HR Technology

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A company’s Human Resources department is invaluable. Besides managing the hiring and discipline process, this team also handles employee benefits, career development, and training. Thankfully, there are a variety of software programs designed to assist Human Resource Managers with their tasks. This week, we’re exploring various HR software types and our favorite choices in each category.

General

As previously mentioned, there are multiple facets to the HR role. If you are seeking a program that can manage payroll, hiring, paid time off, and benefits, there is a variety available. The benefit of this type of software is that it typically includes a customizable dashboard that helps users visualize their progress and easily locate tasks. Additionally, these software programs are often scalable based on company size which can result in cost savings.

BambooHR

Our team favors this product because it is very user-friendly, making it the perfect choice for small and medium-sized businesses. Administrators can track applicants, manage benefits, onboarding, and records, and store and analyze employee performance records. To manage payroll, there is an extended software that features a similar user interface.

GoCo.io

This program assists with hiring, payroll, benefits, compliance, and more.  We recommend this product because it syncs with all other systems, and reduces the amount of time spent entering data. Because all the information is stored in one place, it creates valuable insight. Also, employees have the option to access the software from their own dashboard, where they can easily make PTO requests, benefit changes, etc.

Payroll         

Managing payroll can be a daunting task and requires a lot of time and effort. HR managers who use technology to assist in this will be able to pay employees via direct deposit, pay taxes, and manage user accounts easily. Because this is such an important aspect of the role, there are numerous software options available.

Paychex

The biggest benefit to using Paychex for payroll is that there are different solutions for small and large companies. This is because Paychex knows that the HR environments in smaller businesses are very different and the dashboards should be tailored to them. This software allows for data to be entered and reports to be generated quickly. Employees enjoy this software because they can access all information online. If desired, this program can also be used to manage employee benefits.

Gusto

Although this software has multiple applications, Gusto specializes in payroll services. Administrators will enjoy the program’s simple onboarding process, which allows employees to enter their own information. Implementing the pay itself is easy because popular payroll programs such as QuickBooks can be easily integrated into the software. Additionally, the software automates local, state, and federal taxes, which further reduces workload.

Recruiting

Depending on the size of your company, recruiting can require a dedicated employee or entire team. This is a critical business function and sorting through large amounts of information can be daunting. Although some websites and companies claim they can automate this task for business owners, those who want to keep this task in-house can rely on technology to help ease the process.

Jobvite

This award winning technology caught our attention because of its multiple applications and customizable dashboard. This includes hiring, engagement, onboarding, branding, and videos, which can be accessed by the company’s smartphone app. Jobvite has been around for over ten years and uses their customer feedback to better their operations. This feedback has also allowed the company to collect various statistics, including those that state companies have a 27% faster time-to-hire and 30% lower candidate acquisition cost.

Ideal

A majority of a recruiter’s time is spent thumbing through resumes and sourcing candidates. With Ideal, artificial intelligence is used to automate these tasks. Other programs, such as CareerBuilder, ZipRecruiter, or other ATS and CRM, can be easily integrated into this software so the entire candidate pool can be accessed and analyzed. Applicants benefit from this software because it updates employees on the recruiting process, and automates communication to increase satisfaction.

Retention

It can be challenging for business owners to handle the day-to-day operations while still keeping employees engaged and satisfied. Especially in today’s workforce, having programs designed to improve employee retention is crucial. However, studies show that almost 90% of organizations’ engagement and reward systems are ineffective. These programs will ensure your engagement is effective.

High Ground

The makers of this software claim that their product, “changes the way employees develop, recognize, and reward one another and participate in surveys.” Their technology allows customization for each role within the company and provides the opportunity for real-time coaching and feedback, recognition, rewards, and surveys. All of this information will be compiled into a mobile-friendly platform so administrators can manage their workforce on-the-go.

Officevibe

This software has solutions for managers aiming to improve their teams’ performance and HR executives who are seeking a stronger company culture.  Weekly surveys can be sent out, allowing employees to easily communicate their feedback. Additionally, anonymous conversations promote honesty. For administrators, these responses are compiled into a report and actionable advice is generated.

