Technology Needs

3 Ways to Improve Hybrid Meetings in 2023

3 Ways to Improve Hybrid Meetings in 2023


Four-minute read

It is safe to say that hybrid work is here to stay. According to Forbes, 81% of business leaders believe hybrid will be the leading work model by 2024, but over 70% of businesses lack a comprehensive hybrid strategy.

For companies to succeed in this ‘next normal,’ they need a strong foundation. That foundation is an effective means of communication and collaboration. Hybrid meetings always result in inequity between in-person and remote participants. One of the best ways to mitigate this is by implementing the most meaningful hybrid meeting technology for your organization. But first…

Look at the how of hybrid meetings

Businesses worldwide are choosing hybrid work models because they value in-person collaboration and access to a global talent pool. To balance these potentially conflicting elements, how meetings are conducted cannot benefit one set of employees over the other. Even the perception of proximity bias can palliate employee morale and dampen productivity. Being intentional and thoughtful about how you structure your synchronous meetings can mitigate these potential hazards.

This first requires a systematic process for determining which meetings need to be hybrid, then eliminate meetings that shouldn’t be meetings (can the discussion be resolved with a group chat, online poll, etc.? ). Finally, keep meetings remote if possible, even if a few participants are in the same place. This measure avoids creating a two-tiered participation system.

Look at the why of hybrid meetings

The phrase “this could have been an email” is all too familiar for the seasoned office denizen. Meetings should have a predetermined structure and purpose. If you are taking your team away from developing, improving and selling your product, then these meetings need to have demonstrable value, and different types of meetings need to be used strategically.

Take measures to keep “deep teamwork” – collaboration, innovation and interpersonal bonding – in-person whenever possible, and leave hybrid meetings to “shallow teamwork,” such as coordinating, information sharing and straightforward decision making. Then, reduce inequities as much as possible through technology and design meetings from a remote-first standpoint.

Navigating the evolving remote and hybrid work landscapes can be challenging. But together, we can learn from one another and discover how to use technology, communication, cybersecurity and other techniques to our advantage. Click the button below to gain access to our HybridCSI 2022 content, where you’ll be able to watch video sessions and download resources that offer industry insight and tips. It’s time to empower your workplace.


Invest in Audio and Video Technology
Do not underestimate the impact discordant technology can have on employee experience. In 2021, 22% of companies reduced their office use while working remotely, but only 38% upgraded their video technology. This did not escape the notice of employees, as 70% had some difficulty contributing to video calls. The best place to start is with audio. Hearing and being heard is a crucial part of ensuring equal inclusion in remote meetings. For example, we had a client conduct a  major board meeting with some members in-person while others were remote. The sound was so terrible that an important vote took place without the remote participants realizing; they could not participate. We have experienced meetings where a cell phone on a conference table is the only audio connection between in-person and remote participants, which is certainly not ideal. These are just a few examples of the inequity and disruption of inefficient hybrid work technology. Once you have an excellent audio solution, you can explore new video technology. One piece of technology to look out for is life-sized remote participation, where cameras are at eye level to facilitate better eye contact. There are also smart cameras available that pick up individual attendees in a room and put them in their own space on the screen.
Be Intentional
Technology plays a large role in creating more inclusive and productive meetings, but there are other techniques you can put into practice too that aren’t always tech-based. Business leaders should constantly stay on top of all productivity trends to streamline processes and support staff. Here are some other tips we recommend:
  • Only invite teammates who really need to be in the meeting. Having people in a meeting who may not be vital to the topic can actually waste time, effort and potentially money. Instead of the individual working on mission-critical tasks, they’re sitting in a meeting that may not apply to them. Instead, invite people who absolutely need to join the conversation. If something important arises, people in the meeting can relay the information to other members in a simple Microsoft Teams message or email.
  • Provide your team with an agenda. Prepare an agenda in a document, with action items. We are human, so sometimes we may get distracted by personal conversations during a meeting. Having an agenda to look back to can keep everyone on track. Also, send the agenda to your team 20 minutes before the meeting so that they will know what will be covered and can create questions beforehand.
  • Your meeting should have a strong ending. There’s nothing worse than awkward silence and a meeting ending abruptly, and from experience, this seems to be enhanced for virtual meeting attendees. To avoid this, set the stage and allow people to voice questions or concerns.

