Apogee Solutions https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk IT Services & Support Basingstoke, Hampshire Wed, 23 Dec 2020 13:41:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/cropped-apogee-favicon-32x32.png Apogee Solutions https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk 32 32 How to prepare your IT systems for 2021 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-prepare-your-it-systems-for-2021 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-prepare-your-it-systems-for-2021#respond Wed, 23 Dec 2020 13:39:19 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=851 The IT strategy you started 2020 with is unlikely to resemble the one you have in place now; if you even have one in place at all! This year has...

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The IT strategy you started 2020 with is unlikely to resemble the one you have in place now; if you even have one in place at all! This year has been a lot to manage for many businesses, especially when it comes to your IT systems. With many previously office-based teams moving to remote working due to the pandemic, companies have had to find new ways of conducting business operations. Moving into 2021, how your business will operate day-to-day must be carefully considered and prepared for.

How will your IT requirements differ next year?

Your IT requirements in 2021 might look different from your needs in previous years. As we come to the end of 2020, it’s a great time to reflect and plan for the year ahead. Ideally, you should enter the new year with IT systems that support your information, technology, and people. While no one really knows what 2021 will look like, what we do know is that flexibility, agility, collaboration, and connectivity in your IT infrastructure will remain central to success.

Compared to 2020, flexibility in your IT systems is going to be pivotal. It’s important that your users have the ability to carry out business operations with the right processes, applications, and data wherever and whenever required. The pace at which business is changing means what is appropriate this month may not be the next. To meet these challenges, your systems need to be agile and scalable so that they can move with your business and the changing environment. This uncertainty makes it even more important to have plans in place to maintain business continuity, productivity, and efficiency.

Here are four ways that can help you prepare your IT systems for 2021.

1. Implement Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform that optimises your business productivity. Lack of visibility into your people, processes, and data creates friction across your departments. Dynamics 365 helps integrate and automate business processes to save time and improve productivity. Dynamics 365 enables you to deliver a better client experience, whilst improving employee performance and enhancing collaboration between team members.

Dynamics 365 completely integrates with Microsoft 365 to deliver users a seamless experience.  This integration puts your data at the centre of all your operations, allowing end to end collaboration between users, whilst delivering increased productivity, reduced sales cycle, and improved customer experience.  

Dynamics 365 also provides you with smart customer intelligence enabling you to make intelligent and informed decisions based on insights learned from your data. 

If you want to learn more about Microsoft Dynamics 365, speak to Apogee Solutions.

2. Improve your cybersecurity measures

If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s to be vigilant when it comes to your technology, people, and information. Phishing attacks are on the rise and attackers are taking advantage of worker’s access to remote networks. New trends are always emerging so you need to be aware of the threats and vulnerabilities that can put your IT systems at risk. As your business’ daily operations and technology use may have changed significantly this year, you may need to improve your cybersecurity measures to protect your systems and data.

At the beginning of 2020, it’s likely that the majority of your employees were working under one roof in an office environment. On-site cybersecurity measures were typically enough to protect your assets. When the pandemic altered things, businesses had to reassess their cybersecurity strategies to factor in remote working. Cybersecurity testing is a great way to identify the vulnerabilities in your IT systems and put measures into place to mitigate risk. Conducting a cybersecurity test at the end of the year will enable you to better protect your business in 2021.

3. Secure your remote services in the cloud

With teams moving to remote working, some even permanently, having your information securely managed in the cloud is a vital part of your IT infrastructure. There are many cloud service providers to choose from, with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud being three of the most popular platforms. Each platform provides similar services but some have different features that will be more suitable to the nature and size of your business.

The flexible, scalable, resilient, and reliable nature of cloud computing makes it suitable for business requirements in 2021. Teams moving between the office and remote working means the agility of the cloud can keep up with changing operations. However, the cloud can bring with it many risks and security considerations that should be understood. Ensuring you have access to the necessary cloud expertise to help migrate your systems to the cloud, support your users effectively, and remain compliant with relevant data protection regulations, such as GDPR has never been more important.

4. Increase the use of collaboration tools

Remote working will still be prominent in 2021 so establishing the right communication channels for your team is essential. You should consider the conversations had day-to-day with clients and team members and whether these are working effectively for you. Adopting digital workspaces like Microsoft 365 SharePoint is a great way to ensure your team members can collaborate on work productively and efficiently, by allowing them to access and share files and information anywhere – on any device.

Using video conferencing software and messaging apps are a given and something you will probably already have in your IT strategy. The consideration for 2021 will be how to get the most from collaboration tools so that you can make it effective for your team moving in and out of the workplace. Cybersecurity and risk must be reviewed in line with collaboration tools as the privacy and security of your information and data are paramount when off-site. Strong passwords and two-factor authentication are musts and will help ensure your accounts on multiple collaborative platforms can only be accessed by those with the correct permissions.

Budget is going to be a major factor for many companies in the next year. This means decisions made surrounding your IT systems will need to be carefully considered to ensure you get the most from your technology investment. The best way to prepare your IT systems for 2021 will be to optimise productivity and move away from outdated processes by using collaborative cloud solutions such as the Microsoft 365 suite and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales and Customer Services apps. Where required, you should also look to improve cybersecurity with protective measures that mitigate risk and keep data safe and secure.

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3 security risks of cloud computing you need to be aware of https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/3-security-risks-of-cloud-computing-you-need-to-be-aware-of https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/3-security-risks-of-cloud-computing-you-need-to-be-aware-of#respond Wed, 09 Dec 2020 13:41:08 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=835 Foreword Cloud computing is now an extremely popular part of organisations’ technology infrastructure. But whilst it is flexible, scalable, resilient, and reliable, its complexity means that security considerations must be...

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Foreword

Cloud computing is now an extremely popular part of organisations’ technology infrastructure. But whilst it is flexible, scalable, resilient, and reliable, its complexity means that security considerations must be reviewed before committing to a solution. Before developing and migrating your environment to the cloud, you should understand the risks involved, how they impact your data and how to manage them effectively.

Effective security controls ensure that your organisation’s data and sensitive information is protected. This helps to reduce the risk of exposing your data to malicious attackers who can breach, damage and destroy your information. Exposure is often unintentional and unknown but can cause serious difficulties for your organisation if it occurs.

Misconfigurations in the cloud environment are one of the biggest causes of weakness in security. As new cloud computing services are introduced into your IT infrastructure, more misconfigurations are likely to occur due to lack of expertise. Having visibility of your cloud security approach will help your organisation prioritise which risks cause the most harm and how to share responsibility between your team and cloud service provider.

