5 ways IT can support productivity when work can happen anywhere

Many business leaders have resisted remote work for years, thinking it would lead to lower productivity. But here’s a surprise: A mid-2020 study showed that knowledge workers, software developers, and IT professionals are all more productive when they work from home.

The study defined workplace productivity as spending more time on the right work—not merely being busy. Data from the study showed that compared to people working in the office, remote workers had a 4% increase in average daily time spent on their core work and an 18% decrease in time spent on emails, chats, calls, and meetings—adding up to an annual total per person of 58 more hours spent on core work, and 256 fewer hours spent on communication. That’s a huge difference!

Here’s how to support workers in delivering their best—wherever they are.

1. Help people feel valued, even when they’re far away.

When people aren’t coming to the office every day, technology plays a bigger role in helping them feel supported and cared for. Give employees PCs and accessories that are not only efficient but also a pleasure to use. Pay attention to things that make work more enjoyable, like design details, ergonomics, vivid displays, and crisp sound.

2. Champion the ongoing quest for work-life balance.

According to a study by NordVPN, the recent pivot to remote work meant more time at the desk for many people; at-home workers put in an average of two extra hours each workday.2 People need help maintaining a healthy work-life balance to avoid burnout. When you introduce new apps, devices, or other tech that helps them do more—such as changing collaboration apps to “away” at a certain time each day—be sure to connect it with benefits at the human level.

3. Invest in technologies that make work flow faster.

Worker productivity depends a lot on fast, reliable, and high-performing tech. The last thing your IT team needs is to be deluged by support requests from slow, unresponsive devices. Look for PCs that deliver blazing-fast speed, high-quality graphics, and long battery life. Choose accessories that last a long time. That way, people don’t have to stop to recharge, close out extra tabs to free up memory, or fill up IT help desks with reports on broken tech.

3. Offload mundane maintenance tasks that gobble up IT time.

Remote management capabilities can help you handle things from afar— like upgrades and security patches—without needing your end users to do anything. They get back time to focus on their work, and you don’t have to wonder if they’ve made critical updates. The right solutions automate these processes, so they don’t burden IT teams.

4. Work closely with HR to understand employee needs better.

Your colleagues in HR have a direct line to employees. They know how they’re feeling about their work and what’s slowing them down. Schedule regular check-ins with HR to get these insights—which can help you find tech-driven solutions that help employees succeed.

When your IT is at its best, so are your people.

HP and Now Micro offer the world’s most secure and manageable PCs. HP Elite Notebooks are made for today’s challenges—with hardware-enforced security features and layers of protection below, inside, and above the OS to proactively prevent threats and quickly recover in the event of a breach. Sleek and light, Elite Notebooks offer advanced features like secure, wide-angle webcams, hardened security features like self-healing BIOS, 5G, and 4G LTE connectivity, Audio by Bang & Olufsen, HP Noise Cancellation, and the power and performance for smooth virtual collaboration. Now Micro’s collection of software and hardware solutions is perfectly suited to easily solve unique technical problems. Our solutions are used by over 60,000 users and have helped customers streamline their deployment process. With HP, Now Micro, Windows 10 Pro, and the Intel® vPro® platform, you get the latest software and out-of-the-box hardware security features to help defend your devices and your business.

Learn more about Now Micro’s partnership with HP, Intel, and Microsoft at https://www.nowmicro.com/hp.

How IT can improve virtual meetings for everyone

Some people love in-person meetings; others prefer the remote kind. However you feel about them, here’s an interesting discovery: A recent study found 86% of participants reported “as high or higher” levels of engagement in virtual meetings compared to face-to-face. That’s great news for the future of remote work—because if there’s anything we know for sure, there will be a lot more of them in our future. Here’s how to make them better for everyone.

Equip workers with the knowledge and tech they need to stay safe.

More than 50% of workers report not receiving any new security policies on working securely from home.

 A huge increase in virtual meetings hasn’t gone unnoticed by cyber attackers. New attack types are on the rise, and most meeting platforms have reported issues. Keep meetings secure by first ensuring that hardware and OSes are up-to-date. PCs more than four years old may not be able to take advantage of the latest patches, putting individuals and businesses at risk.

Equip teams for real work—not just talk.

Truly collaborative organizations are 5x more likely to be high-performing.

Setting a clear agenda and objectives for each meeting is key; you need the tech to support those intentions. Start with a high-definition webcam. Then think bigger—including wider mic arrays, enhanced audio, touchscreens, pen support, and tools like Windows Ink—to help teams collaborate through whiteboarding, marking diagrams and images, or sketching ideas. Tools that auto-generate meeting transcripts can help make note-taking faster and more accurate.

