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VersaTrust has been serving the Texas area since 1997 , providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Multiple Monitors, One Computer: More Productivity or Just Distraction?

Whether you believe that more screen space equals higher productivity or simply more room for distraction, the dual monitor discussion isn’t going away anytime soo

Walking into an IT department in most offices may make you feel as though you’re in some futuristic movie:  with multiple screens shifted at all angles, all with variations of code scrolling across them.  While this isn’t unexpected from a technology team, how can you evaluate whether or not multiple monitors are helpful for your business users?  When trying to determine whether they’re a productivity booster or simply offering your business users more virtual real estate to play on social media, you’ll want to consider a variety of factors such as available desk space, job requirements and yes — the cost.

Potential Distractions

Humans do many things well, but not necessarily many things at the same time.  The potential distractions available when you have multiple monitors is exponential, as you’re offering workers that much more space to open additional windows into their tasks.  Multitasking has been shown to reduce job satisfaction, impair cognitive function and distracts us, as well as dividing our attention and sabotaging our performance.  Multitasking is actually a misnomer, as essentially what’s happening is that your brain is hopping back and forth from task to task very rapidly, which can damage our ability to think deeply and creatively in the long term.  What has been considered a boon on a resume in the past (“excellent multi-tasker”) might well become a detriment as businesses look for individuals who can dig deep, focus and solve tough business challenges.

Space Requirements

When you’re considering adding a second monitor to any desktop setup, there are two space requirements you have to keep in mind.  The physical space required on the desk and whether the user will still have enough room to balance a coffee cup, notepad and pen and the digital requirements of having enough system resources to keep things running efficiently and latency-free.  The physical desk space may not seem like much of a challenge until you attempt to fit two large monitors on a desk and see how far away from your user will need to sit to view them effectively and without eye strain.  Creating a physical setup that helps maximize efficiency is particularly important in call center environments or when there are significant requirements for contract review or other paperwork, for instance.  Ensuring that you have covered any additional video card requirements and ensuring that you have a swift enough processor will keep programs opening, closing and moving swiftly as well.

Cost Implications

While monitors have come down a great deal in cost in recent years, adding a second or even a third monitor can cause some unexpected expenses.  For instance, while many computers will support up to two monitors, adding a third monitor often requires a special video card in order to get everything properly connected.  The cost of two monitors is generally higher than a single widescreen monitor, but this setup can be more effective than a single widescreen monitor simply because the separation between the monitors often allows the mind to separate work functions more effectively.  If you’re using a laptop, having an additional monitor may be a bit confusing as you’re often looking at two differently-sized monitors, which can be incredibly distracting.  When you purchase dual monitors, it’s best to get exactly the same brand and style so the screens line up effectively.  A large organization can be facing a massive cost impact to add second monitors at every workstation, and even small businesses will feel the pinch of the additional cost — which may or may not be offset by the productivity gains.

Big Boost in Productivity

Anyone who has used a setup with multiple monitors can tell you that having the additional space available is highly beneficial, especially for jobs such as programmers, designers, social media gurus and anyone working with video.  Using a single monitor setup would be difficult if not impossible, due to the requirement of switching back and forth between various tasks, software, and workspaces on a regular basis.  Some experts believe that productivity is increased by more than 40% when using two monitors, while other studies have shown that errors are reduced as well as improvements found in the level of employee stress.  This isn’t difficult to believe when you consider the challenges associated with flipping back and forth between programs in order to transfer information between software packages.  Fewer clicks can equal a faster workflow, especially important in today’s world of rapid-fire communication. Many organizations have implemented a hybrid model, where some teams utilize two or more monitors based on business needs, while other employees work with a single monitor.

If you’re considering dual monitors to boost productivity or you are too concerned about distractions to take the plunge, our technology professionals can help you work through the various scenarios to determine what will work most effectively for your organization.

What You Can Learn from HITRUST/AMA Partnership on Cyber Risk Management

Wondering what the HITRUST/AMA workshop partnership means for your business?  Here’s a brief primer on the new workshops being rolled out, and what you can do to increase cybersecurity.  

Cyber risk is everywhere.  While we all know it’s real, it’s hard to conceptualize in real-world terms.  Instead, we remember that one time that Target got hacked.  Or we imagine some sort of cartoon supervillain with a mask and cape, and a black uniform covered in green 1’s and 0’s.