Which cloud service provider should you choose?

There are many cloud service providers to choose from. Most cloud platforms offer similar services but there are differences that may make them more, or less suitable for your business. 

1. Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the most popular cloud solutions due to its power and flexibility. AWS has Identity Access Management (IAM) functionalities with user permissions that enable you to manage permissions given to each platform user. 

2. Microsoft Azure

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform solution. Organisations that use Microsoft infrastructure and services already will get on well with Azure. It seamlessly integrates with the likes of Microsoft 365 and Active Directory to deliver a fully joined up solution.

3. Google Cloud

Google Cloud integrates seamlessly with other Google services and ensures organisations have access to sufficient security capabilities. Google Cloud focuses on ensuring your organisation’s performance is consistent and you can manage your services including Cloud Storage and Big Query.

4. IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud offers both virtual and hardware cloud services designed to give you complete control of your IT infrastructure. IBM Cloud combines Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions. The platform can be integrated and managed from one environment using a mobile application, web portal or Application Programming Interface (API).

5. Oracle Cloud

Oracle Cloud offers two key service solutions: cloud infrastructure and data processing. Cloud infrastructure includes databases, data management and applications. Data processing involves big data insights and analytics. Your organisation is more suitable for Oracle if you’re a larger enterprise as opposed to a small business.

3 main security risks involved in cloud computing:

1. Lack of cloud expertise

A report conducted by Oracle found that over 75% of IT professionals consider the cloud more secure than their own on-premise environment. The same Oracle report found that 92% of these professionals feel like they don’t know enough about cloud computing to use its benefits appropriately.

Cloud platforms require a certain level of expertise and knowledge to be able to make the most of the services available. In-house teams that lack this awareness often outsource expertise to a third-party provider who can provide full visibility of the cloud environment to ensure it can be sufficiently secured.

2. Cloud misconfigurations

Cloud configuration can be quite complex, frequently requiring a wide and in-depth knowledge of key areas, such as security principles and cloud platform specific setup requirements.  Consequently, knowledge gaps can often lead to misconfiguration and lack of proper measures being implemented to fully protect an organisations data.  It’s important to realise that in most cases, whilst the cloud service provider will fully manage their underlying platform, setup and configuration at the organisation level is your responsibility.  Some common typical examples of misconfiguration are:

    • Accounts with more privilege than necessary.  Users should only be granted access to the accounts and files that ensure they can fulfil their roles effectively.
    • Weak passwords. Weak passwords can be easily compromised, so to help ensure that malicious attackers can’t gain access to accounts via the end-user, you should implement a policy that mandates strong, complex passwords.
    • Lack of a backup and data recovery solution.  Many people assume that data in the cloud is automatically fully backed up, but whilst service providers backup their entire platforms for quick restore if necessary, this often does not include the ability to granularly restore data for individual organisations, or users.
    • Failure to implement Multifactor authentication.  This is critical to prevent account take-over attacks.

3. Non-compliance with data regulations

Your organisation must comply with data regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe. If your organisation processes sensitive data and information, it’s important to understand which data regulations are relevant to the locations in which you process data. Processing data internationally can bring with it additional compliance challenges.

You should understand where your data is stored in the cloud and who has access to it. You should review your cloud service providers shared responsibility model to ensure that your data is protected in line with the regulations you’re subject to.

How can security risks impact your organisation?

A breach of your cloud environment can lead to a loss of data. Sensitive data and information stored in the cloud can have a significant impact on your organisations and individuals if compromised. Cloud service providers have functionalities that can help prevent the loss of data caused by connectivity issues, power outages and corruption of data. In order to reap the benefits of these services, they must be configured correctly. This is where third-party expertise must come into play to ensure misconfigurations don’t occur, and a sufficient disaster recovery plan is in place.

Apogee Solutions can help you put the right security in place to protect your cloud environment. Our cloud IT services ensure your organisation can maintain data security, control your information, scale your services, and maintain business continuity at all times. We can help you determine which cloud platform is the most suitable for your organisation and equip you with the advice, support and solutions needed to transition to the cloud effectively.

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How to maintain a secure IT system when employees work remotely https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-maintain-a-secure-it-system-when-employees-work-remotely https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-maintain-a-secure-it-system-when-employees-work-remotely#respond Tue, 24 Nov 2020 12:09:57 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=826 Working remotely offers great benefits to your organisation but also brings with it some risks to your IT security. Maintaining a secure IT system will help your organisation ensure business...

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Working remotely offers great benefits to your organisation but also brings with it some risks to your IT security. Maintaining a secure IT system will help your organisation ensure business continuity, compliance and risk management. As a business, you want to put the right measures in place to ensure your employees and information are safe while working remotely.

In today’s modern workplace, working from remotely has become the norm, rather than the exception, but like many businesses, you may not have the necessary remote working policies in place to support this new mode of working. When your employees work remotely, your IT systems are opened up to vulnerabilities that wouldn’t be as prevalent when they’re working in the office on your secure network. This means that in order to fully protect your organisation, it may be necessary to update any policies and procedures you already have in place to fully cover the new mix of on premise and remote working.

There are many risks associated with remote working, one significant issue being employee behaviour. When working from home or in a remote location, employees’ barriers can drop. They become more relaxed with the devices and accounts they’re using in the comfort of their own home or in a public space. Creating and implementing sufficient IT security systems and best practices will reduce the risks associated with employees working remotely.

You may work with a cloud service provider and software applications so your employees can collaborate effectively and efficiently when off-site. This is especially important when working remotely but you may need to ensure that your software is scalable for more users. To remain productive and well protected you may have to introduce new technologies so your employees can access the data and applications needed to fulfil their roles securely.

Criminals want to gain access to sensitive and business-critical data to breach, damage or destroy your information. There are also issues surrounding data protection, specifically GDPR, and the theft of devices. If your team members carry out work in a public place among people not part of your business, there is the possibility that passwords, devices and information can be stolen. 

 

5 ways to maintain a secure IT system when working remotely:

 

1. Create and distribute your remote working policy

To outline your organisation’s remote working best practices, you should develop a remote working policy if you haven’t already. If you do already have a remote working policy, you should review it to ensure it’s relevant on a larger, organisational-wide scale. Your remote working policy should outline how to access your network safely, create strong passwords, set up two-factor authentication, encrypt new and existing data, and any other elements relevant to your organisation.

