Solve Your COVID-19 Phone Issues

As we are reaching out to customers and others in our network, we are seeing about 15% of business with serious phone problems.  The most common issue is that the person answering the business’ phone is unable to forward a call to other employers, nor can they provide a direct number without sharing a private home or cell phone number. It is more difficult to keep your business moving when you cannot properly answer calls.  Call backs and emails only go so far.

The good news is that you can use cloud-based, voice over IP (VoIP) phone services to solve this problem without replacing your current phone service.  And, several vendors are offering free services to small businesses.

How it Works

We effectively overlay a cloud VoIP service over your existing phone system/services.

  • We setup a VoIP phone service for your business, but do NOT port over your existing numbers.
  • We auto-forward your current business lines to the VoIP service
  • Within the VoIP services:
    • Employees can, answer and make calls using “Soft Phone” software on the computers or via a app on their smart phone. The cell number remains private.
    • We can setup groups or departments that simultaneously ring multiple people, or round-robin in a team, to ensure inbound sales and service calls are answered.
    • Use the embedded voice mail, or forward calls back to an individuals normal extension/voicemail (depending on system capabilities)
    • Enable texting/chat services (in most VoIP services), if needed.
    • Integrate audio and video conferencing services, if needed.

Several VoIP providers we work with are offering multiple months of free service. While they are hoping you like the service enough to switch permanently, this is an affordable temporary solution.

Call us or email us for more information.


 

Federal Reserve Opens Main Street Lending Program with $600 Billion

(Published 4/25/20 – New links to program information)


On April 9, 2020, the Federal Reserve System quietly announced the opening of the Main Street Lending Program.  Through this program, the “Fed” is providing $600 Billion in loans to small and mid-market businesses. Loans are available to companies with up to 10,000 employees and annual revenues up to $2.5 Billion. Business must commit to make reasonable efforts to maintain payroll and retain workers.  Loans may be new, or may be used to expand existing loans.

Given the limited funds in the SBA’s EIDL Program, the Main Street Lending Program may be a useful alternative.

The program has two types of loans:

  1. Main Street New Loan Facility (MSNLF), which provides new loans to businesses per the MSNLF Term Sheet.
  2. Main Street Expanded Loan Facility (MSELF), which expands existing loans to businesses per the MSELF Term Sheet.

The minimum loan is $1 million and the term is fixed at 4 years with the amortization of principal and interest deferred for the first year.  The rate is adjustable based on the Secured Overnight Funds Rate (SOFR) plus 250 to 400 basis points, equating to a current rate between 2.51% and 4.01%.

US Chamber Launches Save Small Business Fund

(Updated 4/22/20)

4/22/20: The Save Mall Business Fund application process is closed as all available funds have been committed.

—-

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a fund to provide assistance to small businesses in the form of $5,000 grants.

The Save Small Business Fund — in collaboration with Vistaprint and with support from Merck, S&P Global Foundation, and Travelers — will include contributions from corporations and philanthropies. The grant is expected to address small businesses’ immediate needs such as closures and job loss and will support their long-term recovery.

Applications for the Chamber’s fund will open on April 20, 2020.

In order to qualify a business must:

  • Employ between 3 and 20 people
  • Be located in an economically vulnerable community
  • Have been harmed financially by the COVID-19 pandemic

Click here for more information.

Ensure Your Team is Working from Home Safely

(Published 4/21/20)


The rush to get your employees setup and working from home is over; now is the time to take a step back and make sure your team is working effectively and that you are protecting your data and that of your customers.

Here is a simple checklist:

Give Employees Business Software

If you have MS Office licensed through an Office 365 subscription, you have the ability to install each user’s license on multiple computers and devices. Use this licensing to make sure your team does not run into version compatibility issues.  If you have an Office 365 subscription, you can also ensure employees are logged into your domain/tenant and files are automatically backed up to OneDrive or SharePoint file systems.

Give Employees Endpoint Protection

If employees are using home computers for work, the non-work activity on that machine poses a malware and ransomware risk to your business.  Even if your employee has a consumer antivirus tool in place, you should layer next-gen, advanced threat protection.  Solutions like Webroot are designed to coexist with local protections. The solution also gives you control over the security footprint of machines accessing your systems and data.

