Posts Tagged

Home

7 Zoom tips for working from home

Despite disturbing errors of judgement such as this and this, Zoom appears to have become the most popular solution for online collaboration, in use across enterprise, government and individuals.

I’ve kicked it around to surface a few less visible features you might find useful – most of which should be helpful for every platform, not just Apple’s.

People don’t need to see you in your room

I’ve been on Twitter long enough to have seen plenty of people’s offices, rooms and other personal spaces in the background of the Zoom chat screenshots people seem so fond of sharing at the moment.

It’s funny how people seem to like sitting in front of their books.

It doesn’t need to be this way – you can use a virtual background if you choose.

Open Zoom Settings>Virtual Background and you’ll be able to select one of the default background options there so people don’t see you in your room – or you can use one of your own images….

The eternally tidy room trick

Which brings me to my next tip:

We’re all indoors and going slightly stir crazy, which makes it more than reasonably possible our rooms will become a little untidy. That’s fine when you’re in personal space, but what will your colleagues think?

Here’s an idea: Take a photo of the room when it is tidy from the same angle as the camera you use when engaged in a Zoom meeting and set it as your Virtual Background.

Now all your colleagues will notice how insanely tidy you are and won’t see the weird stream of consciousness poetry you’ve started writing on your walls.

Make you look (a little better) too

Zoom has a little-known setting that tries to improve your appearance during a call.

Open Settings>Meetings and enable the Touch Up My Appearance filter, which tries to improve your appearance like an iPhone Camera filter. It’s very basic, but it does smooth your appearance a little, and seems to work well with Virtual Backgrounds.

Control your sharing habits

Left to its own devices, Zoom wants to broadcast audio and video from the moment you enter a meeting.

Don’t let it:

  • Mute the microphone in Settings>Audio.
  • Turn off your video in Settings>Video.
  • When it’s time to speak, just tap the Space bar.
  • Also see below for keyboard tips.

Screen out dark video windows

Pretty soon everyone will either be sat in custom background images, or eternally tidy rooms, or have automatic video disabled (unless your boss wants it ‘abled).

That means that when you are in Gallery view in Zoom you’ll find way too many dark windows (you’ll have to live with the fake backgrounds in this tip).

If only there was a way to get rid of all those dark windows and just spend your time reading through your colleague’s book collections in the eternally tidy background.

Go to Settings>Video>Meetings, and check the box marked Hide nonvideo participants. Now only windows with video will be visible.

Keep a record

The problem with meetings, even virtual ones, is that decisions get reached and things get said, but typically not every decision is noted down.

(That’s not the case if you have someone taking efficient minutes during a meeting, of course).

Thing is, meeting hosts can record meetings, save them to your Mac, though not to a mobile device, and then upload them to the brilliant Otter.ai service which will transcribe them for you (once you strip the audio).

You’ll never lose a relevant action point again.

Record in Settings>Recording, which must be toggled to on. Zoom also offers paid plans which let you record meetings from a mobile device.

Now read the manual

I do hope I’ve managed to provide you with a few useful tips to get more if you are using Zoom.

While it’s nowhere near as private as Group FaceTime, it is way more cross-platform – and there are lots more shortcuts to explore.

These include numerous useful keyboard shortcuts, including mute/unmute audio/video, display and hide chat, switch camera and tools that let you share and give control over what’s happening on your computer screen.

You’ll find much more about using Zoom here.

More info for remote workers

Feel free to explore my extensive selection of guides that should help the many Apple-using remote workers and enterprises that employ them:

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





Source link

How businesses can save money when everyone needs Office to work from home

Companies have scattered to the wind, once-formidable armies of workers enclosed in glass buildings now sundered, each employee at his or her own outpost, whether kitchen table, home office desk or lap in a quasi-quiet corner.

Flinging employees off the workplace carousel may have been as simple as a single “Go home” order, but ensuring that those workers can do their work from home and be productive at it (or even partially productive), takes work – a lot of work.

The suddenness of the exodus from the office may also have left management, IT and even employees unprepared for the shift. Core and work-critical tools, Microsoft Office among them, may be missing. But money doesn’t grow on trees, not in times of cholera or coronavirus.

