Connect, Collaborate, Create
The Human Firewall
Security mitigation often overlooks the top cybersecurity risk: people. Whereas a technical firewall digitally arbitrates network traffic, a human firewall is a layer of protection and a line of defense people constitute to combat an organization's security threats--a human layer of protection.
A human firewall targets the weakest link in the proverbial "security chain." For example, today's phishing threats rely on human interaction, with victims unknowingly clicking on a malicious link or providing information to an attacker. And then there is social engineering. How many employees really know what that is?
To build a strong human firewall, organizations must provide extensive education, simulations, training, and relevance to workers. Security awareness training (SAT) is a service Dunewood provides and one that is gaining momentum this year. Our relevant simulations are rolled out to all workers, from executives and front desk workers to associates in the field.
Even before COVID-19 affected digital reliance, organizations faced challenges safeguarding their assets, employees, customers, and data. However, cybersecurity is a heightened topic these days and human firewalls are ultimately part of a longer-term offense.
Past As Prologue
Our team at Dunewood demonstrated an outstanding collaborative force in 2021. We are excited about approaching a new year that will hopefully reflect the business growth we experienced these past twelve months.
As the Creative Director, Kirby Chittenden continues to build relationships with new partners and identify specific solutions. "The skillset of our team has proven to be most beneficial in a time when so many have pivoted to an approach that is highly dependent upon technology."
Jeff Chittenden not only provides system development for Dunewood but cost-effective solutions and technical support for a growing base of West Michigan organizations and businesses. "It was a year of steady recovery from COVID times for many companies in 2021. I anticipate a lot of growth in 2022, and look forward to the challenge of bringing on new partners and projects. I want our current partners (clients and customers) to know that more than anything we want to grow with them and help them manage any coming changes."
Austin Hruskach became our first intern in August and continues to assist us with network management responsibilities. And although she still works for Steelcase in Grand Rapids, Elizabeth Whitmore (not pictured) remains a strategic partner in providing graphic and artistic design services for us.
Cybersecurity Is No Longer Optional
And you once thought Halloween was scary. Recently, research revealed a frightening increase in information breaches, including financial information, health records, trade secrets, personal data, and intellectual property. The Internet is the number one infection and breach vector into your organization. Ransomware incidents, especially, can severely impact business processes and leave organizations without the data and information they need to operate and deliver mission-critical services.
Dunewood Technology Solutions provides specific strategies to mitigate the destructive consequences of malicious actors who propagate ransomware and other viruses across networks creating significant disruption and recovery challenges for organizations large and small.
Network protection is the first line of defense and we focus on strategies like firewall allowlists, high-heuristics intrusion prevention/detection, and network user segmentation. In addition, DNS protection is a vital service many organizations fail to include. A DNS protection service automatically blocks requests to undesirable, dangerous, or malicious internet websites, which stop most internet threats before they can infect networks or endpoints.
We recently constructed a white paper with details about threat mitigation strategies. Understanding the available options is no easy task, but we can help. Being able to effectively stop threats is paramount and we think you'd rather pay a little for cybersecurity now and save big dollars on your organization's protection. Please let us know if you would like to discuss these matters with us further.
Jeff worked with EDUStaff in Kentwood and Kirby was with Grand Haven Area Public Schools when the idea came together to launch Dunewood in the summer of 2018. We took our time the first year to get the systems and processes in place. Our well-established network of relationships was very supportive of our launch.
The plan-the-work, work-the-plan approach, along with a willingness to collaborate with others allowed both of us to begin working full-time in June of 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic led to an inevitable surge in the use of digital technologies due to the social distancing norms and nationwide lockdowns. As a result, Dunewood Technology Solutions experienced significant growth in 2020.
We continue to create collaborative connections in 2021 in growing partnerships throughout West Michigan. Take a quick glimpse at The People We Work With and consider growing WITH us this year.