Manage bandwidth and eliminate lag time.

70% of network traffic is video

A big spike in videoconferencing has made lags more common. Help users test to ensure they have a solid Wi-Fi setup with enough bandwidth—using apps like Google Wifi. Some workers may need guidance on setting up routers or repeaters or using their phones as hot spots when the internet goes down. Here’s an easy win: Intel vPro-equipped devices with integrated Wi-Fi 6 offer up to 3x faster file-transfer speeds than Wi-Fi 5.5

Help employees make the most of virtual meetings.

As much as 93% of communication is nonverbal.

“Video on” has become a hallmark of the remote-work culture. Provide employees with tips on how to improve their virtual meeting experience—how to arrange lighting, troubleshoot audio, and upload professional headshots. Make a balanced plan that helps employees reduce stress by understanding when to have video on and when to have it off.

Utilize remote management tools to improve support.

According to ITDMs, after 2020, 49% of workers will be WFH at least part of the time.

Executives expect an increase in employees working remotely for at least three days per week—even 12 months after the global health crisis subsides. As this trend is here to stay, a modern approach to device management makes it easier for IT to support ongoing virtual meetings and work. With self-service features, windows 10 Pro simplifies device deployment, personalization, and user reset.

Collaborate better to move your business faster.

HP and Now Micro offer the world’s most secure and manageable PCs. HP Elite Notebooks are made for today’s challenges—with hardware-enforced security features and layers of protection below, inside, and above the OS to proactively prevent threats and quickly recover in the event of a breach. Sleek and light, Elite Notebooks offer advanced features like secure, wide-angle webcams, hardened security features like self-healing BIOS, 5G, and 4G LTE connectivity, Audio by Bang & Olufsen, HP Noise Cancellation, and the power and performance for smooth virtual collaboration. Now Micro’s collection of software and hardware solutions is perfectly suited to easily solve unique technical problems. Our solutions are used by over 60,000 users and have helped customers streamline their deployment process. With HP, Now Micro, Windows 10 Pro, and the Intel® vPro® platform, you get the latest software and out-of-the-box hardware security features to help defend your devices and your business.

Learn more about Now Micro’s partnership with HP, Intel, and Microsoft at https://www.nowmicro.com/hp.

5 reasons laptops are the ultimate solution for hybrid work

When the world pivoted to remote work in 2020, people didn’t simply pack up their office desktop computers and take them home. They asked for laptops—and these slim, powerful PCs have become essential to business productivity in the months since.

In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that laptops are now a must-have for workers in nearly every industry. As we transition into a hybrid of on-site and remote work, it’s worth asking: Why have laptops come out on top? We’ve uncovered five reasons why they’re a perfect fit for modern work.

1. Enjoy mobility, flexibility, and control.

A lightweight, ultra-slim form factor makes it easy to move away from ambient noise, find a more comfortable spot during meetings, or get work done in a small space. When employees need more screen real estate for complex work like spreadsheets or graphics files, they can simply connect their laptops to external monitors or desktop PCs. It’s the best of both worlds.

2. Make notes and share ideas in real-time.

A touchscreen makes workflow faster, with the ability to draw and add notes directly on the screen to communicate thoughts or show revisions. Forget trading multiple emails or creating lists— employees can draw and write on the screen and then capture it with a screenshot. Laptops become tablets with 360-degree hinge designs, making drawing fast and fun.

3. Be more productive—without even trying.

Collaborating, meeting, and accessing Microsoft 365 apps in seconds is easier. With Windows 10 Pro, people get new ways to stay organized and productive, with features like single sign-on (SSO) for remote desktop services, tools like Microsoft Teams for seamless remote collaboration, and whiteboard capabilities that help work flow more smoothly.

4. Streamline remote IT support and management—without changing your processes.

Supporting a hybrid on-site and remote workplace may require changes in how you approach PC management, but when you have laptops equipped with remote management tools, you can quickly make updates and provide support to reduce downtime.

5. Drop-ship fully secure PCs to employees for hands-off IT.

When laptops have built-in security, with protection at multiple levels—below, in, and above the OS—you can feel confident shipping them directly to your employees without needing to install security solutions beforehand.

A sophisticated choice to enhance productivity.