Getting Office to sent-home employees won’t be simple. If the firm has stuck with on-premises, perpetually-licensed solutions, beginning to hybridize infrastructure by moving some of it to the cloud will be rough. And if IT hasn’t had a lot of experience dealing with remote workers, there’s a steep learning curve ahead.

But there are ways to cut costs and save money when the first order of business is to get everyone working on business. Computerworld has compiled several of the best options, some for shops that rely on Office 2010, 2013, 2016 or 2019, others for enterprises partly or completely in on Office 365.

Stay healthy. Stay in business.

If your company relies on Office (perpetual)

Office’s perpetual version is the one that a firm purchases once with an up-front payment, typically as part of a volume licensing deal. That payment provides the rights to run the suite as long as one wants, long after Microsoft stops serving security updates if you’re willing to take risks. It can be installed on just one PC or Mac, and so is tied to that device, not to its current user.

That means if these devices stayed at the workplace when employees were sent home to work, there are no Office licenses available for the worker to install on his or her personal laptop.

Subscribe to Office 365 E1 or Office 365 Business Essentials

These two plans – the former for firms of all sizes, the latter only for companies that purchase 300 or fewer seats – are among the least expensive Office 365 subscriptions. Office 365 E1 runs $8 per month per user (when paid for in a single lump sum for an entire year; more on that later). Office 365 Business Essentials costs $5 per user per month (again, when bought in an annual lump sum).

Neither plan provides the desktop Office applications found in Office perpetual, instead offering the web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Both also provide Teams, Microsoft’s collaboration/video conferencing software, which many businesses have begun using – or are using much more often now – to communicate and meet with now-at-home employees.

(Note: Check out “More Teams for free” below for an even better deal on Office 365 E1.)

The idea here is that these Office 365 licenses are considerably less expensive than purchasing, say, a second Office 2019 license for an employee to use during the crisis. And while the web apps are not the equal of the desktop applications, they should serve for the unknown-but-not-infinite time workers will work from home.

Pay on a month-by-month basis

No one knows exactly when it will be prudent to return to working in large groups. Even experts are wary of guessing.

With that in mind, it seems smart to pay for “bridge” Office 365 plans like Enterprise E1 or Business Essentials on a month-by-month basis, not in a lump sum for a full year.

Office 365 Business Essentials, for example, costs $6 per user per month when paid month-by-month (and thus with only a monthly commitment). If the work-at-home stretch for employees needing the plan runs nine or fewer months, then, month-by-month payments will save money over the annual rate and commitment.

Partake of free-trial offers

Small businesses that were mulling moving to Office 365 and its always-updated/rent-not-buy model before the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything – and are still pondering the change – should take advantage of Microsoft’s free one-month trials.

Office 365 Business Premium, a subscription plan that includes the desktop Office applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook for both Windows and macOS; Publisher and Access for Windows only – costs $12.50 per user per month (when paid for in an annual lump sum) or $15 per user per month (when paid on a month-to-month basis). Microsoft offers a 30-day free trial to the plan for up to 25 users.

The designated administrator can start the trial here.

If your company relies on Office 365

Organizations already armed with Office 365 – the by-subscription service whereby customers pay Microsoft an ongoing fee annually or monthly for the right to run the suite and numerous services – have an edge when their workers get spread from here to Timbuktu. That’s because the subscription is licensed per user, not per device, allowing each employee to install the applications on multiple devices, including personal hardware they have at home. (There are many more reasons to give Office 365 the advantage here, but that’s enough for now.)

Get the Office each worker can use

Not everyone who has been suddenly told to work remotely will have a PC or Mac at home. But virtually everyone has a smartphone.

“The first challenge of shifting to working remote – especially on short notice – is being disconnected,” Yana Terukhova, who leads product marketing strategy for Excel, wrote in a March 19 post to a company blog.

She then ticked off the mobile apps licensed to most users of Office 365, including the Outlook email app for iOS or Android, and the new Word-Excel-PowerPoint combo app for the two operating systems.

Even entry-level Office 365 plans, such as Office 365 Business Essentials, which costs $6 per user per month when paid on a month-to-month basis, include rights to iOS and Android Office apps.