How an IT MSP can help

The most important takeaway is to critically examine why you are doing things and how these things align with your goals and enable your staff to create value for your customers. It is immensely rewarding finding ways to boost productivity and elevate employee experience by thinking through workplace processes, policies and technology. This is far easier said than done. designDATA can help you take your team’s productivity to the next level by optimizing collaboration and communication tools. We work closely with our clients to ensure successful staff adoption of productivity tools like Microsoft Teams, Microsoft 365 Business Voice and OneDrive. We also offer custom deployment plans that keep your team secure, productive and engaged.

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The Current State of Cyber Insurance Coverage

The Current State of Cyber Insurance Coverage


Three-minute read

Over the past decade, cyber insurance has grown from niche to mainstream in terms of insurance coverage for businesses and organizations. The instances of ransomware attacks, data breaches with extortion demands, and electronic financial crimes are increasing in leaps and bounds year over year. So much so that insurance providers have had to modify their coverage for these threats within their policies to reduce the amount they are paying out, raise premiums, or both. Organizations, large and small, are constantly at risk from bad actors trying to take advantage of weak security protocols, loose accounting practices, or unsuspecting employees. But what does cyber insurance cover and does your organization need to worry about it? 

We’ve organized a webinar to answer all your cyber insurance questions, but read on to learn about some of the topics we will cover in more detail on March 22nd.

What Exactly is Cyber Insurance?

Most organizations have general liability insurance, and these policies can include provisions for some types of crime we may think of as cyber threats. But cyber insurance specifically covers costs associated with the most dangerous types of cyber threats that aren’t covered under general liability.  These include ransomware attacks, data breaches with extortion, funds transfer fraud and social engineering attacks. They can also provide access to valuable services (or pay for those services) such as data recovery costs, computer forensic investigations and a public relations crisis management firm. Unfortunately, not all policies are made equal. Forbes shared this insight surrounding the cyber insurance industry: “The growing demand, coupled with an increase in payouts, is driving the cyber insurance industry to rethink how it can mitigate its exposure.” This means that you’ll have to ask some questions of your policy provider to ensure you are fully protected. Insurance is a for-profit business and it is on you as the consumer to make sure you’re buying the coverage and services you’ll need and not overspending on the coverage you don’t.

Does Your Organization Need Cyber Insurance Coverage?

It seems like every week in the news you hear about another major corporation suffering from a data breach or ransomware attack.  While large companies likely have cyber insurance coverage, it’s not only enterprise-level organizations that need to worry. According to Nation Wide, “55% of small businesses have experienced a data breach and 53% have had multiple breaches.” Cyber insurance coverage is used as a way for companies to transfer a large portion of the risk to themselves against these threats and it is a smart precaution for organizations of all sizes.

How to Apply for Cyber Insurance

Some general liability insurance policies include data breaches or some forms of limited cyber coverage. So, the first place to start would be reviewing your existing General Liability Policy. Note which types of threats and losses are covered. You may want to extend your current coverage to include other areas where your organization lacks coverage, such as on a ransomware payment or a social engineering attack. It’s best to shop around and find the best options for your organization. If you’re not sure what the best choices are for your organization, you might need some help.  Ask your insurance broker if they (or someone they work with) is an expert in cyber insurance and can provide you with comprehensive coverage. You should also ask the individuals in charge of your IT security to review the types of coverage included in these policies and ask if all the relevant cybersecurity risks are covered.  You should also cross-reference your cyber policy with any other insurance policies you have that include crime coverage to ensure there are no types of crime that are missing from your policies (and that you don’t overlap too much — overlapping coverage is often less helpful than you think). When applying for cyber insurance coverage, you’ll be asked a lot of questions about your current IT security, your accounting practices and your past claims history.  Make sure you answer these questionnaires truthfully and completely.  While the insurance carrier won’t be auditing you during the policy purchasing phase, they definitely will audit you if you file a claim with them. If they determine you’re not doing something that you promised you were, they can use that as justification to deny your claim.