Give Employees Web Filtering / DNS Protection

Between 20% and 35% of malware attacks originate from infected websites and DNS attacks.  Adding web filtering/DNS protection allows your employees and their families to safely surf without putting your business at risk.

Properly Configure Desktop File Sync Utilities

Whether using Office 365 or G Suite, enabling a desktop sync tool gives your employees seamless access to your cloud-based files. Rather than syncing, configure the agent to serve as a mapping tool. Files cache locally while in use for performance; data remains securely in your cloud; users have easy and familiar access.

Put a Policy in Place

Make sure you have an appropriate policy in place, to protect your employees and your business. We are sharing a simple draft policy you can use and adapt to your needs.

CARES ACT Emergency Funds for SMBs

(UPDATED 4/21/20)


4/21/20 Update – Senate Approves More PPP and EIDL Funding; Prepare Now.

Late this afternoon, the US Senate passed a $480 in COVID-19 relief funding.  Of this, $310 Billion is for PPP loans and an additional $60 Billion for the EIDL program. If want to apply for a PPP loan, the time to act is now.  While it will take time for the House of Representatives to vote, the President to sign, and the SBA to restart the process, you need to be ready.  Here is an action plan:

  • Contact a banker who will take your application and help you apply.
    • If you have an SBA lender, this is the best place to start.
    • If you do not have a SBA lender, contact your business banker.  If you bank is not participating in the program, ask them for a personal referral and introduction to a SBA lender in their network of contacts.  The personal introduction is key, as banks will want to serve existing customers first.
    • If you do not have a banking relationship, contact the manager of the branch you use.  Do not be embarrassed to introduce yourself and the number of years you have used their bank. Relationships matter, even you are creating a new one.
    • About $60 Billion of the PPP program is earmarked for small banks, rural banks, and credit unions.  The intent is to ensure more money makes it to small businesses that bank locally. Local relationships and introductions can help you connect with a lender that will do more than take your application and put it in a pile.
    • Fintech companies, including PayPal, Intuit and others, as well as American Express are participating in the program. If you have a business relationship, these may be another resource.
  • Ask your banker for a checklist of information you need to prepare. The rules are not expected to change, so they should have this on hand.
  • Ask your banker when they will start accepting applications.  Ask them to notify you once their portal is open or when they are accepting packets by email.  Many banks will take your packets and queue them up for entry as soon as the SBA program opens.
  • Gather and review the information now; have your packet ready.  Reach out to your payroll firm; many have created special reports with the information you need to include with your application.

With proper preparation, your application can closer to the front of the line.

4/16/20 Update – Applications for  PPP and EIDL Programs Have Been Halted

  • Funding for the Payroll Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program has been fully committed.  Per the SBA website:

SBA is unable to accept new applications at this time for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)-COVID-19 related assistance program (including EIDL Advances) based on available appropriations funding. Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

4/10/20 Updates – Important Changes to SBA Programs

  • Caveats on SBA ‘grants’ program: Inc. Magazine is reporting that the SBA clarified the SBA EIDL grant program, indicating the amount would be $1,000 per employee, up to $10,000, rather than a fixed $10,000 grant.  Note that the article’s link to the SBA Bulletin is no longer available online. ALSO, the SBA site now states that businesses will receive funds “in a few days”, a change from the prior 3 business day expectation.
  • Change in payments for EIDL loans: The New York Times is reporting that the SBA is limiting initial funding of EIDL program loans to $15,000 — far below the program expectations of loans up to $2 million.  The $15,000 would be in addition to the “up to $10,000” advance/grant.  There is no information whether the loans are capped at $15,000 or if they are controlling disbursements for the few months. This restriction could be due to limited funding.  As reported by CNBC, “… nearly 4 million businesses had applied for EIDL funding for a total of $383 billion, adding that Congress has allocated $17 billion for the program.”

4/06/20 Updates – Paycheck Protection Program and Debt Relief

From the SBA information site.