Depending on the employee’s role in the organization, a personal smartphone may be all someone needs to do the job – or a large portion of it.

Get Teams for free for employees without it

Although Teams is included with most Office 365 Business and Office 365 Enterprise plans, there are exceptions, including Office 365 Business and Office 365 ProPlus. And then there are the employees who aren’t assigned an Office 365 license because of their work roles.

The company needs a way to communicate with everyone on the payroll.

Microsoft has a program called “Microsoft Teams Exploratory” that lets employees with an Azure Active Directory-managed email address request a Teams license. (The request must be initiated by the user; it cannot be claimed by an administrator for a user.) The no-charge license will be good until the company’s next enterprise agreement anniversary or subscription renewal, during or after January 2021.

More information, including how administrators can manage the Teams license, can be found in this support document.

More Teams for free

Another way to equip employees with Teams – and other Office bits, including commercial rights to the web and mobile apps – is with a Microsoft free offer of Office 365 E1. The deal, which Microsoft first mentioned earlier this month, awards E1 for a six-month stretch.

The lowest-priced Enterprise plan – $8 per user per month when paid for in an annual sum – includes Teams, as well as online storage (OneDrive), email (Exchange), and the web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Also part of the plan: Mobile Office apps for iOS and Android.

This offer is aimed at enterprises or other organizations with existing relationships with Microsoft sales or a reselling partner. “Contact your Microsoft partner or sales representative,” said Jared Spataro, a Microsoft executive, in a March 5 post to a company blog.

Microsoft has also waived the usual requirements for its FastTrack support for the free Office 365 E1 trial. FastTrack will assist customers getting workers on board E1 from March through August of this year, the company said.

Tell workers to self-install Office on their PC or Mac

When employees suddenly at home freak out that they can’t work without Office, then get on the horn with the also-working-from-home help desk asking what to do, the answer may not cost the company a dime. That’s because an employee already covered by an Office 365 plan can self-install Office on his or her own Windows PC or Mac machine.

IT staff erscan point users to this support document, which describes the steps of signing on to office.com, downloading and installing the suite.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link

Don’t let the coronavirus make you a home office security risk

Welcome to life working at home, where the only one standing between you and all kinds of malware, ransomware and other security foul ups is, well, you.

Sure, the tech support desk will try to help you, but it’s not like they can stop by your desk and install a patch for you anymore. It’s a brave new scary world and we’re all trying to do the best we can. So, here, are six tips on how to keep your computer safe.

We hate to say it but all too many computer problems are, as they say in tech support land,  “Problem exists between chair and keyboard (or PEBCAK).” That is, little old you. No one’s asking you to become a security guru and win the next Pwn2Own competition. But you must learn a little bit about how to keep your computer safe and you must be warier of potential threats.

You see, there really are people out there who want to grab your password, steal your data and your company’s data, and infect your computer with ransomware while they’re at it. Or, to be more precise, there are automatic botnet systems out there spending every second of the day pounding on your virtual door.

It’s nothing personal. Just like the coronavirus, though, these really are out to get you. So, you need to act accordingly.

Enable automatic updates (usually)

If you, or your corporate IT staff, haven’t done it before, turn on automatic software updates for your operating system and programs.

Everyone says that, but let me add a caveat: If you use Windows for your desktop operating system, learn what your business’s recommendations are for Windows update. You may not want to update Windows at all.

You see lately Windows 10 has a truly lousy patching record.  This included machines not booting properly; your desktop vanishing into the ether; and the File Explorer Search box went haywire for a while. Microsoft has even delayed retiring Windows 10 1709, known to you as the 2017 Fall Creators Update by six months. That’s just so people don’t have to update their older Windows 10 systems and possibly run into problems.

Given all this, do you really want to update, run into a problem, and then try to troubleshoot it on your own? No, I didn’t think so.

Instead, I suggest you pause Windows 10 updates for now. To do that with a business edition of Windows 10, you do this by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options. Once there, under the “Choose when updates are installed” heading, select Semi-Annual Channel. This delays major feature updates by about four months, when all the bugs should be worked out. Under the quality update heading, change the deferral period to 30 days from its default of zero. These are the Patch Tuesday patches.

