According to the Microsoft Office 365 development roadmap, an exciting new feature is coming to Microsoft Teams:
“Cortana is coming to the Teams mobile app, using AI and the Microsoft Graph to provide voice assistance in Teams. To stay connected to your team even when you have your hands full, click the microphone button on the top right and ask Cortana to make a call, join a meeting, send chat messages, share files, and more. These voice assistance experiences are delivered using Cortana enterprise-grade services that meet Microsoft 365 privacy, security and compliance commitments. Cortana will be available in the Teams mobile app on iOS and Android in the coming weeks for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S. in English.”
If your company is looking to collaborate with your office effectively, then contact us for assistance.
Office 365 has had the option to create resources, either equipment or rooms, that can be scheduled. Setup is fairly easy inside the Office 365 Admin console and you get to choose several options:
Select Room or Equipment, give it a name, an email address (no license required), and set the capacity. Once setup it is easy to use:
How can you tell when the room or equipment is available?
Open Outlook and create a new meeting. Add the room or equipment to the meeting as if it were a person and select Scheduling Assistant to see a live calendar view of the room or equipment’s availability. If the hour slot is clear, it’s available; if it’s blue, it’s reserved.
If your company needs help setting up Office 365 Equipment & Room Calendars, then contact us for assistance.
In this unprecedented time that we are currently experiencing, you have had to set your team up to work remotely, often without thinking about how they might actually get work done, let alone security of all things. Our employee checklist and no-cost cybersecurity training course will provide your team with the tools they need to ensure that they are safe and productive – right out of the gate. These free resources are part of our initiative to keep our community safe and working during this time of crisis, without the additional disruption and financial impact of a breach.
Don’t let a change in circumstance allow for a change in cybersecurity standards.
According to the executive order made by Oregon State Governer, Kate Brown:“On Friday night, I frankly directed them to stay home. And now I am ordering them to stay home.”
The following guidelines are in effect for businesses:
It closes and prohibits shopping at specific categories of retail businesses, for which close personal contact is difficult to avoid, such as arcades, barber shops, hair salons, gyms and fitness studios, skating rinks, theaters, and yoga studios.
It requires businesses not closed by the order to implement social distancing policies in order to remain open, and requires workplaces to implement teleworking and work-at-home options when possible. They must also elect a representative who will be in charge of monitoring social distancing.
What FHN is doing?
FREE Remote Access – Just a re-iteration that all our monthly managed services clients will have remote access to their systems at no additional cost. If you are not a managed client then we can set you up with secure remote access to your data or network depending on need. Please call sooner rather than later as we have to take care of our managed clients first and there may be a wait at this point.
On-site support continues – At this time there is no restrictions on service industries who perform on-site visits to complete work, so Farmhouse Networking will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We will be taking precautions such as protective masks, gloves, or perhaps more extreme measures (hazmat suit) to insure the safety of our staff and clients. We ask that clients keep these visits to emergency needs and planned projects until these social distancing rules are lifted.
Stocking up on essentials – We have been closely monitoring our distribution channels and several of them have been stating that non-essential items would take up to one month to receive. As a courtesy to our clients and to better service them in times of emergency IT needs, we will be stocking up on computer and network parts that are most often needed.
What should clients do?
Remote workers – Send unneeded on-site staff home to work remotely. With remote access capabilities, video conferencing, and VoIP phones – there is no reason to keep them in harms way. We are experts in these technologies and can get you up and running on them quickly.
Maintain infrastructure – For remote workers to be able to get access to their computers there needs to be a solid foundation at the business location.
Workstations, servers, and network equipment should be on battery backups to keep them from going offline unnecessarily due to power fluctuations – triggering a need to go into the office.
Is part of your network over 6 years old? Now may be the time to replace the network equipment to avoid downtime and unneeded office visits in the future.
Now more than ever backups are needed in case anything should go wrong. Recovery times are bound to be increased as the lock down on businesses increases.
Don’t forget to leave the A/C on especially if you have a server closet, they work better in cooler temperatures.
Planning – With a possible slowdown in business now is the time to take stock of your company, to get used to this new normal, and make plans for the long term implications of this craziness on our businesses.