  • On Friday 4/2, the SBA changed and updated the Paycheck Program Protection loan application and required documentation.  In addition to annual payroll reports and copies of your 940 for 2019, you need to provide quarterly 941’s and payroll reports.  Check with your lender, as you may need to resubmit your application package.
  • On Friday 4/2, the SBA Debt Relief website was changed to state that the SBA will automatically make six (6) months of payments on existing SBA 7a and 504 program loans.  We recommend contacting your SBA lender to confirm.
  • If you apply for the EIDL, you are eligible for a $10,000 forgivable advance (even if you do not close on the EIDL). You may also qualify for a $25,000 bridge loan.  Applying for the EIDL now, however, may impede your ability to secure a Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan. We recommend speaking with your lender BEFORE submitting your EIDL application.

4/01/20 Updates – Paycheck Protection Program

From the SBA information site.

  • You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.
  • Lenders may begin processing loan applications as soon as April 3, 2020.
  • If you wish to begin preparing your application, you can download a sample form to see the information that will be requested from you.

The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payroll during this emergency. These loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.

Am You Eligible?

You are eligible if you are:

  • A small business with fewer than 500 employees
  • A small business that otherwise meets the SSA’s size standard
  • A 501(c)(3) with fewer than 500 employees
  • An Individual who operates as a sole proprietor
  • An Individual who operates as an Independent contractor
  • An Individual who is self-employed who regularly carries on any trade or business
  • A Tribal business concern that meets the SBA size standard
  • A 501(c)(19) Veterans Organizati0n that meets the SBA size standard

In addition, some special rules may make you eligible:

  • If you are in the accommodation and food services sector (NAICS 72), the 500-employee rule is applied on a per physical location basis
  • If you are operating as a franchise or receive financial assistance from an approved Small Business Investment Company the normal affiliation rules do not apply

What Will Lenders Want to See?

In evaluating eligibility, lenders are directed to consider whether the borrower was in  operation before February 16. 2020 and had employees for whom they paid salaries and payroll taxes or paid independent contractors.

Lenders will ask you for a good faith certification that:

  1. The uncertainty of current economic conditions makes the loan request necessary to support ongoing operations
  2. The borrower will use the loan proceeds to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage, lease, and utility payments
  3. Borrower does not have an application pending for a loan that duplicates the purpose and amounts applied for here
  4. From Feb. 15, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020, the borrower has not received a loan that duplicates the purpose and amounts applied for here (Note: You may be able to fold emergency loans received since Jan. 31, 2020 into this loan)

If you are an independent contractor, sole proprietor, or self-employed individual, lenders will also be looking for certain documents, such as payroll tax filings, Forms 1099-MISC, and income and expenses from the sole proprietorship.

Please also note that lenders will NOT look for:

  • That you sought and were unable to obtain credit elsewhere
  • A personal guarantee (not required for the loan)
  • Collateral (not required for the loan)

How Much Can You Borrow?

Loans can be up to 2.5 times your average monthly payroll costs, not to exceed $10 million.  You Payroll Cost is the sum of included payroll costs less excluded payroll costs, as follows.

Included Payroll Costs for Employers: the sum of payments of any compensation with respect to employees that is a:

  • Salary, wage, commission, or similar compensation
  • Payment of a cash tip or equivalent
  • Payment for vacation, sick, or family medial leave
  • Allowance for dismissal or separation
  • Payment required for the provisions of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums
  • Payment of retirement benefits
  • Payment of state or local tax assess on the compensation of the employee

For Sole Proprietors, Independent Contractors, and Self-Employed Individuals: the sum of  payments of any compensation to, or income, that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment, or similar compensation, and that is an amount that is not more than $100,000 in one year, as pro-rated for the covered period.

Excluded Payroll Costs:

  • Compensation of an individual employee in excess of an annual salary of $100,000, prorated for the period of Feb. 15 to June 30, 2020
  • Payroll taxes, railroad retirement taxes, and income taxes
  • Any compensation of an employee whose principal place of residence is outside the United States
  • Qualified sick leave wages for which a credit is allowed under Section 7001 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Note that special rules apply for businesses not in operation for all of 2019 and for calculating average wages for seasonal employees.