Types of Cyber Insurance Coverage

Below are some types of coverage that you want to ensure are included in your policy portfolio: 1. Data Breach Coverage Data breaches can come from anywhere, such as a simple phishing email that an employee opens. Suddenly, data exfiltration malware is surfing your network. Or maybe a vendor is compromised and an email comes from them that looks exactly like every other email but it actually has a malicious attachment. Maybe some of your employees aren’t practicing good password hygiene and bad actors guess passwords to your main databases. These breaches usually result in the theft of personal or client information. Cyber insurance policies will include services to help you recover from these breaches, like a Breach Hotline, forensic services to investigate the breach, crisis management and public relations help. These are all great benefits to have in the case of data theft. 2. Personal Client or Business Information Restoration Cyber insurance policies with this coverage will include paying for the labor and any special tools for recovery and/or replacement of lost or stolen data. Note that you need to have good backups for this coverage to work; the insurance company can’t wave a magic wand and put all of your data back on your systems. 3. Data Recovery Not only will a cyber insurance policy cover data recovery after a breach, but it will also bring you peace of mind knowing that all elements of the aftermath will be addressed. Providers will work to recover or recreate lost data; they will ensure any clients with compromised information are informed and, if necessary, compensated. Some policies even help victims of identity fraud restore their credit rating. 4. System Repair After a data breach, your computer systems may be damaged or destroyed. Malware and spyware can wreak havoc on your network settings and organization, not to mention finding all the information that has been compromised. Cyber insurance will cover the costs of system and hardware repairs, as well as repairing your data centers and network architecture.

Is Cyber Insurance Worth It?

In our opinion, yes, cyber insurance coverage is essential for any organization that relies on computers to process or store its data, make financial transactions, or manage their human resources. As technology advances and there is a wider attack surface for bad actors to exploit, every organization is at risk, no matter the size. If you’re uncertain about your current security being advanced enough to obtain insurance, we can help your business improve your security landscape. designDATA has decades of experience with IT security for businesses of all sizes. We can protect your mission-critical data, elevate your security network and ensure that you and your team are prepared for a review by a potential cyber insurance provider. This includes reviewing your current cyber insurance policy if you request it. We’ll ensure that your policy is best serving you, that you’re well-protected and that your policy includes all of the coverage you might need. Knowing that your cyber insurance policy is robust and up to par means you can work with less worry and more confidence. If you want to check the status of your cyber insurance and make sure your business is prepared for cyber incidents, request a free cyber insurance review now!

Be sure to register for our cyber insurance webinar on March 22nd from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EST. We want to give our community the best information available about cyber insurance so you can ensure your business is protected.

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Sophos Firewall: The Next Generation of Network Safety

Sophos Firewall: The Next Generation of Network Safety


hree-minute read

designDATA is committed to curating the best-of-breed products from our large array of industry-leading partners, so our clients can have the best network protection on the market today. Sophos Firewall is our go-to for SMBs and enterprise organizations because it is backed by high-performance security technology that centralizes, synchronizes and automates network monitoring in ways that are not offered by other vendors.

Below, we will explain three reasons why our partnership with Sophos gets our clients the network security they need to keep their organization safe.

So, What is a Firewall? 

First, let’s define our terms. You have probably seen movies and TV shows where firewalls are broken down with some quick keyboard mashing and an exclamation of “I’m in!” Luckily, designDATA and Sophos do not offer movie-quality network protection.

Firewalls are a combination of software and firmware that stop threats and unauthorized access to a company’s network. It scans all incoming and outgoing traffic using filtering rules to identify and detect threats. They are essential components of any company’s IT infrastructure.

