantages to utilizing technology in the legal industry.

  • Ditch the bulky briefcase. When you utilize digital case management software and data storage services, there is no need to dig through filing cabinets to find that one document you had in your hand the other day…
  • In the business of billables. Keeping track of all the time and energy put into a case can be difficult on a spreadsheet. amshot specializes in custom software to save you time and keep your billables error-free.
  • No eavesdropping. Speaking with your clients in secure channels is a crucial part of the legal industry. Upgrade your whispered asides to secure communication and document sharing 24/7.
  • Discovery made simple. Leading up to a trial, lawyers handle tons of documents and read countless amounts of relevant information. Instead of sifting through stacks of paper, how about a custom-built database where everything is a simple search away?
  • Minimize malpractice. Most legal malpractice claims are due to errors that could be solved by simply using technology. Digital docket management, data back-ups, document security, and software that handles all mathematical calculations are all easier than trying to follow a paper trail to prove due diligence.
  • Free time. This is a concept that most lawyers are unfamiliar with, but the benefits are obvious. Instead of spending time doing tasks that legal tech could do in seconds, new-found time provides the ability to achieve efficiencies and promote professional development around the office.

SETTING A PRECEDENT

While the law might not change on a daily basis, technology does. At amshot, we are always up-to-date on the latest and greatest in legal technology to make sure our clients only operate with the best tech available. Some things come and go, but here are a few trends we will be watching this year.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI will have the ability to assist with things such as contextual analysis, predicting legal outcomes, proactive analysis of data that will lead to litigation prevention, and contract/legal document analysis. Although AI could significantly help your law firm, it has been reported that around 66% of law firms do not use it. It is normal to have your guard up when it comes to new technological advances, but AI is looking very promising.
  • Legal Project Management Software: With the rise of formal legal operations within corporations, legal processes need to be considered business processes. Legal project management software provides one place for all cases and teams. This software will give you the ability to talk to teammates, mark tasks and deadlines, and keep organized—losing the paper and pen method and saving a lot of time.
  • Unified Platforms: In the past, the best-of-breed e-discovery approach was the popular system. However, this trend will start to vanish in the future. Unified platforms are more efficient, more productive, less costly, and less risky.

It’s time to hop on the technology train, lawyers. The benefits of a technology upgrade would impact your day-to-day routine as well as your bottom line. If your firm is interested to see what legal technology could do for your office, see what amshot can do to help by scheduling a free consultation.

Buy It or Customize It

Evaluating your company’s current software and the advantages of using custom software/applications

 

Off-the-shelf or tailor-made? The choice seems easy when it comes to clothes—Why would I wear something that just fits when I could wear something custom made for me?—but what about in terms of business software?

Originally, software allowed businesses to transition from manual to digital. Now in the digital age, most businesses couldn’t function without their applications. The business world uses a lot of software, but how many of those applications interact with one another? And when is it time to ditch the off-the-shelf software in favor of tailor-made software?

At amshot, we like to say we use technology as a tool to improve business results. Our software development services specifically focus on achieving efficiencies that promote profitability and business growth. Is custom software the right choice for your business? Read on below.

WELL-OILED MACHINES

Efficient business is good business. Software applications have streamlined many aspects of business and numerous options are available to be purchased off-the-shelf, but these generic versions of software aren’t a cure-all. In fact, they are often limited in their functions and rarely interact with other applications. This is where custom software comes in handy—it can bridge the gap between two applications or between what your software does and what you need it to do.