How Iranian Hackers Tricked their Prey

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For years, Iran has been a leader in state-sponsored hacking, attacking governments and businesses across the world. While the government has proven their advanced abilities, other groups in the area have been able to operate without detection. Until now, the world was unaware of the power these cyber-terrorists developed. This summer, security experts from TrapX, who were working for a military contractor, spent 18 days battling a team of advanced hackers trying to break into their network.

The hackers were believed to be Iranian but were using a tool-set created by a known Russian hacker that is typically circulated through Russian dark-net forums. Additionally, the web domains and email addresses used during the attack have Russian origins and continue to be used by a known Russian hacker. This type of attack is similar to one in 2015, where the hackers were able to shut down portions of Ukraine’s power grid.  There were also similarities to hundreds of other attacks that the Iranians attempted and executed.

During these attacks, hackers mimick internal IP addresses to try to enter a system undetected. A majority of these codes were identical to those used in 2015. Although they didn’t utilize the most advanced hacking methods, the team dedicated a lot of time to the planning and execution of their attack. Once the firm’s experts detected the hacking, the criminals would lie in wait for their next opportunity.

The team defending the network was sure they could continue to protect against the code they had studied. However, during the last attempt to enter the system, the attackers utilized a groundbreaking new tool that was created to be encrypted and to evade typical methods of analyzation. Understanding this new tool took weeks for the team of experts.  For the military contractor to win the battle, their team of cyber-security experts set up a bait network with fake information to lure them in. Then, once the hackers were in the system, the experts could learn their behavior and set up a defense against it within the real networks.

Although the TrapX team had a successful defense method, this type of attack leads governmental and business organizations around the world to question their current defense methods. It is critical that all hardware and software is updated frequently to be able to thwart off hackers, but there is no sure-fire way to protect an infrastructure. If you are interested in building a proactive response for your business, including a backup and disaster recovery plan, contact us today to get started!

What is Blockchain?

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What is Blockchain?

For the last few years, companies like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have been talking about their belief in the power of blockchain technology and its popularity. The technology is predicted to transform the way transactions are processed, but how? This week’s blog takes a deeper look into the technology’s functions and performance.

Blockchain technology was developed to allow financial data to be communicated to various locations. To put it simply, blockchain is a public ledger that incorporates real-time financial data from multiple parties. This system isn’t owned by any corporation; rather, it is monitored by the entire network. Each of the parties must agree on a change in order for it to be implemented. This group administration allows operation without a central authority, which saves time and money.

There are many terms correlated with this technology, including but not limited to:

  • Block: A collection of transactions that are grouped chronologically.
  • Block Height: The block’s chronological order (Height 0 is the first block).
  • Bitcoin: A cyber currency traditionally recorded through blockchains.
  • Hash: A method of identifying each transaction through a random set of encrypted numbers. Also within the record is the previous “hash” number, to establish a chronological order, a list of other transactions within the same group, or “block,” and a public key.
  • Ledger: A detailed record of the transactions storing.
  • Node: A computer connected to the system.
  • Private Key: a set of numbers that proves that you are associated with a specific transaction.
  • Proof of Stake: When the amount of existing cryptocurrency you own is used to determine the amount you can mine.
  • Proof of Work: The amount of computational power spent performing the transaction, which is used for verification and approval.

How can blockchain technology be beneficial?

Most often, this technology is used for Bitcoin. This is largely because Bitcoin was created to be untraceable and not subject to governmental and industrial regulations. For the financial industry, the possibilities of this technology are endless. In the future, taxes could be paid by blockchain and existing payment apps could be replaced by the technology. The biggest benefit is its ability to operate without much administration. This means banks could operate without requiring labor for bookkeeping and oversight. Additionally, the technology can be used in supply chains to record and track progress and inventory.