Sophos Offers a Next Generation Firewall

A Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) is not a single piece of technology but a group of technologies that work collaboratively to meet the network security needs of businesses operating in an era of heightened threats. Sophos XGS Firewall is an industry leading NGFW.

Today, the average business network has so many different entry points and varying kinds of users that a multi-layer approach is necessary.

What distinguishes an NGFW from less sophisticated firewalls is that they are paired with other security components, like intrusion detection and prevention systems, and they are Layer 7 firewalls.

Firewalls are ranked by the depth they filter data in the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI). This model describes the seven layers that computer systems typically use to communicate and share data between networks.

What is special about Layer 7 firewalls is that they scan the contents, not just the IP addresses, of data packets that come into your network for malware and other cyber threats and allow for advanced traffic filtering rules.

Threats that could hamstring your ability to do business can pass through firewalls that are less stringent than NGFWs; that is why designDATA settles for nothing less than the highest standard of network security for our clients by using the Sophos Firewall.

Why Should You Care?

It is easy to get bogged down by technical information, so you can entrust designDATA to make these quality determinations on your behalf and convey its value succinctly. In simple terms, this firewall is the most advanced kind available today and is what SMBs and enterprise organizations need to protect their networks.

Sophos Central

This all-in-one dashboard allows the user to manage and observe all firewalls and interact with other Sophos security products on one screen for one price. They can access this unified managed console on any device to deploy, optimize and monitor multiple firewalls, gather security insights and neutralize threats.

Why Do You Need This?

Centralization means increased productivity. It allows your MSP to save you time and money by not jumping between different portals, dashboards and services and using more of their billable hours productively meeting your network security needs.

Synchronized Security 

This advanced, pioneering approach to reactive containment means firewalls, endpoints and servers synchronize and communicate to share real-time information. This patented Security Heartbeat™ shares network and endpoint data to automatically detect and respond to stop threats.

Sophos offers the only network security solution capable of completely identifying the user and source of a network intrusion to quarantine them and shut off their access to the broader network.

This advanced form of zero-touch incident response reduces your exposure to threats while freeing up time and resources to invest in other aspects of business or IT infrastructure.

If you fear losing the human touch, don’t worry, as the Sophos Managed Threat Response (MTR) team is ready 24 hours a day to hunt, detect and respond to cyber threats. Real breathing security experts backed by machine learning are available as a fully managed service. Around-the-clock expert help backing you up when no one else can is yet another reason Sophos is a vendor that’s hard to beat.

Get Support Against Cyber Threats

The big takeaway here is that the Sophos Firewall offers an exclusive bit of technology that gives your network an extra layer of high-performance protection that is not available from any other vendor. The partnership between designDATA and Sophos allows you to use this technology and get the peace of mind to focus on other parts of your business and not constantly look over your shoulder for the next business-ending cyber threat.

Talk with us today about how designDATA with our friends at Sophos can keep you safe, secure and productive with world-class cybersecurity solutions.

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Do You Have to Manage Your Managed IT Service Provider

Do You Have to Manage Your Managed IT Service Provider?

Do You Have to Manage Your Managed IT Service Provider?

Do You Have to Manage Your Managed IT Service Provider

Four-minute read

As an increasing number of businesses shift to hybrid work models, receiving efficient information technology (IT) services has never been more crucial. A managed IT service provider (IT MSP) can ensure your employees are working efficiently and securely – no matter where they’re situated.  

Because the relationship between an organization and its IT provider has become so essential, it has never been more important for businesses to feel like they’re in good hands. Unfortunately, not all MSPs offer effective communication to ensure clients understand the value of their services. Moreover, it is not the client’s job to implement and prioritize effective communication between both teams – it is the managed IT service provider’s job.  

We believe it is incumbent upon MSPs to put in place a clear communication cadence with their clients concerning IT priorities. Below we outline our top five keys to effective client communication and how a team-based approach can help ensure everyone feels informed and confident about the partnership. But first, let’s discuss today’s customer satisfaction landscape as it concerns MSPs.  