Custom software can help your business in many ways, but our team has determined that these are the biggest advantages of tailor-made applications:

  • Most efficient system possible: Custom software provides functions specific to the business that generic software simply isn’t capable of doing. Instead of using several off-the-shelf applications, custom software can do it all more efficiently.
  • Custom software grows with your business: Often times, generic software cannot keep up with a growing business because it isn’t flexible or scalable. Custom software is made to fit your business and is constantly maintained and adjusted as needed. Furthermore, businesses with multiple locations can be interconnected with software that communicates and shares data instead of stuck jumping through hoops with off-the-shelf products.
  • Say goodbye to repetitive tasks and manual entry: Humans aren’t perfect, and it may only take one typo to bring payroll to a screeching halt. Utilizing custom software allows applications to be created that replace monotonous tasks and are specific to the business, industry, and/or functions needed.
  • Up-to-date and secure: Outdated software might seem harmless, but it can actually leave your systems vulnerable to hackers. Custom software is ever-evolving and minimizes cybersecurity threats.

EENIE-MEENIE-MINIE-MO

While there are many advantages to utilizing software tailor-made to your business, it’s not always the right choice. Several factors can determine whether or not a company would benefit from custom software, so we have outlined how to evaluate your current software to see if customization would be a good fit for your business.

  • What does your company do, and how is it accomplished? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if off-the-shelf software fits your business needs. For example, restaurants don’t need a complex custom application, but companies in the oil & gas industry might. Consider how many steps or applications are involved in daily tasks, how long it takes to finish them, and if there are any holes that off-the-shelf software can’t fill.
  • What size is your business? How many employees do you have? How much do you currently spend on software? Does your company operate locally or internationally? Is your business growing? These are all important questions to consider when deciding if custom software is right for you. Smaller businesses might not have the budget or need for custom applications, but if it’s in the cards for your business, they can seriously improve profitability.
  • Who will be using the software? Ask employees about your current software’s performance. Ask them if it makes jobs more efficient. Ask them how easy it is to use. The answers to these questions can help identify what your business is lacking and possible options for new or custom software.
  • What are your competitors using? If all of your top competitors are utilizing custom software and are out-performing your business, then it might be time to leave the generic software behind. However, if custom software wouldn’t improve the quality of your service or profitability, then it’s probably best to stick with off-the-shelf.

GOT SUPPORT?

Already using custom software, but need support + maintenance?
Your program doesn’t have to be amshot-built to be amshot-supported. Our development team has experience providing support and maintenance for existing applications.

Our software development services specialize in identifying opportunities for efficiencies and creating applications specific to your business needs. We can modify applications your business already uses, build your dream program from scratch, or keep your existing solution up and running. If you still aren’t sure which option is right for you, our software development team would love to schedule a free consultation and give you our professional opinion.

The Internet of (all) Things?

IoT leaks top the list of cyber threats to small- and medium-sized businesses in 2018

 

Technology is more accessible than ever and can control everything from your business transactions to the lighting in your home, but all of this interconnectivity comes with a risk. Hackers are becoming bolder by the day, and they don’t discriminate who they are attacking based on the size, industry, or location. The only thing they care about is the Internet of Things (IoT)—a term that encompasses all devices and objects that are connected to the internet—and the plethora of digital intelligence it contains.

As a managed IT service provider, amshot takes pride in protecting our clients from hackers. In the past, we have blogged about the necessity of cybersecurity and some steps that can be taken to protect your business data, but today we’re breaking down the single largest threat to small- and medium-sized businesses in 2018.

CONNECTING THE DEVICES

We mentioned that the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the billions of devices worldwide that are connected to the   internet,but let’s explore the scope of this definition and what an IoT leak could mean for a business.

There is no limit to what could be considered a part of the IoT because any object that can be connected to the internet is considered an IoT device. Here are a few examples of commonly used personal IoT devices: GPS, pacemakers, web cameras, Amazon’s Echo, and home security systems. With wireless networks and cheap processors readily available, the digital and physical worlds continue to mesh. The IoT is already huge, and getting bigger, but why should you care?

An IoT leak could be disastrous for any business. Since these devices, especially in businesses, are interconnected and share data amongst themselves, access to one would mean easy access to any affiliated devices. Furthermore, once inside an IoT device, hackers can easily install malware and take control of the entire system.

