Archive for August, 2016

Computer Protection: Are you Doing Enough?

Posted on: August 25th, 2016 by Jessica Diehl No Comments

On a recent TNT Monday Sales Call, I asked our engineering manager, sales manager, marketing director and all the sales staff this question about computer protection.

“What do you do to protect your PC?”

I intentionally didn’t define the word, “protect” knowing that if I did, I would be setting them up to answer.

Immediately, four of them chimed in with a software offering.

Within 10 seconds, I heard

After a few moments of “why” conversation, we got our first hardware response.  Jessica, our marketing director, has had several hardware failures, so she discussed having a backup device as part of her computer protection.  Then, as others saw that hardware backups were a part of the definition of protection, they added how they used external hard drives and multiple PCs, as well.

Third, the conversation of cloud backup occurred.  People chimed in with Onedrive conversations.  One person had a private cloud-he backed everything up to hard drive and put the hard drive in a safe deposit box every 3 months.  Not the typical cloud, but a cloud, nonetheless.

Lastly, a few people chimed in about power backups.  Some had UPS technology on their main computer, and all agreed that they used power strips on their critical devices.

Keep in mind that everyone on this call was part of a company that delivers IT solutions to customers who are looking for guidance with computer protection.  Our conversation took nearly 30 minutes, and we are the “experts” in the eyes of many.

Some learnings:

  • We didn’t use what we sell, consistently. We have “free” Trend Micro care of our partnership with them, but only a few people used it.
  • We don’t trust the “cloud” as we oftentimes lose our connection to the Internet, based on where we all live. We use the cloud as a failover, but not as a primary, for our data
  • We all have a plan B that has been learned from trial and error. One person on the call lost Internet at their house that very morning, and they couldn’t dial into our call using their work equipment.  They used their cell phone instead.

Each person had a private solution for data protection, unrelated to what anyone else does. To translate, we all have spare keys to our cars, but we keep them hidden in different places.  Data Loss Prevention is, in the end, up the end user to decide if they trust it.

Ask the question, “what do you do to protect your PC,” and listen to the disparity in answers you get as people come up with definitions to protect on their own.  At TNT, we still have work to do before we reach quality security standard, but at least now we know where we are, and knowing is half the battle.

~ By: Jeff Gaura, President

Slow Internet Issues: A Quicker Way to Find the Real Culprit

Posted on: August 17th, 2016 by Jessica Diehl No Comments

Have you ever been in an office/house/space, and the Internet is horribly slow?  You ask someone “WTF with the slow Internet?” They tell you that it isn’t normally this way.

And they are liars.

OK, maybe they aren’t liars, but you sense without any words that their network stinks.

The truth is that the network is probably OK, but there is some device on the network that is hogging up the bandwidth.

Recently, at TNT, we experienced a slow Internet issue.  Yan just came back to the office after a 3-month hiatus, and he went to work on his computer.  Within an hour or two, both Jessica (the marketing director) and I experienced a train wreck called, “no Internet.”

I checked all the equipment to confirm that there were no equipment failures or configuration changes on the router, switch or firewall, and all seemed OK. The only “thing” that was different was that Yan had come back to work.

Back to work means that he plugged in his IP phone, cell phone and PC.  After a bit of troubleshooting, we found that when he disabled his PC, everything went back to “fast” on our network.  When he plugged it back in, everything slowed down.

Yan, being the professional that he is, denied all of it.  He even did a system restore to try to show us that it wasn’t his PC that was the problem.  Nope.

The real question came up: what is it that Yan’s PC is doing that is killing the bandwidth.  Running a couple of tools on his PC showed the processes that were using the bandwidth, but the built-in tools didn’t show what apps or what websites he was hitting.  For the techies reading this, his scvhost.exe was using up all the bandwidth.  Since that program controls how DLL are used, there is no way to sort out quickly what the culprit is.

My Plan B gave us an answer in literally 30 seconds.  I used Meraki’s free Dashboard to run a tool to view client bandwidth usage.  Meraki’s portal produced this info in a matter of seconds.

The culprit of the slow Internet?  Windows updates and One Drive syncing.  Yan hadn’t turned on this PC in 2 ½ months, and Windows didn’t like that.  It decided to run Windows updates and synchronize all of his files.  Within 2 hours, he had consumed 2 GB of bandwidth, and we were all unable to do anything other than type.

Had I not had the Meraki tool, I would have had to resort to some advanced Windows tools or download a 3rd party tool, learn it, and try to run it to sort out what is going on, all from Yan’s computer.  Problematic at best, since the act of turning his computer on the network was slowing everything to a halt.

Cloud-based networking made this possible.

Looking for a reason to go cloud?  Here you go.

by: Jeff Gaura, President

FLSA Changes: How IT Can Help

Posted on: August 10th, 2016 by Jessica Diehl No Comments

In less than 4 months, monumental changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act compliance, go into effect.  After attending an informative presentation on the FLSA changes hosted by the Union County Chamber of Commerce, The Network Team realized IT has the ability to help employers with the FLSA, perhaps for the first time, ever.

What happened with the FLSA changes that I should care about?

The Fair Labor Standards Act was put into place to create accountability for both employers and employees with regards to how pay was calculated and how people got paid.  It includes provisions for minimum wage, overtime requirements, limitations on minors and rules about record keeping that every business knows about.

Employers have sought to classify workers who potentially work more than 40 hours as “exempt” since this rule was created.  Exempt means that they are not subject to one or more FLSA requirements. Nearly every company has had employees who received a salary, and the company and does not track their hours, as there are definitions for executives, administrative and professional employees who are given an exemption.