You may choose to include a section on cybersecurity in your remote working policy. You could mention the risks discussed above and how employees can remain astute when working outside of the office. Ensure your team members know how to protect their devices and the data stored and accessible on them.

2. Use two-factor authentication where possible

Two-factor authentication acts as an extra level of protection between the end-user and your data. Users must provide a password and a second identifier in order to gain access to data. This is particularly important if devices are lost or stolen. Even if a criminal has compromised the password to the account, they will have to give another level of authentication, which is where they will be prevented from accessing your data.

Two-factor authentication can be anything from a PIN, password, code, combination, question or code word. You could even use a physical identifier like a fob or key. For guidance on how to implement two-factor authentication, take a look at the NCSC’s guide.

3. Restrict user access and encrypt data

As mentioned above, the end-user is one factor that can put your data at risk. Over privileged accounts can open up your data to those who may put it at risk of malpractice or deletion. You should regularly review users to ensure you only provide access to team members who need it to fulfil their job roles.

Encrypting all of your data where possible will ensure your information can’t be seen by those without permission to view it. Your cloud service provider may offer encryption when uploading data to the cloud, but it’s wise to encrypt your data before moving it to the cloud. This will ensure there’s a level of security on your data and accounts should devices be lost or stolen, or your network compromised.  You may also wish to place restrictions on the use of removable devices such as memory sticks.  Use of such devices can be prohibited, or at the very least, only permitted where encryption is in place.

4. Train your employees on remote practices

To make sure your employees understand how to use the software and applications required to do their roles efficiently and effectively remotely, you may have to provide training. Training sessions could include how to use your key collaboration tools, how to access the network or how to set up their remote workspace.

You could create a written guide, tutorials and demonstrations providing support. If you’re short on time or can’t create your own resources, you could compile a series of useful links and existing websites that are relevant. These resources should be accessible at any point to ensure your team can read the best practice advice when they need it.

You can also use a Phishing simulation tool to test your employee’s ability to recognise suspicious emails.  This type of tool randomly sends harmless simulations of the latest types of phishing attack, such as those designed to steal employee user credentials for the purpose of maliciously accessing corporate data and systems. Where employees are taken in by a phishing attack simulation, the tool will provide educational resources to help the user better recognise this type of attack in future. 

5. Establish reporting procedures

It’s important that your employees feel comfortable reporting any security concerns they have remotely. Your team members should follow the reporting procedures outlined in your remote working policy. You must also ensure they feel safe enough to report an issue, and not feel pressure or blamed for an incident.

If you haven’t included reporting procedures in your remote working policy you should do so. This will help your team understand the process of communication, who to report concerns to and what steps to follow to minimise risk to data.

To mitigate risks to your IT systems, there are a number of measures you can put into place. These measures will ensure that your employees are clued up on remote working best practices and the risks to your cybersecurity. During the coronavirus pandemic especially, malicious attackers are taking advantage of remote workers and organisations’ weak cybersecurity systems. Apogee can support your remote security with expert IT solutions.

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The importance of backup and disaster recovery for security https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/the-importance-of-backup-and-disaster-recovery-for-security https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/the-importance-of-backup-and-disaster-recovery-for-security#respond Thu, 29 Oct 2020 14:12:38 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=819 Are you an SME? Want to eliminate your IT headache? Don’t want to break the bank? Apogee are experts in IT consultancy, offering services including: application selection security assessments strategic...

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Are you an SME? Want to eliminate your IT headache? Don’t want to break the bank? Apogee are experts in IT consultancy, offering services including:

  • application selection
  • security assessments
  • strategic planning

You can consider Apogee your outsourced department with in-house commitment so you can focus on driving your business success.

Want hassle-free IT? Speak to our team – https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/contact

Minimising downtime is the key to an effective backup and disaster recovery plan. No business can function successfully when your IT systems go on the blink. Downtime causes unnecessary stress and frustration that reduces your productivity and disappoints customers. Ensuring you have an effective backup and disaster recovery solution in place is crucial for business continuity. You should have the confidence that your security systems can protect business data and keep your applications running smoothly.

What are backup and disaster recovery?

Despite being used in conjunction, there are differences between backup and disaster recovery. Backup is the process of making copies of your data. You can back up a database, files, servers or applications – anything that stores critical and sensitive information. Data is backed up to ensure it’s protected should it be lost or breached by malicious act, human error or natural disaster.

Disaster recovery refers to the process of restoring data and regaining access to your network and systems in a crisis situation. Your disaster recovery process will depend on your business and its operations. This will include a set of procedures that detail where your backup data is stored, how to access it and how to restore it successfully.

Backup shouldn’t be mistaken for disaster recovery. In the case of a disaster, your data backups are not enough to keep your business operations running smoothly. You must have robust, secure, disaster recovery measures in place to ensure you can restore your data and get your network, servers, files and applications back online.

The importance of backup and recovery

There are many instances where data breach and loss can occur. Human error is a significant cause. Users can accidentally delete files or insert removable media that corrupt your systems. Your business may be targeted by a malicious attacker who looks for vulnerabilities in your security controls. They initiate an attack to breach, damage or destroy your data and technology for their own gain, a good example of this is a Ransomware attack, where the attacker gains access to, then encrypts your files and demands a ransom fee to decrypt them. Natural disasters such as floods and fires also pose a threat to your data. Though rarer than human error and malicious attack, natural disasters demand sufficient planning to mitigate risks.

Downtime can be detrimental to your business. It can quickly lead to a loss of revenue if your customers can’t access your products and services. If your technology is down for hours, even days, users and customers alike, quickly become frustrated and this can negatively affect your brand reputation. Minimising the time it takes to retrieve data and reestablish your systems will ensure your customers and employees can complete their desired action without experiencing a delay.

An effective backup and disaster recovery plan ensures you know your systems will be kept up and running smoothly behind the scenes. It maintains business continuity and productivity so your employees can carry out their roles and drive operations forward without being held back by technology.

Types of backup solutions

The backup solution you choose will depend on your business needs. There are two main types of backup solution: cloud and on-premise.

Cloud

Cloud-based backup and disaster recovery solutions are the most popular among businesses. In a crisis situation, having your applications and data stored in the cloud ensures it’s protected in a centralised location. Your recovery experts know exactly where your data is stored without wasting time searching for data on disparate systems.

The cloud is an efficient and cost-effective backup solution that enables your business to scale its IT infrastructure to suit your operational requirements. You don’t need to purchase and install expensive upgrades as your business grows in numbers of customers, employees and data. Having this flexibility can save you time and money; improving your efficiency and ensuring you can restore your data quickly.

