Free Services Your Business Needs Right Now. Here’s a list of FREE and discounted services for your school, church, or business

With so many people now telecommuting from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and organizations around the world are scrambling to adopt remote-work practices. Whether its video conferencing, remote team collaboration, virtual classrooms, or other activities, there are free and discounted services available to you. We’ve put together a curated list to help you sort through the chaos of work-from-home!

Google Hangouts Meet

Focus: Video conferencing service and online productivity tools.

Offer: Google Cloud has announced free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet videoconferencing capabilities for all customers of its G-Suite and G-Suite for Education services. This enables calls of up to 250 people and also allows meetings to be recorded and saved on Google Drive.

Loom

Focus: Video messaging service.

Offer: Loom is scrapping a limit on the number of videos that a user can access under its free plan through July 1 (previously the limit was 25) and extending the free trial period of its premium Loom Pro service from 14 to 30 days. It’s also making Loom Pro free for students and teachers at K-12 schools, universities and other educational institutions with no time limit.

Microsoft Teams

Focus: Team collaboration and communication platform.

Offer: Microsoft Teams, the company’s collaboration and communication platform, is scrapping the user limit on its free version, which was previously restricted to 300 people. Microsoft has also announced it is making the basic version of its Office 365 enterprise suite of productivity tools such as Word and Excel free for six months to organizations, which gives users access to the premium version of Microsoft Teams.

Slack

Focus: Team collaboration and communication platform.

Offer: Slack is offering free upgrades to paid plans for organizations working on coronavirus research, response or mitigation, as well as to local media organizations and scientific publications covering these areas. The company has also removed the 250-user cap on its Standard Plan service for all nonprofits for three months.

Zoom

Focus: Video conferencing service.

Offer: Zoom has removed a 40-minute meeting limit on its free Basic accounts for students and teachers at K-12 schools in America. The company has partnered with Clever, the most widely used single sign-on service used by U.S. school districts, so that schools who don’t have access to its service can get it quickly. It has also scrapped time limits on meetings for K-12 schools in a growing list of other countries impacted by COVID-19.

And as always, Stickboy

Focus: Technology Partner

Offer: With a flip of a switch any of our clients can have remote access to any of their workstations inside their office as long as they have internet access.  We are giving away two months FREE of our services to get you through this time.

If you need any help implementing these or other remote-work solutions, please contact us today.

239-206-1193 | hello@stickboy.ai

Florida Man Tries 8 Remote Collaboration Tools. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

Did that catchy title get you in here? Good. Close the door and take a seat. We need to have a serious conversation.

Throughout the course of this pandemic, your business will be the victim of many traumas. But your worst enemy isn’t coronavirus. It’s not a dropoff in sales. It’s not a shortage of toilet paper.

The greatest danger facing your business is a loss of employee productivity.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of web-based collaboration tools that will keep your team communicating and your business running like a well-oiled machine!

Google Drive

File Sharing // Free with paid upgrades // Get it here

Google’s Drive product is one of those how-do-they-offer-this-for-free services. Boasting a whopping 15GB of free storage space, Drive allows you and your team to easily store and share files from the cloud. The service is designed to sync across devices (you can access your files from your phone!) and includes free access to Google’s collaborative office suite as well. All for the crazy low price of nothing.

Microsoft Onedrive

File Sharing // Free with paid upgrades // Get it here

Let’s be honest. Onedrive is the gas station pizza of file sharing tools. There are definitely better options out there, but if you’re really craving file sharing, it gets the job done. Onedrive features 5GB of free storage. It’s saving grace and the reason we’re including it on this list? It integrates directly with the desktop version of Microsoft Office, so you’ll be able to edit and files directly within Onedrive. Paid tiers expand on this functionality, granting access to the online versions of Microsoft’s office suite.

G Suite

Productivity Suite // $6/mo with optional upgrades // Get it here

The only paid option on this list, G Suite is a product we couldn’t recommend enough. For the low price of $6/mo you gain access to a massive suite of productivity, communication, and collaboration software.