Keep in mind that these rules haven’t gone through revision in a long time.  Fundamental to that assumption was that these people who were exempt from overtime requirements had an annual salary of at least $23,660.  That isn’t much, these days.  The government announced on May 18th of this year that the salary must now be $47,476 ($913/week) to keep this exemption.  They also announced that they will increase this new number again in 2020.

What does that mean?

The FLSA changes mean anyone who makes less than this new $913/week number now must be paid overtime; even if the employer and employee both think that they should be on salary.  The government provided a few work arounds to help employers get their employees who used to exempt up to this new number.

Discretionary bonuses based on profits and performance, incentive payments, and commissions, can be used to help add up to the new $913/week number. However, they all must be paid on a quarterly or more frequent basis.

Unfortunately, specifically ruled out are catch up payments and discretionary bonuses paid at year end.

To make matters worse for employers, none of these other compensation methods can add up to more than 10% of their total pay.  To translate:  If your employee doesn’t have a base pay of $42,728.40 per year, you will have to treat them as non-exempt and pay them overtime.

The courts have already ruled repeatedly in favor of employees who should have been paid overtime and were not done so by the employers.  In these cases, here is what happens:

The employee gets what is due them.

They automatically are entitled to liquidated damages. That means that they get double what was due them.

The employer is responsible for some if not all legal bills, no matter how outrageous the former employee spends on attorneys

As an example, in the case of Williams vs. New Hope Foundation, the court threw out most of the employee’s claims.  However, it upheld that the employee was due $36 in compensation in the form of travel reimbursement.  New Hope was then told to write a check for $25000 for Williams’ attorney’s fees needed to recoup their missing $36.  New Hope thought this ruling to be ludicrous and they appealed to the NC Court of Appeals.  They appeal court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Imagine if a couple of disgruntled employees were let go, and they had sent items that showed several times a week they were answering questions from their supervisors or the customers that they serve after hours.  Here is a chart.


FLSA Changes

Although many companies attempt to create a policy that states “don’t do these things,” those policies mean nothing if they are not enforced.  More than one employee has been told that they are fired after working overtime, only for the company to learn that they are responsible for paying the employee for the overtime that the employee worked before being reprimanded and then subsequently terminated.

Why do you need IT to fix this?

The courts have already ruled that time spent sending and receiving emails, and accessing company files after normal work hours is a compensatory activity that you have to account for in the employee’s calculation of number of hours worked.  They have also ruled that time spent on the phone discussing work, or talking to other employees about work, is compensatory.  Previously employers have assumed that time spent commuting to and from work was not compensatory, as there are specific provisions that state the contrary.  However, those rules were written before the advent of smart phones, and the rules have now changed.

TNT can assist your attempts to monitor these actions by creating an application for you that will send you weekly reports showing:

  • All attempts to send and receive email, after hours
  • All attempts to access the network and the data on it, after hours

Although these logs won’t prevent you from paying overtime, they will alert you as to when an employee has started performing tasks that you don’t want them to do at that time and give you an opportunity to reprimand them before you find yourself in a deep hole of overtime pay due.

Our applications are offered as a per employee per month offering, with a one-time setup fee. Contact us today to learn more about this offering to help you with the FLSA changes.

The Best Secret Windows 10 Features

Posted on: August 4th, 2016 by Jessica Diehl No Comments

Free upgrades to Windows 10 ended July 29th, which means many more people are now using the operating system.  Like any new relationships, there are details to be worked out.  As you get used to Windows 10, we wanted to highlight a few lesser-known Windows 10 features that may improve productivity for you.

“Can we just skip the awkward small talk?”

A great feature added to Windows allows you to make your desktop toolbar more powerful, allowing you to get to the information you need more quickly.  You can add a web address bar, as well as desktop links.

Windows 10 features

To add a web address bar:

  1. Right click on an empty space in the toolbar.
  2. Select Toolbars
  3. Click Address
  4. The web address bar will appear in the toolbar, allowing you to enter addresses right from there.

windows 10 features

 

You can also add a shortcut for items on the desktop, as well as links from your favorites bar.

“Let’s keep track of our special memories”

Hidden inside an unlikely app is a screen recording feature.  It is very basic, but can be helpful for creating training videos for new employees, or recording informational videos for clients and prospects.

You will need to first download the Xbox app from the Windows Store, and create an ID.  To use the screen recorder, you will need to launch the Xbox App, then open up the program you want to record.  (Unfortunately you cannot switch between apps while recording.)

Windows 10 features

To begin recording, simply press the Windows + G keys and a toolbar will pop up.  Select the record button (round red circle) and off you go!  The completed videos can be found in This PC > Videos > Captures.

“I need a little more security in this relationship.”

Mobile devices have had background managers for a while.  And now that feature is integrated into Windows 10 Desktop.  It allows you to tweak settings for apps that run in the background. For example, it can be a security risk for the hidden ads in your Web browser to connect to the Internet when you are not actively using it.  Adjusting the background apps settings can help keep those ads from tracking and logging your keystrokes while offline.

Windows 10 features

“It’s not me, it’s you!!”

Introduced in 2009, and added to Windows Desktop with Windows 10, Cortana is Microsoft’s digital assistant.  The more Cortana learns about you, the more she can help you.  That means the program collects information about things like your contacts, calendar, location, internet history, speech, typing and more.  If you are uncomfortable with that data collection, you can turn Cortana off and erase her memory.  Go to Settings > Privacy > Speech, inking & typing and click the button to “Stop getting to know me.”

Now that you know Windows 10 a little better, it’s time to introduce you to Windows Server 2016.  TNT has a special, limited time offer to let you kick the tires of Windows 2016 with some free labor and training. Get the details and sign up here.