Processes Are Good
Well-designed processes set up any business or organization on a path to success. Without them, we are nothing. The topics of process and workflow in relation to technology come up in our collaboration with partners on many occasions.
In the past year at Dunewood, we needed to respond to our growth with the addition of professional service automation (PSA) software, remote monitoring and management (RMM) software, and increase dependence upon Google Workplace and Shared Drive technologies. These software solutions help with vital processes and are critical to our success.
Hopefully, you have discovered that Software as a Service (SaaS) allows you to connect to and use cloud-based apps over the Internet. This type of technology helps with the process. Common examples are email, calendaring, and office tools (such as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365). SaaS can also be a game-changer for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems that previously required costly deployments.
Unfortunately, there is no one system that saves the day. Curious about the right process solutions for your business or organization? Maybe your conversation with Dunewood Technology Solutions should happen sooner than later. Collaboration...just got easier.
You've Got Questions?
If any of the following four questions have surfaced in recent dialogue, you may want to consider partnering with us for managed IT support.
During the past 6 months, Dunewood has partnered with more businesses and provided more project management than ever before. Call us at 616-259-5360 and arrange for a free initial consultation.
Gratitude holds power in our business lives. Most successful businesses are not the creation of an individual, but the result of collaborative efforts and dedication of multiple partners.
A year ago we changed our mindset about those we work with and began viewing them as partners instead of clients. Why? Because we believe partners work together to create solutions to make it right. And just like you aren't a “client,” we don't want to be called “the contractor” or “the vendor.”
Through a trusted partnership we are able to connect, collaborate, and create. Those three verbs are at the core of our methodology and the growing partnerships we have. If you are reading this, please consider it a compliment that we have had the opportunity to connect and serve you in some way.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our partners!
What's Your Agility Quotient?
A lot of talk regarding the ability to remain agile and pivot in the midst of the pandemic can be confusing for many organizations and businesses. Conversely, not pivoting and staying the course with minor adjustments can also payoff. The decisions are difficult.
For example, if you have already transitioned to a remote working model, choosing the most cost-effective technology to sustain your productivity was hopefully an integral part of that shift. The next normal could very well mean that your physical presence in the office may no longer be an indicator of productivity.
Rather than slamming on the breaks last March, some organizations downshifted, which actually enhanced their ability to change if needed. Consider the cheetah as an analogy of this type of agility. They rarely reach their 70 miles per hour limit when pursuing their prey because they seem to preserve their strength by not over-committing to a wrong direction if their pursuit suddenly shifts.
People and organizations with a high agility quotient (AQ) value learning, alternative perspectives, and maintain growth mindsets. I appreciate that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella promotes the idea that instead of being “know-it-alls,” we need to become “learn-it-alls.”
Our shift at Dunewood has been to partner more with customers who are willing to approach challenges and engage in collaboration. In addition, the systems we deployed last year played a major contributing role in our business – from the Cloud Solutions for productivity to the remote monitoring and management solutions that enable us to provide 24/7 support as a provider of Managed Services.
So, in redefining the metrics of successful and sustainable productivity, you may want some guidance in the technical arenas moving forward. Take a look at Who We Work With and give us a call for a free consultation. We're here to help...and to learn agility with you.
Continuous Improvement Imperative
The great University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler once said, "Everyday you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same." This simple truth applies to your organization, business, process, and technology.
I was first introduced to the concept of continuous improvement while working in education and witnessing the efforts required to constantly focus on making sure that our processes, methods, and practices were as efficient, accurate, and effective as possible. School improvement teams and attention to doing "whatever it takes" were the result of that focus.
Continuous improvement is best achieved through a combination of incremental and breakthrough improvements allowing you to deal quickly with smaller issues and yet giving larger items the additional care and attention they deserve.
Incremental improvements are easy to handle, as all you have to do is make the change when you spot the problem. Breakthrough improvements involve making changes to a process or method, which usually requires a review by your team and a unified decision on what to do.