On-premise

On-premise backup solutions are great where highly-sensitive data is concerned. For example, if some of your data must comply with strict data privacy regulations. However, a backup and disaster recovery plan that is solely on-premise isn’t ideal. Where theft and natural disaster may occur, your only backups could be damaged or destroyed.

If your primary data center is compromised, you will struggle to regain control of your systems. If you choose to use on-premise backup and recovery, having a secondary data center is recommended. This second data center should be in a geographic location away from your primary data center to ensure disaster doesn’t affect both sites. The secondary site should be within a reasonable distance to ensure you can manage both premises effectively and minimise downtime.

Hybrid approach

A hybrid approach combining cloud and on-premise backup and recovery solutions is another popular choice. If your business uses both cloud-based and on-premise IT environments, the hybrid solution could be the most appropriate. You may choose to keep your original data in your physical data center and store your backup data in the cloud.

You can benefit from the cost-effective and scalability of the cloud, while the physical location enables you to quickly access your IT infrastructure and rapidly restore backed up data. You can also spread your cloud backups in different cloud environments. Should your part of the cloud be inaccessible, you can access data in another cloud location.

Creating your backup and disaster recovery solution

Creating a backup and disaster recovery solution is a task that shouldn’t be left until disaster strikes. You should have your strategy in place to prevent, detect and respond to disaster efficiently and effectively. A timely recovery will ensure you can maintain business continuity, minimise downtime and loss of productivity.

Working with a trusted and reliable security solution provider ensures that your backup and disaster recovery plan is robust. Apogee Solutions can create a solid security strategy based on leading tools and best practices.

Apogee’s three-tier cybersecurity approach to data risk management focuses on prevention, detection and response. We specialise in disaster recovery that prevents damage to your business data. We safeguard against theft, intrusion, corruption or loss and offer data storage and retrieval solutions. Contact Apogee to discuss your backup and disaster recovery requirements.

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Apogee is a Microsoft Solutions provider offering Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 solutions https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/apogee-is-a-microsoft-solutions-provider-offering-microsoft-365-and-dynamics-365-solutions https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/apogee-is-a-microsoft-solutions-provider-offering-microsoft-365-and-dynamics-365-solutions#respond Mon, 01 Jun 2020 12:45:01 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=664 Ease of use combined with cost-effectiveness in terms of deployment and running costs means that Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) has gone on to become an integral part of the...

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Ease of use combined with cost-effectiveness in terms of deployment and running costs means that Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) has gone on to become an integral part of the modern workplace. However, the reality is that for businesses to get the most from Microsoft 365, careful setup and ongoing management is essential. In order to provide clients with the necessary expertise and skill set, at Apogee Solutions, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time developing our knowledge and solution offerings around Microsoft 365. As a demonstration of this commitment, we are proud to have attained the qualifications and experience necessary to achieve our Microsoft Small and Mid-market Cloud Solutions partner status.

Microsoft 365 consists of a comprehensive range of productivity apps for your business. As businesses grow and develop, other tools are required in key areas such as customer relationship management. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales is specifically designed to help businesses with this requirement. Built on Microsoft’s new Power Platform, Dynamics 365 apps are tightly integrated with Microsoft 365 to deliver a seamless experience for businesses.  

If your business is currently using manual processes, excel spreadsheets or another legacy CRM solution for customer relationship management then Dynamics 365 Sales could be the perfect fit for you. Apogee has a detailed roadmap to guide you through the move to Dynamics 365 Sales. Onboarding and integrating could not be easier, especially if you have previous experience with Microsoft technologies such as Microsoft 365. At Apogee Solutions, we have taken the time to build up the expertise and skills necessary to deliver and support Dynamics 365 sales deployments. This way, we can comprehensively support you throughout the integration process.

Ongoing development of our expertise and skill set means a lot to us and our customers. It ensures we can stay aligned with your goals and deliver tailored, expert solutions to meet your needs. It ensures we differentiate ourselves from other solution providers; filling you with the confidence that Apogee is best suited to work with your business. As an added benefit, through our Microsoft partnership, Apogee has direct access to a full range of Microsoft resources, enabling us to extend this support and advice to your business.

If you would like to learn more about how Microsoft 365 or how the Dynamics 365 Sales CRM solution can work for your business, please get in touch with Apogee. We will discuss your business requirements and provide the help needed to ensure you get the most benefit and return on investment from your technology.

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How to host a virtual event for your business https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-host-a-virtual-event-for-your-business https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-host-a-virtual-event-for-your-business#respond Mon, 18 May 2020 10:45:33 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=642 Whether you’re hosting a virtual event because your physical one can’t go ahead or because you want to grow your digital presence, creating an online experience will grow your brand...

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Whether you’re hosting a virtual event because your physical one can’t go ahead or because you want to grow your digital presence, creating an online experience will grow your brand awareness and customer relationships. Here we’ll consider what a virtual event is, the types of virtual events, the plans you have to put in place and the benefits it has for your brand and audience.

What is a virtual event?

A virtual event can be defined as an organised experience that takes place online rather than in a physical location. A virtual event is entirely digital, not an element of a physical event that’s streamed or recorded. Events can include discussions, Q&As, webinars, podcast recordings, performances, conferences and shows.

Technically, all you need for a virtual event is an internet connection, a hosting platform and a topic for discussion. As long as your viewers can access the internet and follow the event link, you’ll be able to host your event however you like. Depending on the level of promotion you do beforehand, your virtual event can be viewed by just a handful of people or distributed to thousands of viewers.

What types of virtual events are there?

Virtual events can take place in any format depending on the goal you want to achieve and the experience you want to create. Product demonstrations, tutorials and classes are great for audience interaction. If you’re launching a new product and getting a lot of questions about it, showing how it works will help your audience with their buying decision. Classes encourage your audience to join in with you, whether this is running through a new software you’ve produced or teaching a cooking class. By following your tips and instructions, your audience receives added value to your offering.

Conferences and trade shows are usually larger events held throughout a day or week. They include different sessions on certain topics with expert speakers and visual aids. Viewers can register for these events and receive a similar experience to a physical conference. This type of virtual event is a good replacement for shows that have been cancelled.

For in-depth topics that require explanation and examples, webinars and workshops are a great option. Involving keynote speakers like professionals from your business or industry experts will build awareness and excitement around your event. With expert knowledge and skillset to share with viewers, you can develop a strong reputation as opinion leaders.