If your company needs any help weathering the COVID-19 storm, then contact us for assistance.
When it comes to phone service there is not much difference between providers. They all bring dial tone to your business and route calls to their destination. They all provide the same set of features that users have come to know and use.
What Makes Farmhouse Networking Different
No Introductory Rates: Most local providers will offer an attractive introductory rate to get your business. The only bad part is after one years time you are automatically changed to the regular price which is often $10-$20 more per line.
No Installation Costs: As we are a growing provider of phone services, anyone signing up for phone service with us this year will have no installation costs.
No Bogus Taxes or Fees: We have looked at phone bills from the major local providers and each of them has some bogus tax or fee added to the phone bill. (The only valid ones are Telecommunications Relay Service, Telephone Assistance Program, the Telecommunications Devices Access Program, E911 (VoIP), FCC Regulatory Fee (VoIP), FUSF (VoIP), and P.U.C. Fee – in case you were wondering)
Phone Costs: Unlike computers, there is no reason why you need to buy brand new phones. There are vendor programs that sell re-conditioned phones at much lower costs and they work just as good as the new ones. There is also leasing options available to help ease the pain of purchasing phones too.
Our Prices: We are not out to gouge our clients or nickel / dime them to death as you have already read. The only question now is how much do we charge? For the standard user, the cost of a phone line is only $29.95 per month. The cost of a standard fax line is only $22.50 per month.
Extra Features: We have several features that most of the other providers just don’t. A customer portal that clients can use to chat with fellow employees, check voicemails, track expenses, and make other account changes. A mobile app that can be used to turn your smart phone into an extension of your desk phone and more. Also failover to another phone number – if the power or internet is out you can have your calls routed to any other phone.
If your company uses phones for business, then contact us to see the true difference.
Farmhouse Networking has had a long standing policy that we do not keep a record of client passwords (except when needed for device administration). That is about to change, but before we talk about our new password policy let’s talk password storage:
Common Password Storage
Here are some popular places where many businesses store their passwords that make them very vulnerable to being stolen.
Passwords written on paper (that are not under lock and key):
On your desk under your keyboard (or taped underneath)
Under your stapler or desk decorations
On sticky notes stuck to your monitor or desk
On a scrap of paper on your desk or in a drawer
In a notebook or address book
In a old-fashioned Rolodex file
Paper printouts or photocopies of your passwords
Anyone with access to your office could easily find and steal passwords stored like this.
Passwords stored in your computer (without using encryption):
Remembered in your web browser
A document called “Passwords” that you’ve created anywhere on your computer, perhaps using Microsoft Word or Excel
A document with any other name on your computer (including the password as the name)
Email drafts that you’ve created (but not sent) containing password information
Anyone with access to your computer could easily find and steal passwords stored like this, including both a person with physical access to it as well as a virus or hacker gaining access via the internet, or scamming you into granting them access, even once.
Passwords stored in your smartphone or tablet (without using encryption):
Electronic “Notes” containing password information
Other documents or emails similar to the ones listed in computer storage above
Anyone with access to your device could easily find and steal passwords stored like this.
Passwords sent via regular (insecure) email:
Emails that you have sent to yourself containing password information
Emails that you have sent to anyone else containing password information
Any information that you send using regular (unencrypted) email puts that information at risk of being stolen. Email is neither private nor secure. Sending an email is like mailing a postcard, and hackers and thieves can easily read the contents. You should never send passwords (or any other confidential or sensitive data) via regular email.
Secure Password Storage
Now for the discussion of Farmhouse Networking’s new password policy. We are partnering with a company to provide a storage of passwords and other client documentation with military grade encryption. This partnership also allows us to address the dangers that common password storage present by offering our clients this same encrypted password storage service. Here are some of the benefits of this service:
Each user has a personal password vault
Shared company password vault
Security groups to manage access
Auditing & reporting (Compliance)
Secure password sharing
1-Click Login Tool (for all major browsers)
Mobile Device Access
Only $15 per month (Compared to Lastpass Business at $4 per user per month)
If your company is using common password storage of any kind do yourself a security favor and contact us to upgrade to secure password storage.