No matter the type of breach, the financial costs are high and reputation impacts are long-lasting to any business. The best way to stay ahead of these cyber threats is to be aware of how they can occur and take steps to protect your business. Don’t worry, we will walk you through both.

WORLDWIDE WEB OF HACKERS

The internet has provided us with live updates, real-time data collection, immediate international communication, instant access to a multitude of information, and hackers. Many small- to medium-sized businesses have trouble seeing themselves as a target to these cyber criminals, thinking, what could they possibly want from me?—but that’s precisely what makes them easy targets.

While the Internet of Things was initially most appealing to business and manufacturing with its machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, nowadays, IoT devices are being used in almost every industry. However, these devices lack built-in security and can leave a digital backdoor open. Hackers prey on IoT devices because they can locate them through automated programs and can usually gain access by using default admin credentials.

To deter these types of cyber attacks, we recommend a few things.

  1. Change the password(s) on any new devices immediately after setup.
  2. Make sure all admin and user settings are updated and that no default credentials can be used.
  3. Finally, if you would like a second opinion on your cybersecurity, contact us to arrange a free consultation.

On Cloud 9.0

The ins, outs, and next big trends in cloud technology

 

Just 25 years ago, floppy disks were the standard for data storage and any self-respecting tech professional had tons of them in various colors. Now, it’s all about the cloud. We use it at home, we use it at work, and we use it on the go. Cloud technology has streamlined businesses by providing access to new capabilities at the click of a mouse and increasing server efficiency, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Because amshot utilizes cloud technology all the time in our office and while executing services, we decided to take an in-depth look at all aspects of the cloud and where it’s heading.


“Nobody understands the cloud, it’s a mystery!” – Jason Segel


The idea of the cloud is abstract, to say the least. You can’t see it and you can’t touch it, but it somehow has seemingly endless amounts of storage and can be accessed anywhere. Generally speaking, everyone knows it exists, but most typically have no idea what it is or what it does.

So, let’s start with the basics.

  1. The cloud got its name because, historically, when a diagram was drawn that included the internet, it was typically represented by a fluffy amorphous shape that closely resembled—you guessed it—a cloud.
  2. The technical definition of cloud computing is: The virtualization and central management of data center resources as software-defined pools.
  3. The most common uses of the cloud include, but are not limited to: data storage, app/service creation, website hosting, media streaming, software delivery, and data analysis.
  4. There are three main types of cloud services:
    • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): Basic cloud computing services. For a set fee, IT infrastructure (servers, storage, networks, etc.) is rented from a provider on a pay-as-you-go basis.
    • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): Geared towards software development. Provides on-demand access to the resources needed to quickly develop, test, launch, and maintain software without IT infrastructure to worry about.
    • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Used to deliver/maintain software applications over the internet. Typically highly customizable apps, with some of the most notable examples being Google’s G Suite and Office 365.
  5. There are three types of cloud deployment:
    • Public: Owned and operated by a third party. Account and services access is done via web browser (i.e. Google’s AppEngine, Windows Azure Services Platform)
    • Private: Owned by one business/organization. Third party providers can still be paid to host these private clouds, but all private clouds are on private networks.
    • Hybrid: Combination of a public and a private cloud that utilizes technology to share data and software applications between the two. Provides businesses with more flexibility.

Cloudy with a Chance of Multi-Clouds

With so many uses and applications, it’s hard to believe that cloud technology can evolve any further—but we thought the same thing about telephones when the original iPhone was released.

The future of this technology is in multi-clouds. Not to be confused with hybrid clouds who mesh public and private clouds, multi-clouds computing is made up of two or more public clouds that typically span multiple vendors. This strategy is being adopted as a management strategy to enhance business innovation and to avoid putting all of the eggs into one public cloud’s basket.