Okay, so that’s a little extreme.  It is true, however, that many people are so overwhelmed by the nebulous idea of cybercrime that they aren’t really sure what to do about it.  That’s where we come in, with a stated mission of providing insurance, retirement and investment organizations with cutting-edge, trustworthy and secure software.  Here at {company} we take the utmost caution to ensure our clients’ information is safe, and that the vital information they safeguard for others – health and financial documents – is always secure.

Naturally, when we heard that the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) was partnering with the American Medical Association (AMA) to provide physicians and their staff with information risk management training, we just had to tune in.  We’re guessing, if you’re in a profession that exposes you to sensitive client information, you’re pretty curious too.

So just what exactly is going on with this partnership, and what can we learn from it?

The HITRUST/AMA Cyber Risk Management Education Partnership

If you started to get a little drowsy while reading the words “cyber risk management education partnership,” that’s okay.  You’re only human, and the fundamentals of managing risk in our increasingly digital world are pretty nebulous.

HITRUST and the AMA recognize that too few businesses – even larger ones – have adequate cyber protection and risk management plans in place, often because the requirements are unclear and companies have little to no budget dedicated to these endeavors.  Even when they do, it’s not always obvious how to proceed with a plan that will address not only short-term risks but longer-term issues as they develop.

In response, the two organizations are teaming up to provide a series of workshops around the country.  The first and most important point to understand is that in the last few years, cyber attackers have set their sights increasingly on the healthcare industry.  While it might seem counterintuitive to steal healthcare information – is Grandpa Jim’s asthma record really worth hacking into a system for? – there actually exist compelling reasons for hackers to do so.

Much of the data that exists in electronic health records (EHRs) can be monetized, including social security numbers, financial information, and insurance policy data.  The results?  Identity theft, false insurance claims and in some cases, severe monetary consequences.  The motivation to hack investment accounts is even more obvious, with many of the same results.  (In a phrase: It’s not good.)

Cleanliness Is Next to … Financial Security?

They say cleanliness is next to godliness, but HITRUST and the AMA are taking a slightly different tack:  Cleanliness is next to fiscal safety.  As a healthcare or financial institution in {city}, there is much you can do to ensure impeccable “cyber hygiene.”  The workshop teaches actionable steps to take, such as:

  • How to perform a cyber risk assessment
  • How to assess HIPAA protocols to ensure you stay in compliance when it comes to safeguarding medical information
  • The basics of good cyber hygiene, including daily risk management routines, safe online behaviors, and periodic risk assessments
  • How to implement effective cyber risk management strategies on a budget
  • Case studies from a variety of medical practices

One of the main purposes of the workshop is to address the options for smaller businesses, which don’t have the major risk management departments larger organizations can afford.  Even without the larger budgets and staffing, however, smaller practices can do a lot to mitigate risk. If you’re a larger business, never fear:  You can learn plenty from this workshop as well.  Whether or not you go, speaking with an administration software provider can help you learn even more.

How Can You Implement Principles of Good Cyber Hygiene in Your Business?

So how can you meaningfully address this risk when receiving managed IT services in {city}? Your approach must encompass more than information technology solutions; you must also take care to incorporate the highest level of financial and medical data security.

What you need are meaningful ways to address this risk that don’t break the bank.  Here’s where we once again look to the HITRUST/AMA partnership for guidance on how to move forward with a safe, repeatable and flexible cyber hygiene plan that will keep your clients’ information safe and your business in good standing.

First and foremost, you do have the option of attending the workshops.  The first American Medical Association Cyber Clinic, hosted by Children’s Health will be held in Dallas, with workshops to follow in at least 50 cities across the nation over the following year.  If you don’t want to wait for the workshops to roll out in your area, you can book a ticket to the event now.

Whether or not you opt to participate, it’s a very good idea to get in touch with your managed IT provider and ask about cyber hygiene right away.  A good administration services company will have the fundamentals of cyber risk management down to a science (like we do) and have the ability to further customize your IT plan to meet your organization’s specific requirements. Moreover, they should specialize in your field – in this case, medical – to ensure they’re up-to-date on the current risks and best solutions with which to help mitigate them.

If you’re curious to learn more about how you can make your systems watertight, as well as increase the security of your EHR and general online behavior, it’s time to get in touch with a professional today.  Whether you already work with us here at {company} (hi!) or are looking for a new provider (welcome!) we can help.  Get in touch via {email} or {phone} to safeguard your client data, provide for the long-term safety of your business and get the peace of mind you deserve today.

Is Your Small Business Scrambling to Shore Up Data Security?