For journalists and industry professionals, interviews and performances are a common virtual event. Where you would usually host a Q&A or interview on stage between a reporter and expert, you can do it virtually in front of an audience of similar scale. Musicians, actors and artists opt for online gigs and performances to give their fans what feels like an exclusive piece of content.

Creative institutions like galleries, museums, theatres and conservation centres often host tours and behind the scenes of their locations. This type of virtual event is ideal for enthusiasts of your brand and children who want to see something they admire like art, sculptures or animals. Restaurants and manufacturers can do the same to show fans how they make their products.

Things to think about when hosting a virtual event

Hosting a virtual event brings with it a number of considerations. There are issues surrounding engagement, profit, technology and promotion that must be planned and executed effectively. 

How do you keep people engaged?

It’s easy to keep your attendees’ attention at a physical event as they’re immersed in the experience with little distraction. People get together to watch a speaker, network with others and receive a catered lunch. When your audience is sitting in their own homes, it’s difficult to hold this level of attention for a long period of time. They have families, phones, television and chores that mean they’re less likely to remain engaged in your session. This is where shorter, bite-size virtual events are more appropriate than all-day conferences. 45 minutes is a reasonable amount of time for educational sessions that require detailed explanations and examples. Using visual aids and examples will avoid being bored by a never-ending presentation. 

How do you make money from virtual events?

Ticket sales are your main source of revenue at a physical event, with food, merchandise and products following closely. With a virtual event, you can’t offer these valuable additions so many won’t want to pay for online events in the same way. Without anything to show from their event, like a fun pen, t-shirt, free food or useful resources, you can’t expect to charge for your virtual events. It’s more important to think about the value you want to provide and the experience you want to create. If you deliver something that’s educational, entertaining, emotive and interactive, your audience will give you their custom and support in return.

How can people access the event?

You need to decide where you’re going to host your virtual event. There are lots of software platforms that allow you to do this depending on the format of your event. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube live streams are great for performances, interviews and Q&As. For webinars, workshops and conferences, you may want to choose one that enables you to present to your audience. For classes and tutorials with a personal experience, you can use video conferencing software like Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams. Consider if you want your event to be accessible after it’s finished. If attendees had to register, you could email the link over to them for them to watch again. Otherwise, you could post it on your website and social media to reach a wider audience.

When is the right time to host a virtual event?

It’s important not to rush into hosting a virtual event. If your physical event has been cancelled, take time to make sure you can deliver a comparable experience online. Understand that it won’t be the same and things will have to change that need a lot of consideration. Viewers’ availability will change if the event date changes so you may not get your original number of attendees. Time zones will play a part as now people from all over the world can sign up and access it. Choose a time that’s suitable for everyone, and if this isn’t possible, make your content available online afterwards for those that can’t attend the live thing.

What contingency should I have in place?

Think about how your event could go wrong and how you can fix it virtually. You should make you sure you have the relevant technology and software in place that can improve the experience. Technology will always be temperamental no matter how much you plan and organise. You should consider disruptions that may occur so you know exactly how to solve them quickly without impacting the audience experience. Your connection could drop, noises in the background could occur, speakers may echo and your screen could freeze. Having a trial run of your event will allow you to test and iron out any issues before the real thing. Make sure you can share your presentation visuals or files smoothly. Ensure you have file backups or printed visuals if there’s some sort of data loss or connection.

Benefits of hosting a virtual event

There are so many benefits of hosting a virtual event for your audience. It’s a cost-effective solution that requires a much lower budget than a physical event. You don’t have to spend money on a venue, catering, equipment, legalities and staff members to keep the event running smoothly. They also save a lot of time. You don’t have to meticulously search for venues and resources or spend time training, hiring and sorting out staff logistics.

If your event has to be registered for, you can gather data of individuals that are interested in your brand and offering. This is a great opportunity for lead generation as you can follow up with communications that lead them onto the next stage of your customer journey. By providing a new and fun experience to your customers, you can increase audience engagement online. You can reach a wider audience of those who may stumble upon your event from social media. This is great for building relationships through added value and developing brand awareness. 

Virtual events are a great way to give your audience valuable experience with your brand. You have an opportunity to educate, entertain, inform, guide and support your customers by sharing your expertise and skill set.  While there are a lot of considerations to make, you can save time and money while gaining so much in customer engagement and brand awareness.

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How Folding@home is helping find treatments for the coronavirus https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-foldinghome-is-helping-find-treatments-for-the-coronavirus https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-foldinghome-is-helping-find-treatments-for-the-coronavirus#respond Tue, 28 Apr 2020 12:47:45 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=577 As cases of those testing positive with coronavirus continue to increase, it’s crucial that scientists have the ability to study the virus and how it can be treated. The government...

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As cases of those testing positive with coronavirus continue to increase, it’s crucial that scientists have the ability to study the virus and how it can be treated. The government has pledged to make coronavirus tests widely available among essential workers and their households in the UK, with health secretary Matt Hancock wanting to reach 100,000 tests a day. With the strain the NHS is currently under, officials have warned that this number isn’t yet possible. The UK is struggling to hit 20,000 tests with a week left of the April-end goal. 

Scientists are working harder than ever to simulate the dynamics of COVID-19 proteins. We must understand the complexities of the virus to begin to develop treatments and therapeutics. These calculations require all the processing power they can get to develop treatments for the virus. This is where Folding@home comes in; we all have the ability to help scientists run protein folding at home to continue developing treatments for the coronavirus.

What is Folding@home?

Folding@home is a distributed computing project that involves citizen scientists, aka the general public, to test virus proteins on their own computers. As scientists need to gain such a vast view of how and why proteins behave the way they do, they need access to an immense amount of computing power. This processing power is used to run simulations and calculations to understand how protein structures move and interact with one another. With the information and data they produce from the tests, scientists construct detailed reports of their findings which are shared with larger scientific corporations who have the power to create therapeutics for diseases.

Folding@home existed way before the coronavirus pandemic occurred. The project has been running since 2000 and helped to test proteins of the Ebola and Zika viruses among others. Folding extends to neurological diseases and cancer including Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. In 2007, Folding at home achieved a Guinness World Record for the most powerful distributed computing network in the world. As of 2020, Folding@Home has reached a capacity of 1.5 ExaFLOPS, surpassing the world’s fastest supercomputer, IBM’s Summit. The scale at which Folding at home is running shows how much help this distributed network is doing in the fight against protein diseases.