Windows Vs. Linux

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The type of operating system you choose can have a significant effect on your user experience and abilities. This week’s blog covers the difference between the two most popular operating systems: Windows and Linux. Learn more about each system’s strengths and weaknesses and contact us to share your reasoning for choosing your OS.

Licensing

Linux operating systems are open sourced, so users can adjust the code manually to better meet their needs. This platform can make it easier to customize your technology as well as update it to fight off bugs faster. Linux’s open licensing allows these updates to be republished or sold and software can be purchased once and utilized across multiple devices. Some of the versions of this platform can even be tested without being installed, allowing users to try before they buy. Windows, however, doesn’t allow users to change the code. This prevents attackers from accessing the system and some consider it to be more user-friendly. The installation itself takes more time than Linux’s but has fewer requirements. However, each individual user is required to purchase their own software license, which increases expenses.

Support

Linux support is mostly provided through online communities’ forums and websites. A majority of issues already have information available, but if the issue is more complex, it might take hours or days for someone to provide a solution. If you are looking for professional help, it is important to know that there are fewer companies who provide support contracts for this platform. When utilizing a Microsoft system, there are also a variety of online support forums to rely on. For professional assistance, Microsoft offers a support contract.

Administration

For IT Administrators, the command line is a powerful tool used to administrate the system. Although both systems offer the command prompt, Linux’s prompt has many more applications than the simple prompts available to Microsoft offers. Additionally, Linux allows an administrator to add, edit, or remove an application or group of applications from a single location. Although cloud computing is making this process easier with Windows, some applications require updates at each, individual workstation.

Applications

Because Microsoft is a more popular platform, most applications are tailored to accommodate this OS. This means that while popular software will be Linux-compatible, not all applications will be accessible. To counter this, users have created alternative applications that can be used to support Windows software. While some of these mimicked applications are similar, many are considered to be lower quality.

Security

The Linux system provides a more secure environment because of its access controls. This control enables users to have limited access to the data of other system users. Giving administrative access to a limited number of users prevents the spread of viruses throughout the system. Also, because Linux users are considered more technically savvy, it is assumed that while they’re editing codes they could detect viruses early. In contrast, Windows systems are targeted by more cyber-threats. Thankfully, a majority of defensive software is designed for this type of system. Because Microsoft has more software available, there are more options for prices and coverage.

User Experience

With the span of Microsoft’s programs and operating system, it can cause applications and programs to load more slowly than on Linux’s platform.  Linux was designed more recently, so it was created with speed and functionality in mind. However, because Microsoft has been operating for much longer than Linux, it has had time to improve its product based on user feedback.

Overall, each operating system has its own costs and benefits. For users who are tech-savvy and like to administrate their own systems, Linux is a good fit. Microsoft is recommended for users who are comfortable with Windows and don’t have technology intensive roles. Contact our team today to discuss which hardware and software will best benefit your business!

Managing Your Company’s IT Risks

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With the growing number of cyber-attacks around the world as of late, many businesses are realizing that implementing a proper cyber security plan is critical to succeeding in the business world. Everything from the emails your employees receive to the links they click can cause your systems to be compromised and your clients’ private information to be stolen. Today’s blog covers the steps that you should take to protect your company and your customers.

Education

The first step in securing your infrastructure is educating your employees on the risks they face and how they can help with your company’s protection. The most obvious security measure team members can take is utilizing complex passwords. Employees should be encouraged to use long strings of unrelated words or combinations of capital letters, letters, numbers, and symbols and change them at least bi-annually. Additionally, employees should take precautions when clicking links in emails. Phishing scams are those where hackers create emails that emulate trusted sources that contain malicious links. These scams can be avoided by double-checking the email address to ensure it is correct. For example, customerservice@yourbank.com can be secure while customersservice@yourbank.com might be a hacker. If suspicious emails are detected, the IT team should be notified so they can block the sender and perform additional security scans. To ensure employees are following the proper procedures, their activity should be monitored and there should be blocks on certain types of websites.