If you’re running a Windows 10 Home and it’s Windows 10 1903 (aka the May 2019 Update, or newer) you can also delay patches. To do this go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and look for the “Pause updates for 7 days” button. With this, you can keep delaying it in 7 day chunks for up to 35 days.

Everything else, just go ahead and update. There may even be programs you rely on hiding in your system that need patching but do a poor job of alerting you. For these, you can use SUMo or  PatchMyPC or to track other programs software on your PC that may need an update..

Finally, if you go to a random website and it tells you must update Adobe Flash or some other program before you can use it and you can download it from a link they provide, DON’T DO IT. Often this is a corrupted website trying to put malware on your computer.

Anti-viral software: Who needs it?

You wouldn’t know if from all the ads, but viruses are among the least of your security worries these days. There are all kinds of malware out there, but the traditional virus or worm? Not so much.

That said, while you can use one of the latest and best antivirus programs for most of us Microsoft’s own free Windows Defender Security Center is all you’ll need. If you want more check out, Norton Security Premium or AVG Internet Security,

If you use a Mac, you may think you’re safe. Nope. While you’re far less likely to run into malware than your Windows-using colleagues, there are viruses out there with your Mac’s name on them. For overall protection, we recommend Sophos Home Premium. If you just want good free antivirus protection give AVG Antivirus for Mac‘s free tier a try.

Desktop Linux user? You don’t really need an antivirus program. It’s not that Linux’s security is perfect — nothing is in this world — but it’s better than the rest. There’s never really been an effective Linux desktop virus.

Password management

We all hate passwords and want to move on. Well, maybe someday two-factor authentication (2FA) will be perfected. But, we’re not there yet. In the meantime, here are some simple suggestions on how to use passwords safely and efficiently.

First, use passphrases, like “I-Hate-Coronavirus!!,” which you can remember instead of easy to guess passwords like “abcdef,” the ever popular “password,” or your birthday. Nor, should you use memory unfriendly passwords such as “Gog$^Yack4.” Your memory and your security will thank you.

You should also use a password manager. With most of us having to deal with dozens of sites and services requiring passwords, no one can remember all of them. The answer’s a password management program.

Password managers enable you to manage your login credentials across all your devices while keeping your passwords secure. They can also automatically fill in web forms for you. Many web browsers, such as Edge, Firefox, and Google Chrome include this functionality

If you don’t trust Microsoft, Mozilla or Google with your data, or you want non-internet password management, you need a standalone password manager. The best of these are LastPass and 1Password.

Of course, if 2FA is available on services you use all the time. Use It. Yes, it can be a nuisance entering in a PIN from a text message or the like, but it makes them orders of magnitude more secure.

Bad guys gone phishing

The single biggest security problem you’re most likely to run into is phishing. There are two kinds of phishing. In the older type, scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. Once they have your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security number, you can kiss your privacy, credit score and possibly your job good-bye. In the other, you’re encouraged to download or open a file or click on a link, which will infect your computer with malware.

In either case, they often look like they’re from someone or a company you trust.  They often tell you a story to trick you into making a fatal mistake. This can include the following: Saying they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or problem, there’s a problem with your account, you’re eligible for a refund or you need to pay a (fake) invoice. 

There’s already been a significant rise in coronavirus phishing messages. You can be sure they’ll be many more proclaiming a cure, an urgent message from the CDC, and the like.

Phishing messages also disguise themselves with personal information. They’ll include your home address, your pets’ names and so on. Don’t buy it. It’s easy to find your personal information on the internet. Just consider for a moment how much to tell people about yourself on Facebook and the other social networks.

You can spot phishing messages with several tell-tale signs. If you look closely at the address instead of being from a real address, say [email protected] it will be from [email protected]. They also often open with a generic solution such as “Hi Dear” instead of your real name.

When you get a phishing message, delete it. Never reply to it or open any link or attachment within it.