Customer Satisfaction and MSPs  

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a significant client satisfaction benchmark in B2B services. On average, IT service providers scored 44% in 2022, but in the six years before the COVID-19 pandemic, the average NPS for a managed service provider went as high as 24% in 2019 and as low as 11% in 2015. The distinct rise in NPS can be explained by the fantastic work IT service providers did to make the transition to remote work possible during the pandemic. Still, service providers must continue to deliver to maintain this goodwill. 

It is important to note that the NPS standard for excellent service is 50%, and according to Datto, the average MSP has a score of 18%, which places them lower than similar industries.  

designDATA does not settle for the status quo. We want our customers to get the maximum value for their time, money, and resources, and we believe a large part of making this a reality for our clients is communication.  

designDATA’s Five Keys to Effective Communication 

We believe that a clear communication cadence benefits the client and the managed IT service provider. It allows us to meet our client’s needs better, and the client can see the demonstrable value of the services we provide. This cadence involves: 

01. Weekly Tactical Meetings  

A Program Manager (think fractional IT manager) prepares an agenda and meets with your team to review ongoing services issues, schedule and communicate any downtime or maintenance, and address any concerns that are top of mind.  

02. Proactive Priority of the Month 

Our clients need us to be proactive rather than reactive, so designDATA prioritizes essential items often left at the bottom of the pile indefinitely by other MSPs.  

03. Quarterly Benchmarking 

We perform quarterly assessments of your IT environment in five key areas: productivitycybersecurity, infrastructure management, cloud service enablement, and business continuity. We compare the effective use of technology to our other clients.  

04. Bi-Annual Business Reviews 

This is where we meet with non-IT stakeholders. We have an executive-level discussion about the accomplishments of the last two quarters and the plans for the next two. These meetings also cover budgetary impacts, the possibility of adding emerging technology to their tech stack, and an analysis of how we can add more value to their business.  

05. Yearly Initiative Rankings 

This is where we discuss more broad-level critical success factors. We use a project ranking matrix that scores initiatives on the most significant impact they have on the business to prioritize what is most important. We rank recommended IT initiatives according to the client’s business criteria.  

Do Your Research – Then Purchase 

The best spending is done wisely and carefully. Before you start shopping, ensure you have a solid idea of the needs and wants of your organization’s personnel and its clients and what your systems require to meet or exceed those metrics. Then, purchase consciously to make sure you can meet these needs.  

A thorough assessment will give you an idea of your organization’s priorities, with the most important upgrades for best performance (and timely resolution of present or future vulnerabilities) coming first, followed by the “nice to have” items. 

Enjoying Exceptional Communication with Your MSP  

While the five-step communication cadence we have outlined above is incredibly valuable, an additional way to ensure all parties feel informed and happy with the partnership is by prioritizing a team-based approach.  

To ensure our relationship with our clients is constructive, we provide a team-based approach to help-desk service, meaning your staff will enjoy familiar engineers whenever they need support. Our team-based approach also means that everyone in your organization has a dedicated point of contact, creating comfort and consistency. This is something that we encourage all organizations to implement as it provides clients with the experience of having an in-house IT team, all while leveraging the benefits of working with a comprehensive outsourced MSP. 

No matter the MSP you partner with, you should not feel like you’re managing themWe pair our customers with a dedicated client team that knows you, your environment, and your business criteria so well that we feel like an extension of your team.  

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What to Expect from a Business Technology Needs Assessment

What to Expect from a Business Technology Needs Assessment

What to Expect from a Business Technology Needs Assessment

What to Expect from a Business Technology Needs Assessment

Four-minute read

Modern businesses rely extensively on computer hardware and software, all of which inevitably fall into obsolescence or are found to have vulnerabilities. Moore’s Law may no longer be the rule of the day, but you must keep pace with modern business demands to keep your systems free of vulnerability. Thus, it is essential that your enterprise engages in regular maintenance, updates, and upgrades. Further improving necessary systems (along with any related practices, policies, and procedures) can help future-proof an organization ahead of any concerns that may be on the horizon.