How does Folding@home work?

Proteins are incredibly complex structures that can’t be figured out by looking at a single picture. They continuously move and interact to create different patterns and structures that determine the impact they have on the human body. Folding@home works on the basis of understanding protein folding; a process by which proteins ‘fold’ into shapes to create strong structures that determine how they act and the impact they make. Proteins exist throughout our bodies, including our blood, hair and nails, and the function they have is determined by their ‘fold’.

Viruses contain proteins too. Viral protein folds function to prevent our immune systems from fighting the virus whilst they reproduce themselves. Using protein simulations when working on the Ebola virus, the Folding@home motions uncovered potential druggable sites that were previously difficult to locate in the single snapshot other experiments were producing. Folding@home wants to do the same with the coronavirus. 

How can you get involved with Folding@home?

As you and your business’ servers, desktops and laptops might be sitting idle at home or in the office, Folding@home is a great way to make your resources useful. By downloading the Folding@home software onto your computing device, scientists can run COVID-19 protein simulations that help us better understand the virus and develop therapeutics. The software is completely free and doesn’t require any science on your part! All you have to do is volunteer your computer to join the growing distributed network across the world.

If you want to get involved in the COVID-19 simulations, please consider volunteering for Folding@home. With your additional processing power, scientists can understand how the coronavirus works so we can develop treatments and therapeutics. You can learn more about how Folding@home is helping to fight the coronavirus.

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How to work from home with children https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-work-from-home-with-children https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-work-from-home-with-children#respond Thu, 23 Apr 2020 08:47:57 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=569 Schools all around the UK have been closed from the end of March to prevent children and staff from catching and spreading coronavirus. Many schools are doing whatever they can...

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Schools all around the UK have been closed from the end of March to prevent children and staff from catching and spreading coronavirus. Many schools are doing whatever they can to remain open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, with members of staff staying in school to support their needs. Children of non-essential workers, essential workers with the ability to work from home and children that are safe to be at home will be joining their parents or guardians for the foreseeable future. 

If you’ve been joined at home by a small colleague or two (or more!), you’re likely to feel overwhelmed by your new working life. Whether you’re self-employed or working for an employer, juggling your full or part-time role with childcare is a challenge. Family life is hectic at the best of times without throwing work into the mix. Without freedom of the outdoors and the school day to keep your children stimulated, your work life is likely to be impacted by lockdown. Here are a few tips to help you find balance while working from home with your children.

Be transparent with your children

It’s a confusing time for children whose lives have suddenly been put on hold. Depending on their age, your child will know differing levels about the coronavirus and its impact on the world. It’s important to be open and honest with them about what’s happening, why they’re at home and that you still have to work. Before engaging in conversation about the virus, you will need to gauge their level of understanding to know how in-depth you should go to explain it. You could ask what they know already and if their friends are chatting about what’s going on. Ask if they have any questions and answer as truthfully as possible, without causing any other worries. You don’t want their concerns and anxieties to build up so keep the conversation productive with things they can do to help themselves and everyone else. 

Focus your conversations on hygiene. Make sure they know that the safest thing to do is stay at home and wash their hands. There are lots of great resources online to help them learn about spreading germs and practice their handwashing technique. If you have an older child, they’ll already know what’s going on but may not have the information from the right reputable sources. If they have questions that you don’t know the answer to, send them in the direction of the government and NHS websites. If you think they’re getting overwhelmed by it all, try to limit their exposure to the news so their anxieties don’t grow.

Be flexible with your routine

Nothing is normal right now so you can’t expect your work life to stay as it is in the office. Establishing a new routine will help you gain some form of normality in this strange climate. You might have to speak to your employer about your child commitments and that your work hours will be out of the ordinary. If they agree, you could work earlier in the morning or later in the evening outside of the typical 9-5 hour day. If your child is still young, nap times are ideal to get in up to an hour of work or more to fit in some calls or emails.

You could create a flexible schedule that your family can stick to. Having time slots for breakfast, lunch, dinner, exercise, free time and learning will help you and your child stay motivated. Try not to be restrictive with what you do in those slots – just chat to your child about how they’re feeling and what they want to do that day. This could be playing in the garden, watching a film, doing some crafts or going for a walk. If you commit to specific lists everyday and life gets in the way, you can feel like you’ve failed to achieve your goals.

Establish working boundaries

At the beginning of each week, plan out your work schedule and tasks so you know what calls, meetings, emails and projects need to be worked on. Mark out these hours and fit in time with your child around them. Let your child know that you’re going to be occupied during this time and that you need to concentrate on work. If you know you’re about to go on a call, you could set your child up with an activity that can take an hour or so. After you’re done, check in with them and give them some attention. If you give them your time, they’ll give you yours. 

Your work hours could be within their daily film viewing slot. Give them blankets and their favourite snacks so they have something to look forward and stay occupied while you’re working. If they want to be in the room with you whilst you work, you could put some toys or a puzzle near your workstation. This way, they can see you but aren’t demanding your attention. 

Increasing their screen time is fine

Screen time gets a really bad wrap. With so much more time to spare during the day, your children are bound to spend more time in front of their screens. Whether it’s the TV, tablet, phone or electronic game, screens are great for stimulating their learning and holding their attention. There are so many great resources available for children online including games, puzzles, talks, podcasts, bedtime stories, videos, TV shows and movies.

However, with more screen time, you’ll need to increase your internet safety measures if you haven’t already. Thinkyouknow.co.uk has some great resources for the online and offline safety of children of all ages, parents and teachers. 

Not everything has to be educational

With your children out of school, you might feel the pressure to fill their days at home with lessons. No one expects you to be a teacher while you’re still working from home; free learning through play and exercise is just as important. Depending on the age of your child, you might want to check how many hours of actual studying they need to do a day. For younger children, it might just be an hour or two and for older children, it might be more.

Stay up to date with your child’s nursery or school as a lot of institutions are streaming classes over video or live channels. These virtual classrooms might be the solution for you if you’re struggling to devote a couple of hours a day to teach your children. Twinkl has brilliant resources for children in early years, KS1, KS2 and KS3/4. They’ve put together a COVID-19 school closures home learning hub with resources for children, parents and teachers as well as wellbeing and support. You can print resources or download them digitally depending on what you have available at home. 