Innovation, efficiency, and flexibility are the driving factors behind the multi-cloud movement. By utilizing a mix of several public clouds, companies have the ability to strategically implement different cloud technology for different internal departments based on their individual needs. The optimization of a multi-cloud environment requires strategy and coordination, but with the right team, can visibly affect business results.

If your company’s cloud technology and IT services could use a facelift, or if you’re just getting started with the cloud and need some guidance, schedule your free consultation with amshot to see how we can help your business transform results with technology.

 

Encrypting is the Key to (Secure) Success

The threat of a digital security breach has never been more prevalent, and encryption is one of the best ways to defend your data from hackers. When it comes to protecting your growing business, having a secure network ensures the safety of servers and databases, but encryption protects the data within your network. Business data is shared across devices, web browsers, often the cloud, providing a multitude of opportunities for hackers. While data encryption is not an impenetrable defense (as demonstrated in The Imitation Game), it renders the data useless to any third party and has been widely successful in deterring hackers. Since the smallest vulnerability can lead to the compromisation of an entire network, having reliable IT and secure data management is crucial to a company’s success. Keep reading for a crash course on encryption and why it’s so important in this day and age.

CRYPTOGRAPHY TO ENCRYPTION

Data encryption has been a standard practice for hundreds of years, and prior to the digital era, was synonymous with cryptography. Cryptography (also referred to as cryptoanalysis) is the study of writing and solving codes. The earliest use of cryptography has been traced back to ancient Egypt and was a very popular method of military communication in WWII. Once computer technology became available, encryption developed its own definition within the field of cryptography as a practice that utilized computer-generated algorithms in the writing and solving of codes. Today, data encryption is one of the most effective tools against security breaches and can be applied to data, email, and even devices.

ENCRYPTION 101

The purpose of encrypting your data is to make information accessible to authorized users and useless to any unauthorized users. In the encryption process, computers and algorithms convert data into an unreadable code that can only be deciphered with the encryption key. An encryption key is crucial in this process as it translates the data from plain text to code and vice versa. Without the key, any data retrieved by hackers becomes obsolete. There are many types of encryption and various algorithms used, but the use of these practices will depend on the data being encoded. For example, encrypting a server would require a strong encryption and could maybe even several rounds of encryption. Deciphering that data would be a lengthy process to decipher, which is appropriate for information accessed infrequently. Understanding the basics of encryption will only help any consulting or training required to secure your company’s data.

WHY ENCRYPT?

The threat of a security breach has never been more imminent. Today, no one thinks twice about sharing information across devices, accounts, or browsers, but the increased connectivity also increases your data’s vulnerability. Not only does encrypting your data provide a significant deterrent to hackers, but it also protects the growth of your business. Whether the data are on devices, servers, emails, or the cloud, encryption is the best defense available.

Combating these potential hackers is a significant part of the Managed IT Services we provide to our clients. Ready to get your business on track? Send us an email at consult@amshot.com and let’s set up a free consultation.

The Supported Ascent: Cybersecurity and Data Management For The Growing Business

A small business seeking growth has a lot to consider. Obtaining and managing data now can affect decades of market presence, and swift management can mean meeting goals in months instead of years, but as with any organism, a business is at its most vulnerable when it is in its earliest stages. Security breaches are only becoming more common, and it is easy for a single software vulnerability or user error to compromise entire systems. That’s why reliable IT support, secure data management, and strong IT training for staff are essentials for directing growth and protecting company data regardless of company size or structure.  

 

The Techno-Interpreter 

What are your hardware and software needs? What software packages work best for your budget and goals? What specially designed applications could increase productivity and enrich user experiences? How do you gather and apply user and market data to direct company growth? Where are your vulnerabilities within your desktop ecosystem and IoT (Internet of Things) devices? How do you ensure that essential company data isn’t lost? These can be daunting questions that are relatively simple ones to experienced IT personnel, and lead us into our next point: 

 

Knowing Yourself Through Client Data 

This one is no secret: In many ways, applying gathered consumer data is the only real way to keep your feet planted in a chaotic, competitive environment. But what information matters? How do you gather only the important pieces in a sea of endless data? Specialized software allows you to identify trends, demographics, and observable curves in the market and apply them to your goals. Predictive analysis is an art that, when finely honed, can make an estimated guess into a confident statement that ensures success.  