Will This Loan be Forgiven?

Borrowers are eligible for loan forgiveness equal to the amount the borrower spent on the following items during the 8-week period beginning on the date of the origination of the loan.

  • Payroll costs (see above for criteria)
  • Interest on the mortgage obligation incurred in the ordinary course of business
  • Rent on a leasing agreement
  • Payments on utilities (electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet)
  • Additional wages paid to tipped employees

The amount of the loan forgiveness will be reduces if there is a reduction in the number of employees or a reduction of greater than 25% in wages paid to employees. Staffing and wage reductions occurring in the period starting Feb. 15, 2020 and ending 30 days after the enactment of the CARES Act shall not reduce the amount of loan forgiveness IF the staffing or wage reductions are eliminated by June 30, 2020.

What are The Next Steps?

The SBA needs to identify lenders that will facilitate the program. As such, this program is not yet on the SBA’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

You can download the US Chamber of Commerce’s guide here.

We do recommend that you contact your current SBA lender, if you have one, or your business banker. Get on their call list once the program is up and running.  Your accountant and bookkeeper will need to pull financial information, so give them a heads up as well.

Protect Yourself from Personal Devices

(Published 4/12/20 – Get our Sample Policy)


For many businesses, employees are working from home for the first time. Given the rush to change how our businesses operate, many of those employees will be using home computers or personal devices.  While enabling companies to continue operating, doing so can place your business, data, customers, and employees at risk.

If you do not already have a policy in place, we have published a sample policy covering employee use of personal computers and devices. The policy, intended to augment your existing company policies (such as appropriate use), covers Company and Employee responsibilities.  Since you may need to install software and utilities on the device to ensure compatibility, secure access to your systems, and compliance with your data privacy and protection requirements, the policy strives to create a balance that ensure employees will not lose personal data or use of the device for personal reasons.

You can access the Sample Policy here, free of charge. Please review the policy with your HR and IT resources and modify it as necessary for your business.

As noted in the policy, you should expect to provision current versions of software and the necessary data protection tools. For example:

  • Most Office 365 licenses allow you to install the desktop software on up to 5 computers and 5 tablets/smartphones for each user.  These rights mean that you can provide employees with the same software on their home computers as they use in the office. Doing so improves productivity.
  • Employees may have antivirus protection software installed, which may or may not be current or sufficient for your needs.  You may want, or need to layer on advanced threat endpoint protection software that will not interfere with existing tools, such as Webroot.
  • Employees likely do not have dns/web protection services installed.  As the computer is used for personal activities, adding web protections can prevent web-based malware from impacting your data and business.

Please contact us for a complimentary Cloud Advisor session.  Without obligation, we can discuss your needs, discuss how to best protect your data/business, and recommend affordable solutions to consider.

5 Tools for Remote Team Success

One of the challenges we face with nearly everybody working remotely or from home, is how to manage teams.  In particular, customer-facing teams and teams whose members normally work together in person require more adaptation.  here are

Managed Live Chat for Web Sites

If done well, Live Chat on your web site improves your ability to engage and service your current and prospective customers. In addition to providing real-time connections to site visitors, robust live chat systems let you classify operators, message between operators, and hand off responsibility for chats. Leveraging live chat, your customer facing teams — sales and service — can work more effectively and with greater coordination.  Contact us to discuss how we can broker tools like Olark, and get you up, running, and trained quickly.

Managed Shared Inboxes for G Suite

Customer facing teams often share an inbox to managing incoming messages.  When the team is remote, tracking who is responsible for each email thread becomes even more difficult.  Tools like Hiver let you manage, route, and track shared inbox messages across your teams.  Contact us for more info and check out this webcast and demo.

Team Planning Tools

Tracking tasks, projects, and dependencies among teams requires some organization.  In Office 365, the Planner app provides a simple format for tracking team members, assigned tasks, and basic dependencies.  As part of the Office 365 suite, Planner integrates with users’ inboxes and calendars, and with personal and shared storage.  Planner can also be added to Teams channels as a Tab.