These days, you only need to step away from your desk for a few minutes to have a heap of missed calls and new emails awaiting your return:
What Voicemail to Email Does:
As the name suggests, a Voicemail to Email solution uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to automatically transcribe voicemails received by a user’s voice mailbox. Voicemail to Email is ideal for busy professionals who can’t be accessible at a moment’s notice, are often in meetings, or in an environment where it’s not feasible to listen to messages in sequential order. Voicemail to Email offers a practical, at-a-glance way to keep up with the messages that need your attention and prioritization. With Voicemail to Email transcription, you can consult your voice messages at a time and place that’s most convenient for you. Users can efficiently hone in on specific transcribed messages to find exactly the information they need – from contact information to payment details to an address for their next meeting.
What are the Benefits of Voicemail to Email?
Maximum Accuracy: Voicemail to Email solution uses Google’s Cloud Speech API for Speech to Text transcription which has better accuracy than many voice transcription solutions. The transcriptions made over our platform represent the truest content of your customers’ voicemails.
Efficiency and Flexibility: Users can read their Voicemail to Email transcriptions at their own convenience – via email, SMS, or a mobile app.
Flexible Billing: Users can choose between a flat rate per line ($4.95 per month) or choose to be billed per transcription ($0.14 per voicemail).
Future Features: We are looking to add Spanish Voicemail to Email transcription to our services in the future. We are also looking to add live call transcription, so that a user can have a complete text transcript of their phone calls in writing emailed to them.
If your company is looking to expand what their phone system can do for them, then contact us for assistance.
In reviewing compliance documentation, we found it necessary to talk about Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology for both privacy and secure remote access. A VPN is a connection to a private network over the internet through an encrypted tunnel – think smuggling information across a secret passageway between two places.
Why use VPN?
Privacy: There has been a huge buzz lately about using VPN technology to help mask you browsing habits from the likes of the NSA or Google. VPN services offer connections that regularly change your external IP address so that a profile (marketing or otherwise) is harder to build. It also makes hacking of your information harder when these services providers offer anti-virus and anti-spam filtering as part of the VPN service.
What are the trade-offs? These VPN service providers will now be the sole owner of your browsing habits – they can sell targeted profiles to marketing companies – so read those terms of service. There will also be a performance hit to your internet speed, so if you are working from a slow network already this may not be an option. Then there is the added cost of an extra $5 to $15 per month for these services on top of your internet bill each month.
Secure Remote Access: This was the original intent of VPN technology and where it really shines. Either from remote workers using coffee shop wifi or remote offices connecting to the main office, VPN tunnels are used to securely access data, servers, and other network resources. This technology is required by all major compliance agencies so that all data transmitted is encrypted during transport. In the past servers would open ports to the internet to allow access, but it was found that this practice allowed hackers the same opportunity to gain access. With VPN tunnels there is another layer of protection from unexpected access. There is also the benefit that no outside provider gets access to your browsing habits.
What are the trade-offs? This will require a router at the main office that is business grade and capable of handling the traffic. It will then require setup of remote workers laptops or remote offices with similar business grade routers.
If your company is concerned about privacy on the internet or secure remote access, then contact us for assistance.
With the recent addition of VoIP phone service and internet phone service for current phone system owners, we here at Farmhouse Networking have decided to “eat our own dog food” as the saying goes by changing our phone number over to use the new VoIP phone system ourselves. So here is what to expect:
Phone System Features:
Texting: Those of you who are used to texting in for quick responses will no longer be able to do so. I will still have a cellphone and be able to answer calls from the field via the phone systems Ring Group feature, but I will changing the phone number for my cell phone.
Desk Phone: When in the office, we will be answering our Polycom VVX310 desk phone which has HD Voice for clearer call quality.
Messages: Any time a message is left on our new system, the phone system Voice to Text feature will transcribe the message automatically then send an email into our ticketing system with a copy of the audio also attached. This then becomes a ticket – this feature will increase responsiveness and accuracy in handling your requests.