Finally, another phishing variant is the Microsoft support call scam.  In this one, you’ll get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or a partner and that an automatic scan of your PC has shown a problem and they’re here to help all for one low price No, no they’re not. Microsoft will never call you out of the blue. At the very least, you’ll lose a few bucks and the worst you may find your computer and all your company’s files locked up with ransomware,

Virtual private networks: VPNs still a necessity

These days a lot of our front-line business programs, such as Office 365, Google Docs, and QuickBooks Online use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud model. For these, you don’t need a VPN. But, a lot of our in-house applications still are humming away in our data centers and server rooms. That means, you’ll need a VPN to safely get to them.

If your company hasn’t set up a VPN for you, tell them to set one up right now. Otherwise anything you send between your home and your office is vulnerable to be spied on.

Picking a VPN isn’t your job — you may be acting as a chief security officer, but you aren’t paid like one nor do you have the technical expertise.

If you’re running a small business, you need to pick a small-office/home-office (SOHO) VPN now, Some of the best, easy-to-deploy choices are ExpressVPN, StrongVPN, or TunnelBear

Backups: Your last chance for survival

Last, but never least, you may not think of backups as part of security, but they are. They’re the last safety belt to save you from disaster when everything else has gone wrong. As long as you have a good backup, even if your files are frozen by ransomware and your machines are working more for a botnet than they are for you, you can still wipe everything and start fresh.

Again, this is something your IT department should be handling for you. But, in the rush to get you out the door and working from home. it may have been neglected.

The quickest, easiest way to back up your business PC from home is to use a cloud backup service. Once your company’s sysadmins catches up they’ll also find it easier to get at your backups if they’re on the cloud rather than if you’re using an old-style DVD or even tape backup system. Ones to consider are Acronis, Carbonite, and IDrive. A more home Mac and Windows friendly solution is Google’s Backup and Sync.

Secure at home

Keeping your work safe from home isn’t easy. Butit’s not rocket science either. Just follow these tips and you should be OK.

After all, I’ve been following them for more than 30 years of working from home without a single security incident. If I can do it, you can, too.

Welcome to life working at home, where the only one standing between you and all kinds of malware, ransomware and other security foul ups is, well, you.

Sure, the tech support desk will try to help you, but it’s not like they can stop by your desk and install a patch for you anymore. It’s a brave new scary world and we’re all trying to do the best we can. So, here, are six tips on how to keep your computer safe.

We hate to say it but all too many computer problems are, as they say in tech support land,  “Problem exists between chair and keyboard (or PEBCAK).” That is, little old you. No one’s asking you to become a security guru and win the next Pwn2Own competition. But you must learn a little bit about how to keep your computer safe and you must be warier of potential threats.

You see, there really are people out there who want to grab your password, steal your data and your company’s data, and infect your computer with ransomware while they’re at it. Or, to be more precise, there are automatic botnet systems out there spending every second of the day pounding on your virtual door.

It’s nothing personal. Just like the coronavirus, though, these really are out to get you. So, you need to act accordingly.

Enable automatic updates (usually)

If you, or your corporate IT staff, haven’t done it before, turn on automatic software updates for your operating system and programs.

Everyone says that, but let me add a caveat: If you use Windows for your desktop operating system, learn what your business’s recommendations are for Windows update. You may not want to update Windows at all.

You see lately Windows 10 has a truly lousy patching record.  This included machines not booting properly; your desktop vanishing into the ether; and the File Explorer Search box went haywire for a while. Microsoft has even delayed retiring Windows 10 1709, known to you as the 2017 Fall Creators Update by six months. That’s just so people don’t have to update their older Windows 10 systems and possibly run into problems.

Given all this, do you really want to update, run into a problem, and then try to troubleshoot it on your own? No, I didn’t think so.

Instead, I suggest you pause Windows 10 updates for now. To do that with a business edition of Windows 10, you do this by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options. Once there, under the “Choose when updates are installed” heading, select Semi-Annual Channel. This delays major feature updates by about four months, when all the bugs should be worked out. Under the quality update heading, change the deferral period to 30 days from its default of zero. These are the Patch Tuesday patches.

If you’re running a Windows 10 Home and it’s Windows 10 1903 (aka the May 2019 Update, or newer) you can also delay patches. To do this go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and look for the “Pause updates for 7 days” button. With this, you can keep delaying it in 7 day chunks for up to 35 days.