In the G Suite environment, we recommend Hive as an affordable, easy to use, planning and task management tool.  It is similar in functionality to Planner and other tools, like Trello, and integrates well with your G Suite identity, Drive, and more.

Contact us for help and guidance getting your project tools in place.

Bookings in MS Office 365

Designed for use by appointment-based businesses, Bookings is an Office 365 app that lets individuals schedule appointments themselves.  Customers can select the time, a particular person, or the first available when scheduling. You control available times, available staff, and appointment defaults. If you are reaching out to your customers, Bookings is way to speed up the appointment setting process.

Intranet Sites

With teams working remotely, access to files on in-house services may be limited, difficult, or slow.  Remote access tools like desktop sharing and VPNs add complexity and increase users’ frustration.  Moving files into Intranet sites can provide fast, secure, reliable access.

    • In G Suite, you can turn Drive folders and hierarchies into Intranets in a matter of minutes with OverDRIVE.  The software lets you create and manage web sites quickly and efficiently, using Drive as the content repository.
    • In Office 365, Sharepoint sites provide an easy mechanism to share files and other content relevant to teams.  You can connect Sharepoint to Teams and Groups, giving users secure access to files and resources vai the methods easiest for them.

As you assess your operations and your needs, we are here to help.  Please contact us for a Cloud Advisor Session.  Our assessment and recommendations are free and without obligation.

Zoom Privacy Policy is a Risk

Updated 4/05/20

Updates:

  • 4/05/20: Zoom posted an updated Privacy Policy, back dated to 3/29/2020.  This policy clarifies Zoom’s actions and intents and changes some terms and conditions, indicating that Zoom is now doing the right thing with your personal data.  Zoom has also expanded users’ ability to use passwords and waiting rooms to control meeting access.  We still recommend reviewing the policy and using the “do not sell” process.  We also recommend using conferencing systems within your productivity suite, Office 365 or G Suite, as these are secure and integrate with your email, calendar, and file services.
  • 4/01/20: MIT Tech Review summarizes the security issues with Zoom, including information about a Class Action Lawsuit.
  • 3/31/20: Vice.com reports that Zoom is leaking personal emails and photos to strangers.
  • 3/31/20: The Intercept reports that Zoom is not using End to End Encryption as claimed in their marketing materials and user interface. 
  • 3/31/20: New York Times reports that Zoom, the videoconferencing app whose traffic has surged, is under scrutiny by the New York attorney general’s office for its data privacy and security practices.
  • 3/30/20: FBI Warns of Teleconferencing and Online Classroom Hijacking During COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 18, 2020, the Zoom.us posted changes to its privacy policy that impact all users, even those without accounts attending meetings as guests.  This change follows a dramatic increase in Zoom users (and stock price), as Zoom has been offering its services for free to many businesses and schools.

Under this version of the Zoom’s privacy policy, Zoom is collecting more information, in our assessment, than is necessary to provide users with the service. Zoom also acknowledges providing this information to third parties. The information Zoom is collecting includes, but is not limited to:

  • Name, physical address, and other similar personally identifying information
  • Information about your job, such as your title and employer
  • Your Facebook profile information (when you use Facebook to log-in to Zoom or to create a Zoom)
  • General information about your product and service preferences (including software installed and/or in use on your computer)
  • Information about your device

Per Zoom’s policy, downloading and using the Zoom app provides Zoom with consent to share any personal information they collect with third parties.

In reference to the use of third party services, the policy states

“We use these tools to help us improve your advertising experience (such as serving advertisements on our behalf across the Internet, serving personalized ads on our website, and providing analytics services).”

In other words, Zoom may use the personal information of any person using their services to market to that person across their use of the Internet.

Additionally, we do not see any effort by Zoom to determine the age of individuals using the service, so they are likely collecting and using the personal information of children.

Vice.com is reporting that Zoom’s iOS app sends data to Facebook even if you do not have a Facebook account.