Infrastructure

No matter how safe your employees are, your company will face a plethora of security risks. It is critical to implement a security infrastructure that will help prevent hackers from compromising your entire system. Network management is the process of monitoring each user’s activity and the overall infrastructure’s performance. IT teams must also ensure that the software and network are constantly updated to ensure that they are defending against the latest threats. In order to ensure this management is effective, it is important to test it by performing a penetration test. This involves internal or outsourced teams trying to exploit vulnerabilities to see if they gain the ability to negatively affect the system.

Backup

As we’ve said, there is no way to fully protect your business against these types of attacks. That is why it is important to create a disaster recovery plan. Frequently making copies of your infrastructure is important so that the stored information is as up-to-date as possible and the infrastructure will be able to be recovered to the state it was in before it acquired the virus or hack. Storing these backups on the cloud will provide additional protection as it will prevent data loss in the occurrence of a natural disaster or theft. These backups should also be tested frequently to ensure they are taking a full snapshot of the system and able to be uploaded quickly. With the proper backups in place, your business will be able to upload your system in minutes once you can access an internet connected device.

These are just a few of the steps your company should take to manage the cybersecurity threats it faces each day. A proper plan involves a full risk assessment and will constantly change to accommodate new technology and threats. Our team members would be happy to help you protect your business and create a plan to ensure its sustainability and success. Contact us to learn more!

Disaster Recovery as a Service

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We strive to give our customers a long term plan for IT growth, efficiency, and sustainability. Our team members know that even when we employ proper IT security services, we unfortunately can’t guarantee their success. That is why we provide disaster recovery as a service, or DRaaS. This service ensures that in the event of a cyber-attack, natural disaster, or other threat compromising a network, the software, and the critical data will be able to be recovered.

The best way to ensure you will be able to recover your critical data in the event of an emergency is to store it in the cloud. The cloud is a term for online storage, meaning it doesn’t depend on a physical server. This helps ensure that thieves can’t steal the physical server and natural disasters can’t compromise it. Our team members take multiple copies of your infrastructure each day to ensure the recovered data will be as up-to-date as possible and that the infrastructure will be able to be restored to its condition before it acquired the attack. The benefits of trusting our team to provide DRaaS services include but are not limited to:

  • Predetermined pricing
  • Actionable recovery metrics
  • Protected storage facility
  • Frequent copies created

Additionally, we work to ensure this storage is secure and efficient. By trusting an outsourced provider to back up your data, you can rest assured that the backups will always be protected using the most up-to-date defense methods. Our expert team will work 24/7 and utilize our advanced knowledge and resources to protect this information. We add additional security to this data by storing it in a secure storage environment, with access control and temperature control to promote the efficiency of these cloud servers. We also test this stored information frequently to ensure that if recovery is necessary, it will be able to be completed quickly and fully. Testing will help prevent downtime, which we know is unacceptable for business owners.

You can trust that our team will store backups of your system that will be secure, up-to-date, and easily recoverable. This will ensure your survival in the case of a cyber-attack or natural disaster. Contact us today to learn more about our capabilities or our recommendations for your business’ IT security.

How Social Apps are Fighting Terrorism

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With the growing number of terrorist attacks of late, it is clear that businesses across the world must take a stand and do everything they can to prevent terrorist attacks. This is especially important for social media platforms, where terrorists are spreading their message, recruiting, and searching for “inspiration.” Tech companies, specifically those in social media, are stepping up to the plate by implementing technology and security measures which prevent terrorist organizations from spreading their message across and communicating through their networks. While most of these companies fight to preserve free speech, they realize that they can help control the abilities of groups that strive to wreak havoc and cause misery.