Everything else, just go ahead and update. There may even be programs you rely on hiding in your system that need patching but do a poor job of alerting you. For these, you can use SUMo or  PatchMyPC or to track other programs software on your PC that may need an update..

Finally, if you go to a random website and it tells you must update Adobe Flash or some other program before you can use it and you can download it from a link they provide, DON’T DO IT. Often this is a corrupted website trying to put malware on your computer.

Anti-viral software: Who needs it?

You wouldn’t know if from all the ads, but viruses are among the least of your security worries these days. There are all kinds of malware out there, but the traditional virus or worm? Not so much.

That said, while you can use one of the latest and best antivirus programs for most of us Microsoft’s own free Windows Defender Security Center is all you’ll need. If you want more check out, Norton Security Premium or AVG Internet Security,

If you use a Mac, you may think you’re safe. Nope. While you’re far less likely to run into malware than your Windows-using colleagues, there are viruses out there with your Mac’s name on them. For overall protection, we recommend Sophos Home Premium. If you just want good free antivirus protection give AVG Antivirus for Mac‘s free tier a try.

Desktop Linux user? You don’t really need an antivirus program. It’s not that Linux’s security is perfect — nothing is in this world — but it’s better than the rest. There’s never really been an effective Linux desktop virus.

Password management

We all hate passwords and want to move on. Well, maybe someday two-factor authentication (2FA) will be perfected. But, we’re not there yet. In the meantime, here are some simple suggestions on how to use passwords safely and efficiently.

First, use passphrases, like “I-Hate-Coronavirus!!,” which you can remember instead of easy to guess passwords like “abcdef,” the ever popular “password,” or your birthday. Nor, should you use memory unfriendly passwords such as “Gog$^Yack4.” Your memory and your security will thank you.

You should also use a password manager. With most of us having to deal with dozens of sites and services requiring passwords, no one can remember all of them. The answer’s a password management program.

Password managers enable you to manage your login credentials across all your devices while keeping your passwords secure. They can also automatically fill in web forms for you. Many web browsers, such as Edge, Firefox, and Google Chrome include this functionality

If you don’t trust Microsoft, Mozilla or Google with your data, or you want non-internet password management, you need a standalone password manager. The best of these are LastPass and 1Password.

Of course, if 2FA is available on services you use all the time. Use It. Yes, it can be a nuisance entering in a PIN from a text message or the like, but it makes them orders of magnitude more secure.

Bad guys gone phishing

The single biggest security problem you’re most likely to run into is phishing. There are two kinds of phishing. In the older type, scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. Once they have your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security number, you can kiss your privacy, credit score and possibly your job good-bye. In the other, you’re encouraged to download or open a file or click on a link, which will infect your computer with malware.

In either case, they often look like they’re from someone or a company you trust.  They often tell you a story to trick you into making a fatal mistake. This can include the following: Saying they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or problem, there’s a problem with your account, you’re eligible for a refund or you need to pay a (fake) invoice. 

There’s already been a significant rise in coronavirus phishing messages. You can be sure they’ll be many more proclaiming a cure, an urgent message from the CDC, and the like.

Phishing messages also disguise themselves with personal information. They’ll include your home address, your pets’ names and so on. Don’t buy it. It’s easy to find your personal information on the internet. Just consider for a moment how much to tell people about yourself on Facebook and the other social networks.

You can spot phishing messages with several tell-tale signs. If you look closely at the address instead of being from a real address, say [email protected] it will be from [email protected]. They also often open with a generic solution such as “Hi Dear” instead of your real name.

When you get a phishing message, delete it. Never reply to it or open any link or attachment within it.

Finally, another phishing variant is the Microsoft support call scam.  In this one, you’ll get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or a partner and that an automatic scan of your PC has shown a problem and they’re here to help all for one low price No, no they’re not. Microsoft will never call you out of the blue. At the very least, you’ll lose a few bucks and the worst you may find your computer and all your company’s files locked up with ransomware,

Virtual private networks: VPNs still a necessity

These days a lot of our front-line business programs, such as Office 365, Google Docs, and QuickBooks Online use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud model. For these, you don’t need a VPN. But, a lot of our in-house applications still are humming away in our data centers and server rooms. That means, you’ll need a VPN to safely get to them.