Holidays, Nights, & Weekends: The phone system has been setup to recognize specified national holidays, birthdays, and special occasions. It also has Time Frame setup with business hours between 9am and 5pm on all weekdays. When outside these business hours or on holidays the phone system will be answered by our Auto Attendant system. This will give the option to leave a voicemail to create a ticket or agree to after hours rates to start an emergency call. Please see our Terms & Conditions for more information.
Thanks for always looking to Farmhouse Networking to serve your company’s IT needs.
If your company is looking to upgrade your current phone system feature set or reduce overall costs of phone service, then contact us for assistance.
As small businesses change and grow, the ability to quickly scale up — or down — becomes a necessity. Adding new employees, for example, requires the company to adapt its phone system to accommodate the need for more lines.
That is harder to accomplish using traditional on-premise telephony systems due to higher setup and maintenance costs, the need for hardware on-site and reliance on IT support. A cloud-based phone system, on the other hand, would enable small businesses to manage communication services in a less costly, more streamlined and agile manner.
Benefits of a Cloud-Based Phone System
1. Fully-Integrated Communications System
Business tools that operate in the cloud are easy to deploy, enabling employees to stay connected whether they are in the office or on the go. In this way, the cloud provides a consistent business presence and helps to increase productivity with seamless access to CRM tools, email, instant messaging, voice and videoconferencing.
2. Control Over Modes of Communication
A cloud-operated system puts businesses in the driver’s seat, allowing them to pick and choose what features they need, with access to turn them on or off easily. Also, cloud solutions give employees anytime, anywhere access via a smartphone, desk phone or softphone to all their calling features.
3. Top Line Business Features
A cloud-based phone system would give small businesses access to the types of network applications that one would typically find at larger corporations. These include features such as a Virtual Assistant, Auto Attendant, Never Miss a Call or Call Center solutions.
4. Mobility and Ease of Use
Today’s workplace is increasingly mobile, and small businesses especially need to be able to operate from multiple locations. With a cloud-based system, small business employees have access to features that allow them to log in from anywhere so that they can be reached while on the go, giving customer-facing and revenue-producing employees greater control over their productivity.
5. Time Management and Efficiency
Web-based customer portals enable IT staff to manage their system more efficiently. With insight into the installation, service configuration, trouble tickets, training, billing and call analytics, this full access to a customer’s system and account allows them to spend fewer resources on project management and focus more on work that adds to the bottom line.
6. Flexibility to Scale Up (and Down)
As a business grows, so does the need to hire new employees, open new offices and onboard new customers. This requires a communications system that can scale up — or down — as the need arises. With a cloud-based phone system, businesses can add as many extensions as they need to accommodate heightened call volume, or, if necessary, simply call in to deactivate these extra extensions. Unlike traditional systems, businesses only pay for the extensions they need for as long as they need them.
7. Business Continuity
Working with a phone system “in the cloud” allows businesses to remain connected to their customers no matter the environment. A cloud-based communications system is likely to be unaffected by outside factors such as severe weather or other issues that may keep employees from getting to the office.
8. Improved Customer Service
With the Virtual Receptionist (VR) or Auto Attendant feature, businesses can easily direct calls to various departments and even create greetings unique to a given department. For example, a business could set up a holiday greeting in advance (via the administrative portal) and pre-set it to revert to the non-holiday greeting on a specified date. It could also add an on-hold message about special promotions or commonly asked questions.
9. New Service Features Added Easily
During busy seasons, some businesses will add premium calling features to increase call-taking efficiency and maximize staffing. Call Groups, for example, allow incoming calls to ring on multiple extensions. Call Queues provide a “dynamic waiting room” for callers that let businesses customize the on-hold experience and better manage call volume. Both help to decrease voicemails, missed calls and busy signals, enabling service to as many callers as possible.
10. Cost Savings
Cost savings are another benefit of cloud-based phone system. Moving telecommunications off of PBX platforms and to the cloud can be less expensive relative to monthly service rates versus that of a traditional system, helping to reduce costs and, ultimately, increase profitability.
If your company is looking to reap the benefits of moving to the cloud, then contact us for assistance.