HP and Now Micro offer the world’s most secure and manageable PCs. HP Elite Notebooks are made for today’s challenges—with hardware-enforced security features and layers of protection below, inside, and above the OS to proactively prevent threats and quickly recover in the event of a breach. Sleek and light, Elite Notebooks offer advanced features like secure, wide-angle webcams, hardened security features like self-healing BIOS, 5G and 4G LTE connectivity, Audio by Bang & Olufsen, HP Noise Cancellation, and the power and performance for smooth virtual collaboration. Now Micro’s collection of software and hardware solutions is perfectly suited to easily solve unique technical problems. Our solutions are used by over 60,000 users and have helped customers streamline their deployment process. With HP, Now Micro, Windows 10 Pro, and the Intel® vPro® platform, you get the latest software and out-of-the-box hardware security features to help defend your devices and your business.

Learn more about Now Micro’s partnership with HP, Intel, and Windows, visit https://www.nowmicro.com/hp

Saving Money with a Managed Service Provider – By the Numbers

In previous blog posts, we have explained that working with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can help your company save money. But what does that mean? Below we will prove how MSPs will help your bottom line by the numbers.

  1. A recent IBM research report states that almost 27% of organizations outsource to reduce costs. 
  2. A McKinsey Global Institute study states outsourcing IT services reduces costs by 60% in the US. 
  3. An MIT Sloan Management Review study witnessed a drop of $121.14 million in non-IT operating costs as IT outsourcing increased to $96.14 million
  4. As per a Deloitte study, 64% of the companies consider cost-savings as the primary factor driving them towards outsourcing.

Outsourcing is the way to go if reducing costs is on your mind. But, you must be clear that it is more than just that. A cost-saving-focused approach to outsourcing is good, but you cannot disregard the other pros of outsourcing. It can save time, offer you the latest tech stack, let your managers focus on the core functions, and much more.

Outsourcing is undoubtedly the future, and if you need to stay competitive, working with Now Micro can take you to new heights. Now Micro’s goal is to provide services and solutions for every aspect of your technology needs. We have got you covered from end-users to enterprise data centers and up to the cloud.

5 steps to securing identity infrastructure

According to Microsoft, in Azure Active Directory, there are 50 million password attacks daily, yet only 20% of users and 30% of global admins are using strong authentications such as multi-factor authentication (MFA). Attackers who get control of privileged accounts can do tremendous damage, so it’s critical to protect these accounts. Read our checklist to learn more:

Strengthen your credentials
Strengthen your credentials by enabling strong authentication, banning commonly attacked passwords, implementing expiration rules, protecting against leaked credentials, adding resilience against outages, and implementing AD FS extranet smart lockout.

Reduce your attack service area
Reduce your attack service area by implementing cloud authentication, blocking legacy authentication, blocking invalid authentication entry points, implementing privilege access management, and restricting user consent operations.

Automate threat response
Automate threat response by implementing sign-in and user risk security policies, integrating Microsoft 365 Defender with Azure AD identity protection, and setting up monitoring and alerting.

Utilize Cloud Intelligence
To utilize cloud intelligence, your organization should monitor Azure AD, Azure AD Connect Health in hybrid environments, Azure AD Identity Protection events, apps, and consented permissions.

Enable end-user self-service
Implementing self-service password reset, self-service group and application access, Azure AD access reviews, and automatic user provisioning will create efficient ways for end-users to secure your organization’s identity infrastructure.


Now Micro Professional Services

Systems Management
We create a simplified desktop and data center management experience for your robust, complex, and heterogeneous environments. Through configuration and automation of systems management tasks, we allow you to keep control of your complex IT business, whether it is on-premises, in the cloud, or across the country.


Cloud Productivity
Now Micro helps you implement a cloud-based infrastructure, giving you unparalleled access, robust security, and greater control in your environment. Moving the infrastructure to the cloud pushes technology out of the way so you can focus on your job.


Identity Management
Our identity management solutions help you create simplified synchronization between identities on-premises and in the cloud while allowing administrators to monitor user access and behavior.

How to Equip Your Office for Hybrid Work

The ongoing pandemic is changing the way companies are structured. Remote work adds flexibility to workers’ lives and protects them from COVID-19, while in-person work allows staff to communicate nuances and socialize. Companies are now offering their employees the best of both worlds: a hybrid office. Read our top 4 tips on providing the right technology for a smooth transition into hybrid work.

Hoteling Stations

The new hybrid office system can look different for every company or for different departments within one company. For example, not all employees work on the same day in many companies, so to save space, a company could opt to have unassigned desks, also known as hoteling. Pairing hoteling with seamless workstations makes for a great hybrid office that saves space and money.

Invest in seamless workstations

After working the last two years at home, many employees have perfected their home technology to be able to work exactly how they want. However, with hybrid schedules, going back and forth between home and the office can be quite the hassle if you’re bringing things like laptops, headsets, and charging cables back and forth. A way to solve that challenge is to invest in seamless workstations for assigned desks or hotel stations. The arrangement can look different depending on each company’s needs. The setup used at Now Micro allows staff to bring only their laptops and plug them into monitors, which connect the laptop to charging, a wireless keyboard, and a mouse.