If your company hasn’t set up a VPN for you, tell them to set one up right now. Otherwise anything you send between your home and your office is vulnerable to be spied on.

Picking a VPN isn’t your job — you may be acting as a chief security officer, but you aren’t paid like one nor do you have the technical expertise.

If you’re running a small business, you need to pick a small-office/home-office (SOHO) VPN now, Some of the best, easy-to-deploy choices are ExpressVPN, StrongVPN, or TunnelBear

Backups: Your last chance for survival

Last, but never least, you may not think of backups as part of security, but they are. They’re the last safety belt to save you from disaster when everything else has gone wrong. As long as you have a good backup, even if your files are frozen by ransomware and your machines are working more for a botnet than they are for you, you can still wipe everything and start fresh.

Again, this is something your IT department should be handling for you. But, in the rush to get you out the door and working from home. it may have been neglected.

The quickest, easiest way to back up your business PC from home is to use a cloud backup service. Once your company’s sysadmins catches up they’ll also find it easier to get at your backups if they’re on the cloud rather than if you’re using an old-style DVD or even tape backup system. Ones to consider are Acronis, Carbonite, and IDrive. A more home Mac and Windows friendly solution is Google’s Backup and Sync.

Secure at home

Keeping your work safe from home isn’t easy. Butit’s not rocket science either. Just follow these tips and you should be OK.

After all, I’ve been following them for more than 30 years of working from home without a single security incident. If I can do it, you can, too.



Source link

10 tips to set up your home office for videoconferencing

Before many of us began sheltering in place at home, we used videoconferencing at least occasionally for meetings with colleagues or customers. During the pandemic, videoconferencing is going to become a way of life, because you’ll want it for the human connection. And you’re going to want to look and sound your best.

How do you do that? It’s actually not difficult — all it takes to project a professional appearance is a little preparation and some common sense. Whether you’re having a one-to-one discussion or a one-to-many conference, here are a few tips and tricks that will put you at your ease when you’re on-camera.

1. Check your lighting.

One of the most important things to get right is the lighting. The placement of the light source is key, says Terence Taylor, an independent video writer and producer. To begin with, “you don’t want light behind you,” he says, “because then you’re just a silhouette. It’s a common mistake.”

You don’t want a single bright light on one side either. “Everything on the other side of your face drops into dark,” Taylor explains, “so you look like a film noir villain.”

videoconferenc bad lighting office IDG / Doug DuVall

Don’t let bad lighting make a bad impression.

The best place to put your lighting is in front of you so your face can be seen clearly. Ellen Fanning, director of visual and digital media at IDG, agrees. “It could be a window, it could be artificial light, just as long as you’re facing it,” she says.

If you’re not satisfied with how you look, Taylor suggests using a second light source on the side, preferably with a soft light bulb, to fill in the shadows. A desk lamp would work very well, he says.

What if you’re in an office with overhead lighting? If it’s full, even lighting, you’re good to go. But if the lighting overhead casts harsh shadows, shut it off if you can and use other lighting instead. (Can’t shut it off? Try that second light source to even out the shadows.)

2. Check your audio.

In a video meeting, you don’t just want to be seen; you want to be heard clearly as well. If you’re in a quiet room, you can probably use the microphone on your laptop. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to use a microphone that’s closer to your face. A decent pair of earbuds or headphones that are equipped with a mic should work fine, especially if they enable you to talk at a normal, conversational level.

3. Not too close and not too far.

Remember, you are the focus of the conversation — the people on the other end want to see you clearly so they feel that they are talking directly to you. Position yourself so that you can be seen from the shoulders to the head, or from the waist to the head. Anything closer may be overwhelming; anything further might make your face too hard to see.

videoconferenc extreme closeup office IDG / Doug DuVall

A little too close, guy.

4. Keep your camera at eye level.

“I find that I like meeting people’s eyes,” says Taylor. “Just in terms of communication, especially in business, you want that kind of connection.” Thus, it is important that your webcam be at eye level, he says.

Fanning agrees. “You can have a separate camera or you can raise the laptop — perhaps put it on a stand,” she says. If you’re using a separate camera, it should be as close to your screen as possible.