Small to mid-size businesses around the country are considering how to maintain data security in the aftermath of one of the largest data breaches in history at Equifax.  How can you ensure that your business has critical patches covered while still staying focused on operational effectiveness?

Recent national news regarding big data breaches in organizations such as Equifax has small business owners scrambling to understand what went wrong — and how it can be prevented at their organization. The reality is that the potential of a data breach can’t be eliminated completely from your organization, but there are plenty of ways you can minimize the threat and make plans to come back up to full speed quickly after a breach.  Possibly the worst thing that you can do is start looking around in all directions in the hopes of shoring up your defenses. See how data security can become part of your ongoing strategic technology planning so you can skip the scramble.

Small Business Impact

Small businesses are every bit as vulnerable as enterprise-scale businesses to hack or data breaches, and sometimes even more vulnerable.  The thought of having the personal and financial data of 143 million Americans stolen is enough to cause any business owner to get a bad case of the hives.  Equifax’s security was violated due to the failure to correctly install a software patch, something that many small business owners can relate to as their internal IT departments are increasingly stretched in a variety of different directions.  Installing patches and keeping software up-to-date is one of the first lines of defense for organizations attempting to reduce the possibility of a cybersecurity attack.

Dealing with Long-Delayed Issues

Many business owners find that there are hidden pockets of issues that could be exploited by cybercriminals, such as that one workstation that didn’t get updated from Windows XP or a proprietary platform that kept system administrators from applying a Windows patch, for instance.  These risks may not seem significant by themselves, but allowing them to continue simply compounds the issues facing security professionals.  Small businesses rarely have access to the same level of technical support as a larger enterprise, leading them to lag behind in both learning and application of ever-changing security principles.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop cybercriminals from targeting small businesses — a recent Verizon survey indicated that more than 60 percent of the breaches that occurred in 2016 happened in organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees.

Split Priorities

Staying focused on patching potential security breaches is challenging with IT departments in a constant state of damage control due to user needs and other ongoing, operational issues.  This split priority provides the ideal breeding ground for security problems in businesses of any size. When there are not enough staff hours available to focus on creating a truly secure infrastructure and data privacy policies — along with ongoing training for business users and technology teams alike — businesses can find themselves in trouble.  When IT teams shift their focus to security for the near term, they are often able to catch up on critical patches but will take heat from internal business units and leaders who feel that the technology team isn’t pushing forward critical business initiatives.  It’s literally a lose-lose situation for understaffed mid-size business technology teams.

Dangerous Endpoints

Nearly everything today is an endpoint for your network:  cell phones, laptops, tablets and WiFi hotspots are all crucial parts of your network as well as being at risk of infiltration by nefarious parties.  While security concerns around these items are nothing new, the complexity of ensuring that you grant appropriate access to individual devices is growing as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) becomes a more widely accepted practice.  Endpoint security solutions continue to morph and grow, with a great deal of misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding best practices.  Any smartphone that can attach to your corporate network is essentially an endpoint, and must be secured — and that is true for VPN access from unsecured devices as well.  The true danger of endpoints is not necessarily the technology; instead, the problem often lies in the lack of training, policies, and procedures being followed by business users.  Simple antivirus and anti-malware protection are no longer enough.

Ongoing Training

Training around endpoints isn’t the only required training for business users.  Every employee in the organization needs to be explicitly shown the dangers of clicking on links in questionable emails or online and how these actions can open the organization up to malicious actions.  This proactive security training has been shown to reduce the risk of malware and ransomware being introduced by employees or contractors — which is important as phishing attacks are often launched on internal assets in an effort to get business people to click on a link or provide personal information.  Simulated phishing attacks run within the organization may not get your technical team any popular votes, but they are incredibly effective in demonstrating how truly legitimate attacks can look in today’s world.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

Having a proactive training and patching plan in place are solid first steps, but a truly holistic strategy includes backup and disaster recovery plans that you can trigger instantly in the event of an attack or physical harm to your location such as fire or flood.  As Equifax has shown us, even the largest enterprise organizations can be caught off-guard and make decisions that later come into question during an emergency stop-gap situation.  Having a backup and disaster recovery plan in place can allow your business to quickly react to a negative situation, minimizing the impact to customers and employees alike.

Ready to learn more about protecting your {city} organization from cyber attacks?  Contact {company} today at {phone} or via email to {email}.  Our cybersecurity team will walk through your current data security plans and see where we can make adjustments to shore up your overall security strategies.