Impact

Our current assessment of the impact is as follows:

  • Data collection is based on the way each meeting participant enters the meeting.  Even if the organizer is on a paid and secure business or education edition, meeting attendees using the free client or entering as a guest are subject to dating mining and sharing.
  • For businesses and schools, some of the data Zoom collects and shares is prohibited under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
  • For schools and libraries, not using the K12 version of Zoom for faculty and students may result in violations of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
  • Zoom does provide a means for users to instruct Zoom to “Do not Sell” their personal information. This help with California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) and  EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) compliance.  It may not be practical to advise all meeting attendees of this option.

In short, Zoom’s privacy policy may conflict with your business’ privacy policy and how you manage and respect your customers and their data. The policy may also create regulatory and legal issues.

Recommendations

If you organization uses G Suite or Microsoft Office 365, you already have the ability to securely conduct audio and video conferencing with services that do not mine and share attendee data.

  • G Suite
    • Hangouts Meet (the new service) is secure and HIPAA compliant.  Individuals outside your organization can join via shared URL, without providing personal information. Through June 2020, Google has enabled all G Suite users to conduct meetings with up to 250 participants and provided organizers with the ability to record meetings. Participants can mute their own audio/video and can present to the meeting. Meeting include dial-in numbers and pins to allow access from phones.
    • Participants can join via web browser or use the free iOS and Adroid Apps.
    • Traditional Hangouts and Chat, while not HIPAA compliant, are still secure and work within organizations and with guests.
  • Office 365
    • Teams (and formerly Skype for Business) is a secure video/audio conferencing service with screen sharing, waiting rooms, and other helpful features.  As with all of Office 365, Teams can be deployed to meet HIPAA compliance. Teams does not collect and share personal information.
    • Teams, by default is device-to-device conferencing.  You can add the ability for individuals to connect by phone for a small monthly fee for each meeting organizer that needs this function.
    • Participants can join via web browser, or use the free apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

Before adding another service or tool for audio/video conferencing, take full advantage of the services you have. Contact us if you need help with user training and support.

If you are not using G Suite or Office 365, several communications and conferencing services are offering secure, free access for up to 90 days.  These include, but are not limited to, Dialpad, UberConference, Ring Central, and Cisco WebEx. Please contact us for help selecting and deploying the right service for you and your teams.

 

COVID-19 Resources for SMBs

Updated 03/30/20; Additions in italics.

As a service to our clients and to small and midsize businesses, we are collating resources to help you mitigate the economic and business impact of the COVID-19 emergency.

Some of these resources are informational, others are tools that can help you adapt your business to current conditions. This post covers the following topics and will be updated regularly.

  • Tools & Services for Remote / Virtual Work
  • Informational Webcasts
  • Emergency Financial Assistance (updated 3/3o)
  • Customer Engagement Tools
  • HIPAA Compliant Video Conferencing in G Suite
  • Free / Discounted Phone and Communication Services

Tools & Services for Remote / Virtual Work

Informational Webcasts

  • We are posting information webcasts from multiple sources in our News & Events calendar. Please check the calendar for dates and times.
    • Open Office Hours — Cumulus Global
    • COVID-19: General FAQs for Employers — Massachusetts Health Council (MHC) & Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM)
    • The Remote Worker: Effective Virtual Meetings – Brainstorm, a Cumulus Global partner in learning
  • NOTE: While some events may be from organizations in our area, we expect the information to be useful to all small and midsize organizations.

Emergency Financial Assistance:

  • In Massachusetts:
    • The Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation has halted its disaster loan program to avoid conflict with the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program (see below)
  • In ALL States:
    • With the passage of the CARES Act, additional loan programs will be available.  See this post for info on the loan/forgiveness program.
    • The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program is available to most businesses nationally.  Start here: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela
      • The Small Business Administration (SBA) has made an important adjustment to the terms of its Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). Moving forward, EIDL loans will defer payments for the first year (twelve months) of the loan.
    • The SBA launched an Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program offering emergency loans up to $25,000. Click here for information.