Conference Room AV Setup

Some days employees may choose to be in the office, while others work remotely. However, that doesn’t mean meetings have to only occur in person on only by video. Simply adding a small media player, a display on the wall, a web camera, and a speaker/microphone can equip conference rooms to help teams collaborate no matter where they are working.

Borderless Data Center

Storing company data can be challenging when employees are based in many locations. A solution to this is the borderless data center. The borderless data center is a hybrid cloud concept that brings the basic tenants of cloud computing to the brick-and-mortar data center for seamless application operation. Disaggregating the traditional physical infrastructure through a cloud-enabled Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) facilitates a software-defined, unified system combining all the elements of a conventional data center: storage, compute, networking, and management into a cloud infrastructure on-premises with lower costs, more control, and improved security.

Office setup and workplace culture are not going back to the way things were before. Therefore, it is essential to adapt to the times and equip offices that push us towards a more innovative future. Now Micro and its partners are here to help your office transition to a hybrid office. To learn more, visit nowmicro.com or email sales@nowmicro.com.

Now Micro Expands to New Location

Now Micro rang in the new year with a ribbon-cutting at our new headquarters in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Just a short drive from the previous address in Saint Paul, the new facility accommodates a growing services organization, expands warehouse and production capabilities, and caters to a new hybrid workplace culture.

Hybrid Office

The move to a larger facility coincides with changing workplace dynamics driven by the pandemic. Thanks to today’s technology, most organizations can now accommodate both remote and hybrid work models. Accounting for accessibility, uptime, and security is essential for successful remote or hybrid environments, but it can be difficult for organizations to adjust quickly. As a result, IT departments and organizations have had to change strategies to manage PCs and peripherals, data centers, collaboration technologies and provide sufficient help desk support for end-users. 

We built our new facility with a hybrid workplace in mind. Permanent offices and cubes are available to anyone who chooses to be in the office. Hoteling cubes and workspaces are open to employees who split time between working remotely and in-office. Microsoft Always On VPN technology keeps our sales team securely connected to our ERP systems as if they were in the office. While Microsoft Teams has been in place for some time, it is now our primary communication tool. The use of video in calls has increased substantially.

Digital Signage

Having digital signage engineers on staff has been a big help in deploying visual communications throughout the building. There are 15 displays installed throughout the building, with the majority focused on tracking business metrics in the warehouse and manufacturing space. In addition, the displays in the front office serve to greet customers and provide real-time performance metrics to our sales team.

Solutions

Now Micro has embraced these changes to lead by example and help accommodate customers in this different work world. As a result, demand for our services has increased. So we’re here to answer the challenging questions:

1.    How can my organization successfully provide technical support if no one is in the office?

2.    Where do my end-users go if they need troubleshooting on their devices?

3.    How do I solve connectivity issues with an end-user’s home Wi-Fi network? 

4.    How can I keep track of my organization’s devices when users’ offices are across the state or country?

2022 is off to a great start at Now Micro. We are excited about our new facility, a new hybrid-work environment, and a new skill set to give our customers additional support to enable their digital transformation.

Why are SMBs being targeted in cyber-attacks?

Did you know that small to medium-sized businesses are potentially more vulnerable for cyber-attacks than large businesses? With the growing complexity of IT challenges, it’s crucial to stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity threats and how to protect your business.

A Foot in the Door

Cybercriminals target SMBs because they are often a foot in the door to hacking into larger companies. SMBs are often vendors for larger entities and may have access to online portals and the banking information of these companies. Cybercriminals go for SMBs because they are likely to have weaker cybersecurity practices, making their vulnerable information, customer data, intellectual property, and financial data easy to compromise.

What to look out for

Every year, cybercriminals are advancing how they target their victims, which can be tricky to spot. Below are the leading causes for security breaches:

Weak and Stolen Credentials/Passwords

Hackers will take any opportunity to steal weak passwords from organizations. The key is to have a policy that requires strong passwords that include eight characters, at least one upper case letter, one number, and one special character.

Back Doors & Application Vulnerabilities

Sometimes software applications are poorly written, or network systems are poorly designed. These may have holes that cybercriminals can easily exploit and get your data directly without needing a password. The way to prevent this is to make sure software and network systems are up to date and properly patched.

Malware

Malware is software loaded unintentionally that a hacker can open up and exploit a system through. The key to avoiding malware is never downloading anything from questionable websites or opening suspicious emails.