In recent months we have been fortunate to help numerous organizations and businesses improve their technology infrastructure, upgrade multiple devices and operating systems, and provide assistance with secure cloud-based software solutions. Moving forward during this pandemic will require continuous improvement on all levels.
The Future of Work
Working from home is no longer something that is all that unusual. Doing so has become essential for our health and safety. So what will the future of work look like for many of us?
Even in industries like ours where remote work continues to be the norm, the challenge has always been to determine appropriate boundaries between home and work. It often becomes one where we are maneuvering between our work, managing remote learning for our children, and becoming caretakers for elderly loved ones. And many people now know more about our home office set-up, our pets, our children, and even our kitchens than we've ever imagined.
Effective leadership on the part of any employer must recognize the challenge and stress associated with these conditions. Forbes recently noted that a more empathetic work culture is a silver lining arising from the pandemic that won’t be easily undone. A fuller understanding of the person behind any position will hopefully promote an enduring human-centric shift in the workplace.
Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." We just may have more opportunity and time than ever before to care.
Microsoft Collaboration Solutions
Microsoft SharePoint uses OneDrive to expand its abilities to create a location where files can be shared and accessed by teams. For the uninitiated, SharePoint is like a combination of Google Shared Drives and Google Sites. However, it includes a myriad of tools and features that make it a more advanced and multi-faceted solution.
It can work as a shared file repository, blog site, web content management system, and most commonly an intranet. SharePoint relies entirely on the OneDrive product for it’s document libraries. Files that you wish to have shared with teams or other users, can be placed in a SharePoint document library.
A SharePoint site is a customizable website that allows its members to access any available resources pertaining to that team, such as notes, conversations, and documents. Document Libraries are online filing cabinets that all members of a SharePoint site have access to.
The look and layout of a SharePoint site is highly customizable. You can add and remove pages, change colors, and move sections around on a page to make the SharePoint site look exactly how you would want it to look for your team.
New Mixer/Matrix Solution
Sometimes you need to go "down under" to secure a solution. We recently partnered with Smart Digital Australia to install their new SDM100 microphone mixer with a HDMI matrix switcher providing 4 HDMI sources that output to 2 HDMI displays.
The mixer also includes 3 microphone inputs on the rear panel and one on the front panel. Bluetooth is also provided for wireless connection to audio output such as powered or active speakers.
Bloody good technology!
A Primary Concern
During the past few months you have probably learned that the confidentiality, integrity and the availability of your information is more vital to your success than ever before.
Your primary concern moving forward should be security.
The next generation of cyber-security professionals will focus on protecting people, not just the networks and devices we use. Since human error causes most data breaches, an important part of that protection should include Security Awareness Training, a service we recently added to our suite of managed services.
If you have not considered a managed service provider (MSP) that not only offers virus protection but also includes security awareness training, DNS protection, and other proactive service, then we should probably have some conversation.
Sure, we can help with your website or migrate your productivity solutions to the cloud through platforms like Google Cloud and Microsoft 365; but we also want to help protect the people who are a part of those “ecosystems” every single day.
Our managed services include packages with remote monitoring and management (RMM), network discovery, remote access, ticketing, professional services automation, backup, and so much more with plans starting at only $78 per month.
In closing, we want to thank those of you who have called upon us to help during these challenging times. We’ve been here for you and will continue to be present as you prepare your business for an unscripted future.
Indeed, this pandemic is forcing us to adopt various means of interacting, learning, and working. And for many, that includes using Zoom for the first time. Here are some basic precautions and suggestions when working on this platform:
Don’t publicly share your Zoom “Meeting ID.” Send it directly to the people you want on the call.
Set a password for the meeting, then share the password only with the right people.
To avoid the Zoombombing trolls, make sure screen sharing is set to “Host Only.” That prevents other people on the call from abruptly blasting text or images onto the other participants’ screen.