Facebook

With over 1.9 billion worldwide users, it can be hard to monitor all of the activity that Facebook hosts. While the platform has already implemented technology aimed to fight copyright infringement and child pornography, they realized the need to defend itself against other unacceptable content. Facebook has consulted with counter-terrorism agencies, law enforcement, and other government agencies, and is now using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help block terroristic posts on its website. This is done through image matching, which removes known terrorism related photos or videos. In addition, language understanding analyzes text and removes it in the case that it violates policies by praising terrorist groups or their actions. When pages, groups, posts, or profiles that are terroristic are blocked, algorithms scan profiles that have engaged with that material and can block them as well. Additionally, the algorithms try to prevent blocked or banned users from creating new profiles and continuing the same behavior.

WhatsApp

Facebook’s WhatsApp, a messenger application, has been under fire for encrypting conversations and allowing terrorists to communicate freely on the platform. This became the subject of many media-inquiries following a terrorist attack in London, where authorities were unable to decipher the attacker’s last message. Although they haven’t changed their encryption methods, the company provides all of the information they can when ordered by law enforcement.

Twitter

In 2015, Twitter began working to combat extremists utilizing this platform, but recently the company has increased its efforts. This is being done through AI, which scans the platforms for posts that are similar to its internal database of text, imagery, and videos that are related to terrorism. Twitter’s platform reported that between July and December of 2016, almost 400,000 accounts were suspended for terrorism-related issues. Of these, 75% were prompted by internal spam-fighting tools.

Our team members unanimously condone acts of terror and social content related to terroristic groups, individuals, or acts. We are proud to see technology groups are taking part in the fight against this propaganda and look forward to seeing how advancements in AI understanding and other technology will further deter these groups and individuals from utilizing social media to spread their message. Stay tuned to our blog for more industry news and tech tips.

How much storage does your business need?

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So, you’ve decided to switch to the cloud? Congratulations! This technology is becoming more popular with businesses each day because it has many applications and creates a higher performing and more secure infrastructure. This technology will enable your employees to safely work from devices outside of the office and create a backup of your data that you can trust to provide complete and prompt recovery after an emergency. Deciding on how much storage space your business needs on the cloud can be tough, but it is important to also remember that this is a scalable solution, which can be increased or decreased any time.

The first step in determining the amount of storage space you need is deciding what you want to store. You can measure the amount of this data simply by auditing your current drive. Things that can’t be replaced earn their place within your online storage while software programs and applications can either be replaced or can be hosted through Software as a Service (SaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS). This process will also give you the perfect opportunity to encourage employees to delete files which are no longer necessary.

Although you can add more data later, you should accommodate for the amount of data you will want to add within the immediate future. These additions are especially prevalent in those who implement a cloud migration along with other IT initiatives. If you are planning on storing video or high-quality images on the server, you will need to accommodate for the large amount of space these will take.  Additionally, if your company employs graphic designers or video editors, they will require a large amount of storage for their files as well as their unique programs.

There are multiple cloud storage plans that your business can choose from, and it is important to compare the prices your business would pay with each. The first plan typically sets a price per user, where each user is given a set amount of storage space. This is a good plan for a company that’s users all have similar tasks or storage needs. Other plans have a set storage limit that can be utilized by anyone across the team, which is the most popular choice. The largest plans, which are typically very expensive to purchase and maintain, include unlimited storage. It is also important to weigh out the costs of the plans per month vs. per year, as you will presumably be utilizing the technology for a long time period.

Converting over to cloud storage can seem expensive and time-consuming, but the benefits outweigh the costs. If you do your research and choose the right plan, your business will enjoy a secure form of accessible backup, reduced server maintenance costs, and other benefits. To learn more about our cloud storage offerings or our other cloud based products or to get help deciding on the amount of storage space your business needs, contact us today!

Cybersecurity and the Medical Industry

We understand that in today’s business world, there is an increasing demand for online and mobile service offerings. Utilizing technology will increase your customers’ satisfaction and improve your data and efficiency, but in the medical industry, this will increase the amount of risk you face. Not only will this affect your organization’s operation, but it will also lessen customers’ confidence in your practice and put you at risk for governmental and industrial compliance breaches. This concern has become increasingly serious in the past few weeks, when a series of cyber-attacks have targeted healthcare organizations. In today’s blog, we’re identifying these risks and explaining the steps necessary for your business to address them.

