Monday’s Tip: How to Make a Good Impression with Your Email

Email is synonymous with doing business in the digital age. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to become an expert at crafting dynamic emails. Writing a good email takes common sense and careful editing. You don’t have to be an English major to write a professional email–just follow these simple tips.

To whom it may concern,

Knowing how to write a good email is one of the most important skills a professional can have. The way you communicate can make you come off as an authority in your field, or a complete idiot, depending on how you word it. When writing an email that represents your company, be sure to think twice about what you’re saying.

Begin with a Goal in Mind
Before you begin writing an email, think about the purpose of your message. Otherwise, you run the risk of the email completely forsaking that purpose and lacking proper focus. Always have a goal in mind before you begin writing the email, and take time to think seriously about the issue at hand. You want the content to have a discernible value to the reader. If your message is incohesive, then you will come off looking bad.

Tell Them How it Is
Don’t hold anything back. With a clear goal in mind, you can now focus in on it and put it into words. Begin by stating early what you’re writing about, kind of like a thesis statement. You shouldn’t wait until the end of the email before letting them know what they can expect from it. After they open your email, they will want to know right off the bat what they’re in for. In fact, this is why it’s important to clearly state your goal in your email’s subject line. Furthermore, busy business people don’t enjoy reading emails, so a quick rundown of what the email contains lets them skip ahead to what matters most to them, and easily find relevant information.

Quality Over Quantity
An email should be concise and clear, meaning that you don’t want it to be long and convoluted. Instead of reading an endless email filled to the brim with detailed descriptions and business jargon, only tell them what they need to know. You can always let them in on the finer details in a follow-up meeting. Always proofread your work, and get a second pair of eyes to edit your message if possible. The more people who look at a document, the more errors that can be found and fixed.

Use Proper Etiquette
If you’re representing your company, then you have to put your best foot forward and mind your manners. When it comes to business correspondence, there’s a certain level of manners and professionalism that we all have to abide to. Writing a professional email is like sticking to a common-sense code; be sure to show appreciation, be friendly, address someone by their professional title, and don’t say anything controversial that will rock the boat. For those with strong opinions about controversial topics, writing a professional email may take a degree of filtering.

By following these guidelines on how to write a professional email, you will be sure to make a positive impression with your readers.

Best wishes,
Michell Consulting Group

New Office Trend “Hoteling” Provides Workers a Collaborative Work Environment

Everyone is well aware of how mobile technology is changing everything. Therefore, it’s a matter of time before we see new tech drastically change the office layout. This is what’s happening in forward-thinking offices with a trend called “hoteling.” If your business enjoys mobile technology and you want to get the most collaboration out of your staff, then hoteling is right for you.

The Shortcomings of the Traditional Office Layout
Hoteling takes the flexibility that mobile devices offer to restructure your entire office layout. If you think about the modern office with its cubicles and workstations, you quickly come to a conclusion: It’s an inefficient way to do get work done. Think about it. You’re literally wired to one location, doing work that often requires face-to-face input with coworkers located all throughout the building. Also, nothing kills creativity quite like cubicles.

With the traditional office layout, office managers will attempt to position workers next to each other in such a way as to maximize efficiency. Usually, workers from the same department are grouped together. Given the circumstances of using workstations, this kind of layout is the best that one can do with what they’re given. Hoteling offers a better way.

Keeping People On the Move Keeps Them Productive
The term “hoteling” comes from the idea of using a hotel room. Just like renting a room is temporary, so too is an employee’s workspace when they are “hoteling.” This temporary dynamic means that a worker won’t get too comfortable in one spot, and they would be unlikely to hang personal decorations, like cat posters and whatnot. One would think that an employee losing personal space would be upsetting, but most workers would gladly sacrifice a poster or two if it means gaining more flexibility.

With hoteling, the ideal setup is an open room with tables and chairs that can be easily moved to accommodate a worker’s needs. When you view workers that are in the act of hoteling, you will notice pockets of team members from different departments sitting at the same table working on the same project. You will also find the more introverted workers huddled in corners by themselves, knocking out projects–and loving it.

Hoteling Diffuses Arguments and Improves Collaboration
Think for a moment about how many problems are caused simply by two workers being stationed next to each other for 40+ hours a week. If the two co-workers have opposite personalities and they’re next to each other all the time, then the chance of conflict is high. This can lead to outbursts and arguments which can hurt morale. Instead, if an irritated worker could just fold up their laptop and move to another part of the room, then your office would be a much more harmonious and productive place.

From a productivity standpoint, the most attractive benefit to hoteling is improved team collaboration. If your office is large enough to have multiple departments spread across a single building, then you’ve likely experienced the frustration of having different departments fail to communicate on a specific project, simply because they didn’t communicate well enough. With hoteling, anytime a project requires input from anybody in any department, a worker can just move to where they need to and sit next to the resource that they’re working with, thus, benefiting from face-to-face communication.