Use the waiting room feature. It prevents new participants from joining the call until the host approves.
Use the Zoom registration feature to schedule a meeting. Participants must register with their email, name, other questions, and custom questions.
Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic five days ago, we have entered unfamiliar territory. Pandemics not only disrupt the economy, but social functions like school, work and mass gatherings like conventions and church.
Our world is much different than it was 100 years ago when we were affected by the 1918 influenza pandemic. And even since the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, our response to the current situation is inevitably going to be different. Today's technology has already been helpful in that response.
I was scheduled to speak at the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) in Grand Rapids last Thursday. Conference goers had already appeared at the DeVos Center on Wednesday only to discover that the next day would look totally different. I did present, but my session was a virtual experience via an online Zoom meeting room.
With the governor of Michigan declaring a state of emergency and closing schools, many organizations have shifted to a greater virtual presence. Many churches even decided this weekend to cancel gatherings and some opted for streaming worship services. We were able to provide some assistance with this effort at Forest Park Covenant Church. More than 500 people viewed the stream.
I am not sure what the script for this week will look like. However, I am thankful that many of us can remain connected through the technology we share; and we can provide information to support our friends, family, and co-workers during these unfamiliar times.
Workflow & Process
Workflow requires a strong connection to process. Whenever an inquiry comes our way at Dunewood, we begin with the discovery process. This phase allows us to assess needs and gather a client's requirements and is carried out before any formal agreement is established. We try to keep it independent of any obligation.
Once the discovery phase is complete, we continue our collaboration in the design process where we often introduce various alternatives, applications, and products that may accompany a solution. This interactive phase sets the stage to determine the scope, sequence, and estimated cost of a plan or project.
A few of our clients choose to deploy solutions themselves. On most occasions, however, customers engage us in helping them with this phase. Project management, communication, knowledge transfer, and training are key elements of deployment.
All three phases tend to be recursive and are subject to iterations. They are the basis of our workflow at Dunewood and allow us to remain focused on solution development from beginning to end.
A Good Friend
Working together, even in a family business, can be challenging. Many organizations and businesses claim collaboration as a core value, but struggle with truly understanding that value.
A chief technology officer of Cisco once said, "It is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made." One might even conclude that collaboration often exposes disagreement.
For those of us at Dunewood, disagreement has often strengthened decisions and solutions. We've discovered that disagreement can be our friend, because it tests the power of our convictions.
Your Ideal Customer
Some of you may have discovered Alignable, the online service where small business owners build trusted relationships and generate referrals. Well, while recently creating the information about DTS, they asked us to describe our ideal customer. It's not as easy as you may think, but an exercise that I would recommend for any business. Here is what we came up with for Dunewood.
Our ideal customer or client is someone who gets their exact needs met by the technology solutions we offer. From the creative freelancer or entrepreneur to small and medium size business, we look for customers who share a vision to collaborate with us in relationship to the technology they require to keep them doing what they do best. We believe there is an intersection between what business demands and technology delivers; and it’s at that junction we find our ideal customer.
Many solutions for productivity these days address workflow. Kanban [kahn-bahn] is not a new process, but the digital iterations are exquisitely designed to help teams work together more effectively.
When implemented at Toyota (right), the company applied kanban to a manufacturing process. Today, kanban project management is used by people in all industries, including Dunewood Technology Solutions, to plan and manage tasks in a prioritized, agile manner.
A kanban board is a display on which cards represent the individual tasks that are being progressed according to priority and delivery. These visualization tools enable you to optimize the flow of your work and get things done.
Some organizations use kanban more loosely to order tasks to assist teams: project-based learning in schools, storyboard development, project management of all types, new hire onboarding, document workflow, and more. The applications are only limited by your imagination.
Recently, our team committed to meeting weekly to address the topic of productivity. The concept of flourishing was at the forefront in our meeting last week. So how do you define flourishing?