Hackers target the medical industry because the data this industry utilizes contains a large amount of personal information. It is fairly easy to target healthcare systems because health records are all stored in a single place.  Additionally, many companies are unaware of the dangers within their healthcare apps or, in some cases, they are selling patient data for profit.  HIPAA addresses this by mandating security standards for electronic protected health information (e-PHI).

The first step in protecting your medical business is to analyze your current risks. Protection involves not only analyzing your network security, but also the practices and regulations you have in place to address patient privacy and compliance such as password policies and mobile device compatibility. Analysis can become increasingly complicated when utilizing modern medical devices that use the IoT, as many of these have lax built-in security.

Once your business has analyzed each of these risky areas, it is time to address each risk. In order to properly address these risks, new guidelines and technology must be put into place. This involves dedicating a team of professionals to monitor your infrastructure 24/7 to ensure its security and efficiency. These measures will not only improve the amount of up-time your organization has,  but also the ability to recover after a cyber-attack.  Recovery is achieved through performing frequent backups and testing them in order to ensure their ability to be used in the case of an emergency. Additionally, your team members should learn practices from professionals in order to lessen the threat of falling victim to malicious attacks disguised as email attachments or software updates. Working with industry experts will help ensure your healthcare business has all of its bases covered.

No matter how technologically secure you think your healthcare facility is, it is important to take the proper measures in order to protect your patients and practice. Your patients deserve their information privacy and your reputation depends on it. Contact us today to learn more about how your healthcare business can benefit from partnering with us or stay tuned to our blog to learn more about industry news, tips and tricks, and company highlights!

Should your business utilize a private or public cloud?

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Optimize Your Business

In today’s business world, it is important that your business employs cloud technology in some form. Infrastructure as a software gives businesses access to cloud storage which is scalable and accessible. Software as a service allows companies to access online applications and software such as Salesforce, DropBox, and Google Apps. Platform as a service is used to develop, run, and manage applications virtually. No matter which application you are utilizing cloud technology for, you will have to decide if you want to trust a public or private cloud.

Public Cloud

Public clouds utilize software which is managed by a third-party provider and are most often utilized by small to medium sized businesses. The biggest benefit for companies utilizing this technology is that it is scalable. This means that you only pay for the amount of storage you need, and you can adjust that amount as your business grows. Cost savings also come from the eliminated server maintenance requirements. This includes the costs associated with machine maintenance as well as the labor involved with the management of this information. Additionally, because there are multiple parties contributing to this management, the management, hardware, and software will typically be newer and more advanced. This often means that the facility that hosts the cloud software is more secure from temperature variation, damage, and security threats. However, there will also be more frequent attempts to attack this type of environment, which raises many concerns.

Private Cloud

Private clouds are managed on site, and many larger businesses enjoy the amount of control and storage space they gain from utilizing them. Because only one organization uses the cloud, there can be a variety of security measures implemented within this software. Companies can also add additional features and customize it if they wish. Building these servers may be done in-house or outsourced, but the management must be done in-house. If this management is done proactively and a strong focus is placed on security, businesses can trust that it is more secure than public options. The biggest disadvantage to this environment is the large upfront cost of buying and installing the hardware.

Hybrid Cloud

In addition to public and private clouds another option is available. Hybrid cloud servers combine the best aspects of each offering. In this type of infrastructure, each cloud offering operates independently and the two communicate via an encrypted connection. Businesses enjoy the ability to store more sensitive data on their private servers and utilize the public cloud for data that exceeds storage capability. Savings are achieved through this method because there will be fewer costs associated with the hardware, the physical environment, and the third party provider.

No matter which type of cloud infrastructure your business wishes to utilize, trust the Westech team for help! We have experience in providing the hardware, expertise, and relationship management skills necessary to provide a seamless cloud environment. To learn more about how this technology has benefitted other businesses or to find out how it can help yours specifically, contact us today!