 

A Watchful Eye 

Software vulnerabilities are always a concern, but user error is almost a certainty at one point or another. While you may trust your employees, nobody is exempt from making mistakes 100% of the time. Because everything is connected, one click on a phishing e-mail or the use of a less-than-savory external application can compromise your entire infrastructure. That’s where attentive administration and software procurement is key. Augment this with IT training for staff and you significantly lower your risk of technological catastrophe.   

 

Back It Up 

So let’s say the worst case scenario happens and your data is lost. This can happen either by cyber attacks or physical destruction of on-site storage systems by something such as natural disaster. This is where data backup services such as Datto save the day. Keeping your data in the cloud allows it to flow efficiently and securely throughout your company. 

Succinctly, the companies of tomorrow are being built today, and without harnessing new standards and technologies they will likely be overshadowed by their peers who have, and also are at increasing risk of digital breaches from outdated hardware, software, and practices. At amshot, we work with businesses who are ready to grow – that means providing technology training, developing software and applications, managing IT services, and more. Questions, concerns, or big dreams for your company’s data? Schedule a free consultation by emailing consult@amshot.com or calling us at (405) 418-6282. 

Beyond the Five Percent Rule: When Outsourcing IT is the Best Option for Businesses

In our previous blog, we discussed the need for businesses and organizations to devote at least five percent of their overall personnel budget to information technology. However, reaching that five percent threshold can be difficult for some startups, sole practices, specialized small businesses and even larger organizations. So what’s a business to do? As with any major decision, businesses should consider current and future security and support needs as well as the potential cost for in-house IT versus partnering with a consulting company.

Here are five things to consider when weighing options for your information technology:

1. Cost – Let’s be honest, in-house IT can be expensive. Some start-up costs for a new department can include infrastructure, software, planning, and updates, not to mention training and competitive salaries for dedicated personnel. In fact, cost is often cited as one of the primary reasons businesses make the switch to an external consulting company.

2. Risk reduction – Another major benefit of outsourcing your IT over building an in-house department is that companies which specialize in information technology have a greater grasp on best operational practices and new trends as well as current threats and how to overcome them.

3. Additional resources to focus on growing your business – Most organizations have limited resources, whether it’s time, materials, or even human capital. As a result, there are limits to what an internal IT department can accomplish on its own, making problem solving a more lengthy process. By outsourcing IT support, you can spend less time troubleshooting computer glitches and more time concentrating on what your business does best.

4. Access to a wider variety of IT knowledge – For many small organizations, an internal IT department may only consist of a single person, who (no matter how experienced) is not a replacement to a panel of specialists who are proficient in IT solutions for a variety of industries. In addition, by outsourcing IT, your company can gain access to higher levels of technology and resources that can give you an edge against other small businesses.

5. Improvement to company focus – An ongoing IT problem can impact your whole business if not handled quickly and thoroughly. Unfortunately, when you’re handling all of your IT support internally, your focus is split amongst the different technical priorities needed to keep your site, products, and applications up and running. An outsourced IT partner, on the other hand, can address those worries and often solve problems more quickly, allowing you and your employees to focus more fully on achieving your company’s goals.

In today’s technology-driven world, IT infrastructure and support are essential to any successful enterprise, regardless of size. And while no company wants to be the patient zero in a data breach, the fact is that launching and maintaining an in-house IT department can be costly and not always the best choice for every organization.

If it’s starting to seem clear that outsourcing IT is the best option for your company, or if you have questions about what a partnership with Amshot would look like, email consult@amshot.com to set up a free consultation or give us a call at (405) 418-6282.