One trick used by people who are often on-camera is to look at the camera when you’re talking. While that may seem counterintuitive — our instinct is to watch the computer screen — by looking at the camera, you will seem to be meeting the eyes of the person you’re talking to. But if that feels wrong, or makes you self-conscious, then simply positioning the screen and camera at eye level will be enough.

A good way to test your setup is to start up your video app and take a screenshot, suggests Taylor. “You’ll get an idea of what the person is getting at the other end.”

5. Keep your environment simple.

“Just try to keep it as clutter-free as possible,” says Fanning. “You don’t want it to be completely sterile, but you don’t want a pile of stuff on the desk either.”

videoconferenc bad clutter desk office IDG / Doug DuVall

Clutter can be distracting.

Taylor agrees that an uncomplicated background is best. “If somebody is looking over your shoulder at family photos and wondering where you took your vacation last year, that may be distracting from the discussion,” he says.

6. Don’t worry about makeup.

Yes, professional broadcasters wear makeup so that they look good under the bright lights, but that doesn’t apply to day-to-day video meetings. If you normally wear makeup, fine. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. 

If you’re feeling a bit warm, or if you’re nervous, wipe your face with a soft cloth to reduce shine.

7. Most clothing is fine.

There are a couple of things to stay away from, however. Avoid pinstripes and checks, which can create distracting moiré patterns on camera. Also, try not to wear bright white or deep black clothing, because many webcams have automatic exposure settings and will adjust to those colors. As a result, wearing a bright white shirt can “stop down” the focus of everything around it, making the image look darker and less clear, while a black shirt can make the surroundings too bright. Your best bet, according to Taylor, is to wear more neutral colors.

8. Sit in a comfortable chair.

“Not too comfortable, because you don’t want to fall asleep,” Taylor jokes. “But comfortable enough so you can sit and communicate, and people don’t wonder what’s wrong because you’re fidgeting around.”

videoconferenc bad chair position office IDG / Doug DuVall

Awkward seating = awkward onscreen presence.

9. Be prepared.

If you’re new to video meetings, then practice first. Set up your lighting and audio, and once you’re happy with it, call a friend and find out how things look from the other end. It’s much better for a friend to complain about bad sound quality than that important client.

Do you anticipate doing a lot of video meetings? Put together a “video kit” that can be ready in a minute or two. Now, if you get a sudden call from a colleague for an emergency meeting on Skype, you don’t have to think about whether your setup works — just turn on your camera, put on your headphones, turn on the desk lamp and hang a “Do not disturb” sign on your office door.

Finally, if the Wi-Fi connection in your office is slow or occasionally wonky, Fanning recommends using a hardline internet connection when possible.

10. Ready, set, go!

In the end, Taylor explains, the main thing is to use your common sense. “You know what looks bad and you can find ways to fix it,” he says. “If you’re too dark, find a light to light yourself. If you can’t be heard, get a microphone. If you’re at a distance, move the camera closer.”

But the most important thing when you’re on a video call, he says, is to “be yourself — that way, you’ll present the best view of yourself that you can.”

Read this next: Review: Digital whiteboard displays for business collaboration

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link

10 tips to set up your home office for videoconferencing

In today’s collaborative work environment, it’s becoming increasingly likely that you’re using video as an important tool for corporate meetings with colleagues or customers. You could be a remote employee sitting in on your company’s weekly conference, or a salesperson who wants to promote your product to a potential client in another location, or a job seeker interviewing with an executive at a firm headquartered across the country. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to look and sound your best.

How do you do that? It’s actually not difficult — all it takes to project a professional appearance is a little preparation and some common sense. Whether you’re having a one-to-one discussion or a one-to-many conference, here are a few tips and tricks that will put you at your ease when you’re on-camera. 

[ Further reading: 15 video conferencing products that are enterprise-ready ]

1. Check your lighting.

One of the most important things to get right is the lighting. The placement of the light source is key, says Terence Taylor, an independent video writer and producer. To begin with, “you don’t want light behind you,” he says, “because then you’re just a silhouette. It’s a common mistake.”

You don’t want a single bright light on one side either. “Everything on the other side of your face drops into dark,” Taylor explains, “so you look like a film noir villain.”



Source link