The key to working from home with children is to be realistic about what you can actually do. No one expects you to be a brilliant chef, employee, teacher, personal trainer and entertainer rolled into one. The situation you’re in is a unique one but it’s only temporary. That’s not to undermine the challenges you’re facing right now, but try to find the silver lining in all of this. You’re able to spend a great deal of time with your child at home that you wouldn’t usually experience. Looking forward to the small things like going for a walk, making lunch and watching movies with your children will help you get through the day. 

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What technology and security do I need to work remotely? https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/what-technology-and-security-do-i-need-to-work-remotely https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/what-technology-and-security-do-i-need-to-work-remotely#respond Thu, 26 Mar 2020 13:47:33 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=517 Working from home is the norm for many people, but for most of us, it’s something that takes a lot of adjustment to find what works for you. Those of...

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Working from home is the norm for many people, but for most of us, it’s something that takes a lot of adjustment to find what works for you. Those of us that have the ability to work from home are very lucky to do so, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws. Remote working when you don’t have the equipment and technology you typically have at the office is challenging.

If your business doesn’t have a remote working policy, now is the time to prepare one. This policy should detail all the technology, security and remote measures your employees need to take when working away from the office. To help you get started, here are the key technology and security measures you should have in place to ensure you can work remotely efficiently and productively.

The technology you need

The technology you have at home is bound to be limited compared to what you have in the office. This doesn’t mean you can’t establish a good setup with some simple hardware and software additions that you probably already have. If not, your employer may be happy to source these for you to ensure you can do your job effectively.

Laptop or desktop computer

The most obvious technology you need for remote working is a laptop or desktop. Whether you choose a laptop or desktop depends on what is best for needs. If you have a desktop at work and can’t bring it home with you, use a laptop but ensure you transfer any files stored on its hard drive in advance of needing them. The advantage of a laptop is that you can set it up wherever and whenever you want. With a desktop, you’re limited to a flat, large surface in your home. Desktops typically perform better and have larger storage capacity. A laptop isn’t great for your posture unless you can elevate it to eye level; the smaller screen may also cause eye strain. Weigh up the options and choose which is better for you.

Monitor and HDMI cable

When you’re used to working from one, two, or even three monitors at your desk, being restricted to a single laptop or desktop can take some adjustment. A monitor isn’t essential for everyone, but if you’re using a desktop you definitely need one. If you’re using a laptop, you may choose to use a monitor as a secondary screen. If you’re using a monitor as your secondary screen, you can use a TV if you have one. Don’t forget you need an HDMI cable to connect to your laptop or desktop to the monitor itself.

Keyboard and mouse

A keyboard isn’t essential if you’re using a laptop but it may be worth it if you’ll benefit from a wider surface area to type. A mouse is a useful addition to a laptop for more control over your movements. A wireless mouse ensures you’re not restricted or tangled by cables connected to your device – but it does need batteries so makes sure you’re stocked up with the right type. A keyboard and mouse are both necessary for a desktop computer. As mentioned, you can get wireless and cable versions depending on your preference.

Headphones and webcam

If you’re making a lot of calls whilst remote working, it’s a good idea to get a set of headphones. Earphones are fine but can become uncomfortable on longer calls. If you can, invest in noise-cancelling headphones to ensure no outside interference can disrupt your calls. If you’re making video calls on your desktop, you’ll need to get a webcam as they don’t have one in-built. This will ensure you can remain connected to your team and see familiar faces during the day. If you’re using a laptop, you won’t need a webcam as they have them installed already.

Microsoft 365 One Drive, Google Docs, Dropbox, or other document sharing software, and Adobe Suite

Moving on from physical devices, the software you use is just as important when working remotely. Without access to physical documents in your office, it’s wise to set up Google Docs, or other document sharing software, to ensure all your team has access to documents they need. With your documents online, you can create, edit, and share each other’s work without the need for multiple versions of docs or printing. If you choose to set up Google Docs, you don’t need access to Microsoft Suite, so this can save you a great deal of money if you don’t already have it installed on your device. If you’re creating design documents, you’ll need access to Adobe Creative Suite. If your business already has this software, you just need the login details to be able to access it remotely. 

Teams, Zoom, or Hangouts

Video conferencing software is an essential part of remote working. It ensures you remain connected to your team throughout the day and can align on business activities or just have a general catch up. Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts are all great tools you can use for free. All you need is a strong internet connection, webcam, and headphones to be able to hear your colleagues clearly.

Broadband and ethernet cable

Internet connectivity is pretty important when you’re working from home. Most of you will already have wifi, but it’s important your package can handle your usage. Ensure it has good running and download speed to manage activities including calls and file sharing. The further away from your router, the weaker your connection will be. If this is the case, you can get a wifi extension that will connect your device to the router. Alternatively, you can use an ethernet cable that will connect your devices to the local network.

The cybersecurity you need

As well as the technology needed to work remotely, the issue of cybersecurity is critical. Your cybersecurity in the office is likely to be advanced, but away from that, you’re probably limited. Without certain software and protection measures in place, your business is at risk of an internal or external attack. This can result in theft, data corruption, or loss that seriously impacts your business’ ability to operate.

Secure connection

When you’re working remotely, it’s important to connect to a secure network. If you have strong wifi at home, you should remain connected to this at all times. Ensure it’s password-protected to stop other parties from connecting to it. Make sure you’re not working from an unsecured public network. This opens up your applications to malicious threats that can destroy your data or device.

Password and authentication

You must make sure that all your accounts are protected with strong passwords. You shouldn’t use the same password for everything; if a hacker gains access to one account, they’re likely to try them all. Use passwords with upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols to ensure it’s tough to crack. Where possible, you should also use multiple-factor authentication. This adds an extra layer to the protection of your accounts, so even if a hacker has your password, they won’t make it past the other layers of protection. This isn’t necessary for all your accounts, but have it in place for business-critical and sensitive data.

VPN connection

Your business may have a VPN in place so all remote workers can access the folders and drives regardless of their geographic location. A VPN is a secure network that allows you to connect through your wifi and gain access to the business’ network and files that are stored there. A VPN also encrypts your data so it’s another level of privacy added to your remote setup. 

Antivirus and firewalls

Install firewalls and antivirus software to your desktop or laptop to prevent cybersecurity attacks. Firewalls provide a barrier to protect your business from unsecured external networks. Antivirus software is the next level of security that acts as a shield to protect your device and its data from malware like phishing, trojan, and viruses. This software does expire so make sure you’re always protected.

Update your devices regularly

Your devices will recommend updates regularly so make sure you install them automatically when they appear. Updates are essential to fix any bugs in your device and keep it protected with the latest security additions. This will speed up your device, clear storage space, and fix security vulnerabilities.