Whether you are working on adapting your business to a hybrid model or upgrading older systems for improved stability and performance, this begins with a technology needs assessment. A good assessment process will find your company’s strengths and weaknesses and any unexpected factors that may be holding you back. By thoroughly examining the condition and needs of your enterprise, you can get a clear picture of what is necessary or lacking, what to upgrade – and how, when, and where. Such an assessment will also show how to do so in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, and even help you determine when you will need to fully re-examine everything in the future.

Tech Assessment-Process Graphic

Gather the Relevant Information

Every organization has its own structure and goals. Thus, each one must be carefully examined to determine how its performance compares to its industry at large and what that enterprise needs to bring it up to par or beyond. This will involve discussions and surveys with your employees and related stakeholders who handle the day-to-day business objectives to determine how they work with the technology used to address them. Determining not only what works, but what does not, will be vital to this process, as well as any particular favorites or frustrations they have when it comes to productivity and any effects on their performance and morale.

Review Your Existing Technology

The next task in an assessment is a systematic examination of the technology itself and how it interacts with your stakeholders’ concerns. The age and condition of the hardware are important as outdated devices are less capable, but software is just as necessary to examine, if not more so.

Your machines are the substrate upon which that software runs, but the programs you use are much more often in need of upgrades. Each software’s version and any related updates or patches are important, along with how that software is used and how it compares to others in the industry. Cybersecurity is a vital aspect of the review: your system’s safety is based on devices and applications alike, and the repercussions of a compromised system are costly indeed.

Finding and improving on tool silos is also a necessary part of any technology assessment. Tool silos concern when multiple teams use different software to accomplish the same thing. This practice can be costly and cause disconnection and confusion, so ensuring software alignment across your organization is an important goal to work towards.

One way to achieve this goal is to provide effective training for all staff members; this will maximize technology adoption and minimize the impact of technology changes on productivity. This is one of the many reasons designDATA offers free training to all clients.

Do Your Research – Then Purchase

The best spending is done wisely and carefully. Before you start shopping, ensure you have a solid idea of the needs and wants of your organization’s personnel and its clients and what your systems require to meet or exceed those metrics. Then, purchase consciously to make sure you can meet these needs.

A thorough assessment will give you an idea of your organization’s priorities, with the most important upgrades for best performance (and timely resolution of present or future vulnerabilities) coming first, followed by the “nice to have” items.

Follow Up with Future Reviews

When it comes to an assessment of the tech needs in your enterprise, the only true constant will be change. To keep up with the ever-evolving nature of technology, business, and how they intersect, your organization will need another assessment – and another after that, and so on. Luckily, a great Managed Services Provider (MSP) will annually review your technology road map and business goals to ensure everything is aligned; this includes budget, timelines, and the ability to implement and scale new technology to achieve new business outcomes.

Your assessment results will determine when or even how often following reviews should take place. Think of this as the enterprise-level version of a yearly doctor’s physical. Each one is a snapshot of the organization’s condition, performance, and needs; over time, these reviews can give you an idea of the long-term arc of your business’ approach to changing trends and demands.

Effective communication is essential to make the most of the reviews your MSP implements. Our leaders at designDATA believe strongly in the following client communication cadence: weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly, and annual reviews, each with valuable discussion focal points for both teams. This helps us feel plugged into an organization, ready with metrics and adjusted technology goals that reflect what business leaders care about.

How designDATA Can Help

Upkeep of business technology helps your enterprise perform efficiently and achieve its goals quickly. It should be considered a necessary – and mandatory – aspect of doing business. Technology needs assessments ensure your organization stays abreast of ongoing developments and makes the most of them, leading to greater productivity, safety, and longevity.

The most effective technology needs assessments are performed by those with the best skills and experience available. At designDATA, we strive to deliver the best results in these assessments, always ensuring they are valuable and worthwhile. If you have further questions about an evaluation and how we can perform one for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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