Social Engineering

Have you ever received a fake email saying you’ve won a million dollars? That’s what social engineering is. It’s easy to evade cyber-attacks from this tactic as long as you know that if something looks too good to be true, it is.

Insider Threats

An angry employee or unaware employee can cause harm on your networks if given access to data. The simple solution to prevent this is to ensure that you keep your data backed up and your permissions up to date.

Physical Attacks

Hackers don’t always sit at home to commit cybercrimes. They can break into your building and use your computers to find secure data. Make sure your physical structure is protected to prevent a security breach.

Improper Configuration

Sometimes mistakes can be made when configuring systems, so it is essential to triple-check and have multiple people look at the work to keep errors minimum.

There are plenty of resources out there to help you get started on securing your company’s data. One of them is working with an MSP, like Now Micro. To learn more about our managed services, visit our website or reach out to Sydney Ellison at sydneye@nowmicro.com.

4 Reasons to Conduct a Network Assessment

Q1 is a great time to check IT systems and determine how to revamp them for the year. Performing a network assessment is essential when gauging areas for improvement. A network assessment looks at disk & memory utilization, BDR sizing calculation, warranty summary, device stabilization requirements, software and device inventory, active directory user list, and much more. Read more to find out how a network assessment can help your organization.

1. View a detailed and comprehensive report and analysis of your company’s existing IT infrastructure.

If you’re seeking out a network assessment, you are likely trying to learn everything about your organization’s system and see where you’re succeeding or where you’re falling short. A network assessment will look at network performance, security protection, server/storage performance and determine which issues are network-related or user-related. It’s essential to get a comprehensive report on your network so that you can catch hard-to-find errors and fix them.

2. Create a strategy for your IT systems and people.

You’ll likely be working with a managed service provider to execute a network assessment, which will benefit you. A managed service provider has a team of IT experts to gauge the network assessment results and then offer guidance. MSPs, such as Now Micro, work with a variety of clientele and will be able to customize their offerings based on what your organization needs. Once the strategy is in place, your IT issues will be solved in no time.

3. Discover money-saving opportunities.

By filling in the gaps of your IT strategy, you are saving time and money. For example, most IT management is protection, prevention, and modernization. These new changes will save your organization from an IT disaster and save resources that would have been used in recovery and fixing errors.

4. Get an explanation for C-suite Executives.

Sometimes C-suite executives need raw data to convince them to approve significant upgrades. A network assessment will lay out all the data you need to get them on your side. As stated in Reason #3, the improvements may be a high cost upfront, but over time, the company can save money by keeping their IT up to date and not constantly paying for repairs when disaster hits.

If you would like to have a network assessment of your organization’s IT infrastructure, visit Now Micro’s managed services website and click on the “Free Network Assessment” button to get started or email our Managed Services point of contact, Sydney Ellison, at sydneye@nowmicro.com.

Chromebooks, Chromebooks everywhere!

Chromebooks stored in Now Micro’s warehouse

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most innovating and challenging times in educational technology. According to a United States Census Bureau survey, 80% of households with school-age children used online resources for distance learning in 2020, so having the right equipment is essential for quality education. However, with fluctuating infection rates in 2022, schools and businesses still have to react quickly to procure, customize, and distribute technology to their users. For many districts and universities, this is an impossible feat without the support from Now Micro. 

Over the last few months, Now Micro has procured HP Chromebooks to offer customized solutions for educational institutions. Flexibility in our warehouse and production processes, combined with highly trained technicians, allows us to produce roughly 1,000 units a day in our Mendota Heights, MN facility.

The imaging center at Now Micro

As a Certified Google White Glove service provider, Now Micro manages the enrollment and configuration of Chromebooks on behalf of the schools. This service saves K-12 schools and universities time, money, and organizational headaches and allows them to focus on education.

The Now Micro Certified White Glove Services for Chromebooks include:

  • Enrollment of the device to the customer domain
  • Enterprise enrollment and validation
  • Application of network configuration settings
  • Wireless Configuration (Wi-Fi SSID and Pre-shared key)
  • Management Console Training

Now Micro Imaging services:

  • Populate custom fields in the Google Chromebook Management Console with your required data
  • Assign devices to the correct organization unit
  • Utilize Now Micro’s DICE Portal to allow you to see all of your devices combined with purchasing and hardware data in an easy to use, exportable format
Now Micro staff working on Chromebook customization

To learn how Now Micro can help your organization meet its technology needs, visit https://www.nowmicro.com/ or contact Marty Linden, Vice President of Sales at martyl@nowmicro.com.