When the project is completed, then, for their next project, the worker can take their mobile device and move to a new spot that puts them closer to other people that they need to work with. This is what maximum team collaboration looks like.

How Can Your Business Implement Hoteling?
Many startup companies are taking advantage of hoteling. For established companies that have a fleet of workstations wired into cubicles, it may be difficult to overhaul the office like this by cutting cords, tearing down walls, removing personal decorations, and equipping employees with mobile devices (or encouraging them to use their own). Additionally, an office that switches to hoteling will have to upgrade its bandwidth in order to accommodate the newly added wireless devices sharing data over the cloud.

Making a transition to hoteling may be a lot of work, but for the sake of gaining maximum collaboration out of your staff, many businesses will deem the transition to be worth the effort. A successful transition like this will require careful planning and the design of your company’s technology strategy. Michell Consulting Group (MCG) can help your business achieve your productivity goals by equipping your organization with the technology you need, like mobile devices, wireless routers, and even a network security solution to account for the new risk your business will face when having more workers access the network with mobile devices.

Call us at 305.592.5433 ext. 2601 to learn more about hoteling and other technology-centered productivity measures you can take to improve collaboration.

Tip of the Week: How to Remotely Wipe Your Android Device Clean

Mobile technology has invaded our very way of life. We don’t leave the house without our mobile phones, and many business owners have their phones integrated to connect with their company’s network. The average user has many different social media applications and others that utilize personal information. What would happen if you lost it?

Unfortunately, that would mean that your mobile device, and likely your business’s information, could be at risk of being compromised. If a bad guy got ahold of your phone, what would he decide to access? Your social media? Your bank statements? Your business email? There’s no telling what he will sabotage, and why. All you need to know is how to prevent this from happening.

Finding the Android Device Manager
Thankfully, any Android device can take advantage of clean-slate erasing with Google’s Android Device Manager. Similar to iCloud, you’ll be able to locate your device and erase all information that is on it. This might be traumatic to you, but it’s an essential step toward keeping your business safe from hackers and thieves.

It’s not uncommon for Android mobile users to not know this function exists. All you need to do is access your Google Settings.

 

This can be found under the All Apps section of your Android device. After clicking on Google Settings, you’ll see the option to access your Android Device Manager.

 

Set the Device Up For Remote Erasing
The first thing you’ll notice is that the option Remotely locate this device is the default setting. This allows you to find the device wherever it might be, and it gives you the ability to erase all current information on the device and restore it to the factory default. This is particularly useful if you lose your phone and suspect someone is doing bad things with it. In order to wipe the device, select Allow remote lock and erase.

 

Click this selection, and your device will prompt you to grant permissions to the Android Device Manager.

 

After you activate the Android Device Manager, you need to sign into your Gmail account from a web browser.

The Clean Erase
In order to access the Android Device Manager, click here. All you need to do is accept the agreement (if this is your first time accessing the application), and you’re all set to wipe your phone remotely. Select your device from the list, and if you’ve enabled Lock and Erase, you’ll be able to send the command to the device that will erase any information on the phone and restore it to default factory settings.

It should be noted that, once you press Erase, the action will start and cannot be halted. If the device isn’t powered on, it will wipe the device as soon as it is turned on.

By taking advantage of this feature, you can remotely erase your phone’s sensitive information and protect your company, regardless of whether your phone is stolen or simply misplaced. Do you have any horror stories concerning a lost mobile device? Share them with us in the comments.

Warning: Cryptowall 2.0 Ransomware On the Loose

The latest threats can put a damper on your business plan and put your company at risk. Therefore, it’s only natural to protect yourself from them. This new threat in particular, Cryptowall 2.0, has the potential to do plenty of heavy-duty damage to your business’s network, if given the opportunity.

New threats surface all of the time, but spear-phishing email attacks are some of the most dangerous out there. Cryptowall, which also goes by the name of Cryptolocker, targets those who are unaware of the emails they receive. The virus is found within zipped folders and PDF files sent via email disguised as invoices, purchase orders, bills, complaints, or other business-related messages. Cryptowall 2.0 is an enhanced version of the original Cryptowall ransomware, which had the power to encrypt files on your network and local data.