Well, I remember my philosophy studies at GVSU where we learned that Aristotle was probably the first to deal with the topic. However, author and executive coach Stephen Graves more recently defines it as "to live life to the fullest in an authentic and sustainable way."
Andy Stanley seems to address 5 primary components of flourishing:
"Positive mental health is a presence: the presence of positive emotion, the presence of engagement, the presence of meaning, the presence of good relationships, and the presence of accomplishment. Being in a state of mental health is not merely being disorder free; rather it is the presence of flourishing."
I believe that our personal and professional well-being is the result of integrating these five realities--and doing so on the basis of character. It includes being a good person and creating a company culture based on those realities.
The Internet of Things
If you haven’t seen a reference to the term Internet of Things (IoT), then take a closer look at what it references and discover it will mostly likely power the fourth industrial revolution. The third revolution centered around information technology and digitization; but now it's all about machines and devices that can continuously communicate with others over the Internet.
All these things are bound to make a significant shift in our workflow, automating a plethora of tasks minimizing human efforts and increasing productivity. From the consumer perspective, your smart speaker or virtual home assistant is already able to interact with environmental control (thermostat), lighting, door locks, window shades, security monitoring, and more.
will provide ample opportunities for organizations and business, too, allowing them to venture into workflow automation and optimization. Many technical and manual operations can be simplified when devices share data and functionality. In a very real sense EVERY business is now a technology business; and with this new frontier comes opportunities and challenges.
In short, the IoT future will require alliances with those who can manage the complexity and jungle of underlying IoT platforms. Dunewood is ready to tackle that challenge.
Game-Changing Shared Drives
Many current systems of communication do not encourage a transparency of practice, build shared responsibility, emphasize core values, and organize team efforts in a secure and sustainable manner. How can you move from “living through your inbox” to effectively managing workflow and developing a knowledge base through cloud technology?
Google Shared Drives (formerly known as Team Drives) are a powerful tool for school leaders to build a functional knowledge base for their staff. Shared Drives provide a secure space where every staff member can easily store, search, and access common resources. And since these digital assets belong to the team/group instead of an individual, the files remain even if someone leaves, allowing others to continually access information and get work done.
In addition, integrating Shared Drives into a Google Sites platform, your business can provide a digital workplace that will improve productivity overnight. Maybe it’s time to seriously consider the benefits of G-Suite for your business or organization.
Creating a digital workplace for a client with more than 100 employees is one of the best integrations of Google Shared Drives with Google Sites we have encountered. Their workflow is not changing drastically because they are comfortable in the collaborative environment that Google offers. It’s just that they now have an intranet that is extremely efficient at file management.
Shared Drives allow the digital assets of employees to remain in a secure environment for everyone on the team to use, even if a member is no longer a part of the team. A shared drive is particularly useful if you’re working on a project or event with a group of people who all need access to the same files. And for highly sensitive files, you can limit access to information and add extra security.
I think you will be hearing a lot more about the digital workplace Google Shared Drives and Sites can create for organizations and businesses of all sizes.
Maybe it’s the fact that 30 years ago my $4k Macintosh SE/30 came with Microsoft Word™ on a floppy disk, but I struggled to see my personal Office 365 subscription come due on, of course, Tax Day. It’s not the $69.99 that even disturbs me so much as the amount of bang for fewer bucks that our company gets from similar productivity tools from Google.
I have experienced less need to use the Microsoft suite since migrating to the Google ecosystem in recent years. While Microsoft still dominates, more than 4 million businesses have made the shift to Google’s G-Suite, primarily in part to its collaboration abilities. Shared Drives, for example, are a game-changer.
Also driving the change is the fact the G-Suite is less expensive for business and younger employees tend to prefer Gmail functionality over other email clients. It’s not always easy managing the change, but we can manage the process.
I may live in a hybrid environment in 2019, but the ecosystem is changing rapidly.