Customer Engagement Tools

  • Live Chat
    • Adding live chat to your website can help you facilitate sales and customer service, and can provide a role for your sales team.
    • Contact us to discuss solutions
  • Phone Services
    • Providing remote workers access to your business phone system helps facilitate customer interactions.
    • Contact us if your current phone system does not let you easily extend to employee laptops, tablets, or phones.
    • We have affordable ways to improve communications, often by augmenting your current phone services.
  • Webcast Services
    • Webcasts and video meetings and want to engage customer, employees, and other face-t0-face.
    • If you are running G Suite or Office 365, you have the ability to run video meetings and broadcasts without additional costs.
    • Contact us if you want to learn more or need assistance running a meeting.
    • We can also assist with more advanced web/video meeting services.

HIPAA Compliant Video Conferencing in G Suite

  • Hangouts Meet, the new video meeting service in G Suite can be used for HIPAA compliant video sessions
  • Hangouts named video calls are not covered by G Suite’s HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA)
  • For best practices, administrators should make Meet the default for video meetings and disallow use of classic Hangouts and chat.  These settings can be limited to specific groups of users, if appropriate.
  • Contact us for assistance with these settings and/or user training.

Free/Discounted Phone and Communication Services

  • Several VoIP and online meeting providers are offering free or dramatically discounted services for up to 90 days.
  • These services can be configured to work with your existing phone services to extend access and features to employees that do not normally work remotely
  • Contact us to discuss your needs, workflows, and options.

Resources for Remote Work

To assist you in coping with the impact of the COVID-19 emergency, we are providing this list of resources to help you fully leverage remote work.

We have additional business and technical resources listed in our COVID-19 Resources for SMBs blog post.

(Updated: 3/27/2020 — Updates in italics)

 

 


Fast and Easy Intranets and Customer Portals in G Suite

  • Secure web sites are a great way to stay connected and engaged with your team and with customers
  • While Google Sites is somewhat limited, there are other options
  • OverDRIVE automates the creation of web pages and sites, using Google Drive as the content management system
  • Click here for more information and to arrange a demo or a trial, or contact us for assistance.

Cloud Access to On-Premise File Servers

  • We have the ability to quickly setup remote, mapped drive access to on-premise file servers via the CentreStack cloud service.
  • This service provides a secure, easy to setup and manage solution that gives your team access to your on-premise file server without the need for expensive and difficult-to-manage VPN services.
  • As a month-to-month, affordable service, CentreStack gives those working remotely access to critical files and data.
  • Contact us for more information.

Simple Tools to Coordinate and Manage Tasks

  • With Office 365
    • Most Office 365 licenses include access to Planner, a simple tool for tracking tasks, individually, and across teams, departments and working groups.  Let us know if you need some guidance or training.
    • Teams is a comprehensive tools for social collaboration with built in Wiki’s, file sharing, and audio/video conferencing.  We can help your team learn and use this powerful tool
  • G Suite
    • You have access to Keep for notes and reminders. Contact us for a demo or assistance.
  • Other Tools
    • Hive, Trello, Slack, and others give you social teamwork and project management capabilities that are easy to adopt and use.
    • Hiver let’s you quickly setup shared mailboxes for customer service and team functions (see a webcast and demo here).

Cloud Access to QuickBooks

  • We can move your on-premise QuickBooks (or other application) setup to the cloud and provide secure remote desktop access.
  • Doing so can provide, as needed:
    • Secure access to multiple users
    • Export of reports and data to Excel or other systems
    • Local printing of checks, reports, and invoices
    • Fast, reliable access without VPN hassles and expense
  • Contact us for more information.

Emergency Server Migrations / Hybrid Clouds

  • We have staff on-hand to move file and application servers to the cloud, providing secure access for remote/virtual workers.
  • Contact us to assess your needs and possible solutions.

Flexible Communication Services

  • If you are not able to extend your business phone service to workers at home, please contact us.
  • We have a number of VoIP and number matching services that can fill this need.
  • We can also address other issues, such as the need for separate or additional voice/text services.

Free/Discounted Phone and Communication Services

  • Several VoIP and online meeting providers are offering free or dramatically discounted services for up to 90 days.
  • Providers include, but are not limited to: Dialpad, UberConference, RingCentral, and Cisco WebEx.
  • These services can be configured to work with your existing phone services to extend access and features to employees that do not normally work remotely
  • Contact us to discuss your needs, workflows, and options.