Previously, it was fairly simple for network administrators to recover their files. Now, the malware developers have taken extra steps to make it difficult for users to recover their files without paying the fee. Some of the changes made with this enhanced version of Cryptowall include:

  • Unique wallet IDs are used to send ransom payments. The original Cryptowall ransomware didn’t use unique payment addresses for each victim, which allowed other victims to potentially take the payments made by others and apply them to their own PC. While this act itself seems like a slap in the face to other victims, it did allow users to recover their files without paying the fee.
  • Cryptowall can now securely delete your original data files. Previously, Cryptowall wouldn’t delete the original files, making it easy to use data recovery tools to recover them. This option is no longer possible, meaning that your choices are limited to data backup solutions or paying the ransom.
  • Cryptowall 2.0 uses its own TOR gateways, allowing malware developers to collect the ransom without being detected. Previously, these payment servers could be blacklisted and unreachable; but now that Cryptowall hosts its own TOR gateways, they cannot be blacklisted, and are a much greater threat.

Obviously, this threat is extremely dangerous and should be prepared for. In order to prevent this ransomware from infecting your computer, you must remain ever vigilant. Try some of these tips to avoid getting locked down:

  • Do not open files sent by unfamiliar email addresses. This is the biggest thing you can do to keep yourself safe. This malware attempts to weasel its way past your antivirus and firewall by disguising itself as something else. The best way to keep your network and systems safe is to only open files you can trust.
  • Do not click on links in suspicious emails. By clicking on suspicious links, you’re inviting the contents of the malicious website to infect your system. It’s best to treat every unfamiliar link with some suspicion, especially until this new threat has been dealt with.

When disaster strikes, you can count on Michell Consulting Group (MCG) to be there for you. We can provide you with all of the information you need to know about the latest threats, so you can better protect yourself against them. For more security consulting, or if you think you’ve been compromised, contact MCG at 305.592.5433 ext. 2601.

To Understand the Hacker, You Must Become the Hacker

Hackers are mysterious. Not much is known about them – until they get caught, at least. But until the divine hammer of justice is brought down upon them, they will continue to stalk the shadows and wait for us to unknowingly hand over our personal information. What they don’t want you to know is that they generally act according to a few particular variables, and that it is possible to avoid their pitfalls.

Today, it seems like there are more hackers than ever before, and they are coming up with new pitfalls, traps, and threats all the time. In fact, just last week, a new major security vulnerability was discovered called POODLE (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption). This POODLE vulnerability allows a hacker sharing a network with you to hijack and decrypt the session cookie that identifies you to a service (like Google), and then take over your accounts. You can read more about it in a paper published by Google security.

POODLE, Heartbleed, Shellshock, BadUSB, the list of new vulnerabilities that hackers are finding and exploiting goes on. How can you stay ahead of every new threat and have peace of mind that your company’s network is safe?

The first step toward foiling the plans of a hacker, is to not make assumptions. Human beings make mistakes by nature, and nobody is perfect. But mistakes can happen when we aren’t careful, and that’s what hackers take advantage of. In order to protect yourself from them, you should think like one.

Step 1: Infiltration
As a hacker, the first thing that comes to mind is how you are going to access a system. It doesn’t matter whether it’s internal or external, online or offline – anything will suffice, so long as they can get access to something they wouldn’t normally have access to. Once they get into your network, it’s difficult to stop them from doing damage. The key to stopping a hacking attack is to prevent them from gaining access to your system.

Here are a few ways you can prevent hackers from gaining access to your workstations and network:

  • Use up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Don’t click on suspicious-looking emails or attachments, especially if they are from an unidentified sender.
  • Don’t allow strangers to physically access your network (i.e. letting someone use your computer you don’t even know).
  • Be wary of phone calls and people asking for personal information. Don’t be afraid to be stern with them, especially if they are acting strangely or are asking for unnecessary information, like your social security number or credit card information.

Step 2: Elimination
Hackers love to take out those who are indifferent about their data, and will gladly give them a hand with “removing” it for them. Basically, those who don’t have their data protected are practically begging for hackers to take it. There are generally two reasons that people don’t use antivirus software:

  • They don’t feel they need it – a severe misconception.
  • They don’t have the time to implement it – another severe misconception.

In the wise words of social network engineer Chris Hadnagy, “The level of paranoia you display should be commensurate to the info you are protecting.” You wouldn’t leave your kid alone in the forest; before long, they would be surrounded by a pack of hungry animals. The same can be said about your other child, your business; and its data. Hackers won’t rest until they access it, so do the right thing and protect it.

Step 3: Prevention
Even if you think you are good at protecting your data, you can make a mistake. You’re always visible to hackers, and they know just how to get to someone like you. Always prepare for the worst, and always keep your eyes open. There is a first time for everything, but if you stay ever-vigilant, you’ll greatly reduce the risk for human error, which is a hacker’s greatest strength.

Michell Consulting Group might not be a group of professional hackers, but we know how to protect your network (and your business) from one. Call us at 305.592.5433 ext.2601 to mitigate your chances of being trapped by a hacker.