Backup your data

Failing to backup your data is one of the biggest cybersecurity mistakes you can make. Without another location of your business-critical information, hackers can easily destroy data that would ruin your business. Make sure you backup your data regularly to multiple locations automatically. You can use external hard drives and the Cloud to ensure it’s protected. Use strong password protection and multiple-factor authentication. You should also have recovery systems in place so your data is salvaged should disaster strike.

Email filtering

When you’re working remotely, you’re likely to have a lot more emails entering your inbox as face-to-face communication becomes limited. You’ll be at risk of phishing attacks and unsecure sites that can install viruses into your device and network. Install email filtering software to filter your ingoing and outgoing emails to check for spam, malware, and untrustworthy links.

There are plenty more ways to establish the ideal remote working environment but these are the essential technologies and cybersecurity measures your business needs. Ensure your employees receive cybersecurity training so they can protect the devices and software in your remote working policy. Check with them to see what they already have at home and what they need to work remotely. This guide is a great place to start developing your remote working strategy and remain secure from threatening forces.

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How to stay connected whilst remote working https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-stay-connected-whilst-remote-working https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/how-to-stay-connected-whilst-remote-working#respond Mon, 23 Mar 2020 10:29:12 +0000 https://www.apogeesolutions.co.uk/?p=494 Whether it’s ideal or not, most businesses are having to step up their remote working processes. Where face-to-face communication is limited, it takes a shift in your normal way of working and engaging to make sure your business stays connected while working out of the office.

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Whether it’s ideal or not, most businesses are having to step up their remote working processes. Where face-to-face communication is limited, it takes a shift in your normal way of working and engaging to make sure your business stays connected while working out of the office. A full remote working policy isn’t something a lot of businesses will have put in place; if your business has, it’s likely to involve a few individuals on a consultancy basis, not your entire workforce.

Having to send your team, whether all of them or some of them, away from the office will undoubtedly disrupt your working life. It’s not something we would have expected to go through without much time to prepare the right processes. This has caused problems for many trying to ensure you have everything necessary to run your business seamlessly. This is only achievable with the right communication, software, processes and expectations in place. Here are some ways you can stay connected while working remotely:

Choose your communication channels

Establish the communication channels you’re going to use during your time working from home. Where you would pop your head up or walk to your colleagues’ desks to ask a question or have a chat, it’s no longer possible. Set your communication boundaries at the beginning of remote working so all your team know how and when they can catch up with each other. It doesn’t all have to be work related – set up some time to have general chit chat about how your day’s gone and what’s happening in each other’s lives. These are the core interactions that will certainly be missed not being in the office.

Make sure all your team have access to a mobile phone so you can always jump on a call when you need to. Phone calls tend to be the most productive when chatting to one person individually or in private. Ensure your team have each other’s contact numbers before sending them away so everyone is accessible. For both mobile and video calls, make sure team members have a strong broadband connection and good wireless coverage in work areas, otherwise, be sure to provide Ethernet cables for those that need them before leaving the office.

Video calls are great for wider group meetings of more than three or four people. You can share screens and present information so you’re all viewing the same thing. Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom are great video conferencing software that offer different benefits. Trial them to see which works best for your needs. Decide on certain meetings or calls where you all put your cameras on – it’s nice to see a friendly face to boost morale. If some team members are pulled out into other meetings, record the ones you’re having with the wider team so they can catch up and stay in the loop.

If you’re used to physical documents or documents that are all on your computer storage, consider moving them to the Cloud or Google Docs. This will allow you to access your documents online without storing them directly on your device. You can also share links to documents quickly and easily so everyone can see the relevant projects and make contributions.

Avoid emails internally where possible – they can clutter your inbox and get distracting with notifications constantly popping up in the corner of your screen. It can get confusing following long trails of emails with all sorts of people CC’d in when a simple phone call or meeting could be held. If you need to email, reserve it for times when comms need to be in writing and documents need to be sent externally.

For written internal communications, use instant messaging apps to drop someone a quick message that doesn’t demand a phone call. Apps including Teams, Skype, Hive, Slack or Yammer are great for regular check ins and quick messages. These platforms are great digital workspaces too. You can set out all your tasks and assign them to the relevant people with the right deadlines and briefs. You can then tick off what you’ve achieved and move things around to stay on track.

Be responsive

It’s really important to be as responsive as possible when you’re working remotely. It’s not fair on your colleagues if you leave an hour or so before replying. You have to remain prompt and timely to help everyone maintain their pace of work. You have to be willing to sacrifice some of your time during the day for these communications. You’ll feel like you’ve lost valuable minutes that could have been filled with your tasks, but it’s the right thing to do for your team.

Be realistic as to what you can actually achieve in a day. If you know you’ve got a lot of meetings lined up, prioritise your tasks and move the deadlines you have control over. If you overreach and fall short, it can be really demotivating. Remember to tell your team when you’re moving away from your screen for a long period of time or will be offline. This ensures they know when to contact someone else and not wait around for you.

Set realistic expectations

Moving away from the software aspect of remote working, simple shifts in your daily schedule can take some transitioning time. You may experience a drop in productivity if you haven’t got your team around you as a daily motivator. On the other end of the spectrum, you could feel totally focused and productive being alone in your home. Without distractions of the office, you could get more work done than usual. But this won’t be the case for everyone – this is where your regular communications come into play so you all know who’s done what.

As your workforce have more flexibility when working remotely, you’ll want to maintain structure and objectives that must be met. Start the week off by creating a schedule for everything you want to achieve for the week. Break it down into individual days and even mornings or afternoons- but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete it. Unexpected things come in throughout the day that demand your attention away from planned tasks.

Incorporate rules into this schedule to keep everyone on track. It could be a video call at 9am every day, a phone call at 4.30pm at the end of a Friday, or a project deadline at 2pm on Wednesday. This way, everyone will be aligned and on track to hit your goals. Ensure the senior members of staff take time to fill in their wider teams on any client and customer communications. While people are out of sight, they may be out of mind – it’s easy for you to forget to pass on messages to the relevant individuals.

If your business is new to remote working, it can take a lot of getting used to. Put measurements in place so your workforce can reflect on how you’ve performed. If you haven’t hit all your daily or weekly targets, why is that? Was the work you did produce to an exceptional standard? What do you need to do tomorrow or next week to reach those goals? It’s about trying things out and seeing what works best for your business. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to remote working and it will take time to figure out how it works for your workforce.

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