  • Office suite: Google Docs, Sheets, Presentations, and Forms
  • Communication tools: Hangouts Meet, Hangouts Chat, and Currents
  • Email and calendar solutions
  • Enhanced Drive functionality.

The best part? Every one of the G Suite softwares talks to each other seamlessly! And if you need additional functionality on top of the Google-provided tools, their Marketplace offers a huge selection of free and paid third-party addons.

Google Hangouts

Communication Tool // Free with G Suite // Get it here

One of the primary reasons we like G Suite so much, Google Hangouts is a free video conference offering. Out of the bot it supports up to 100 participants. You can schedule calls through your calendar or start impromptu meetings with the click of a button. It integrates directly with your preferred calendar solution. It supports screen-sharing and participate-by-phone (paid features in most other conferencing software).

Slack

Communication Tool // Free with paid upgrades // Get it here

Slack is the chat service favored by companies both large and small. It’s familiar interface makes it easily usable by both the tech-savvy and the not-so-savvy. Communication is fast paced and separate channels can be created for various groups and projects within your organization. It features a huge assortment of integrations with third-party software and allows for video calling as an optional upgrade.

Zoom

Communication Tool // Free with paid upgrades // Get it here

Zoom is the go-to video conferencing software for many organizations. It allows easy peer-to-peer video calls as well as group conferencing. The free tier is limited to 40-minute calls, but the service can be upgraded to remove this limitation. Zoom does require the user to install software locally to function. This can be a barrier for entry with clients, so we tend to steer more towards Hangouts Meet internally.

Microsoft Teams

Collaboration Tool // Free with paid upgrades // Get it here

Teams is Microsoft’s answer to remote project collaboration. It supports project-based communication and allows users to easily share pertinent files. It even supports editing those files within the browser. It supports both chat as well as voice and video conferencing. It offers various tiers with varying support for Microsoft’s Office suite.

Teamwork

Collaboration Tool // Free with paid upgrades // Get it here

Teamwork is the deluxe package when it comes to project management and collaboration. It supports project-based task management, time tracking, internal communication, and more. It features a helpdesk, file sharing, and storage. Everything you could possibly need to run a project. It even allows you to share and communicate with clients and other external resources, all from within one handy portal.

Gosh, That’s A Scary Wall Of Text

As you can see there are tons of software options out there to support your business’s remote work program. Perhaps too many options. And unfortunately they’re not one-size-fits-all. If you need help putting your remote work solution in place, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We specialize in remote employee setups.

Survivor’s Guide To This New (Remotely Connected) World

Let’s be honest. No one wants to be having a conversation about remote work right now. However, with the fears surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19) rapidly growing, now is the time to talk. Now is the time to ensure the continuity of your business. If you don’t, you may not have a business to go back to.

Did you know:

Boy, those businesses must be in a scary position right now. Luckily, you have us.

Start With The Basics

Preparing for a remotely-connected world can be a daunting task, so we’ll focus on bite-sized tasks. Your first step: ensure you have all the physical hardware required.

Workstations. Does every employee have either a portable workstation (laptop) or a viable home computer? If your business uses a Desktop-as-a-service system already (can’t recommend it enough!) then do all employees have a suitable client device?

Remote Connection Software. Do you own any on-site hardware such as servers or network storage devices? If so, you’ll need to put in place a software for connecting to resources from outside your business’s local network.

Workstation Peripherals. If your team isn’t equipped with laptops, you’ll likely need mice, keyboards, and monitors as well. Don’t forget the cables to connect it all, too!

Communication Devices. We can’t emphasize this enough. Remote workers need to communicate. It helps productivity. It helps morale. It keeps the gear moving. Make sure all team members have access to webcams, microphones, and a phone.

Inventory Your Software

If you’re picking up new computers, you have a little bit of set up ahead of you. Take this time to inventory all the software necessary to run your business. Using web-based software? You’ll need an internet browser. Does your accountant need Quickbooks installed? What about an office suite and other productivity software? Write it all down and keep that list somewhere safe.

Audit Communication Lines

During a remote work situation, communication is key. Your team needs to be able maintain an unprecedented level of communication in order for this work-from-home experiment to succeed. To that end, you have some homework.

Phones. Do all of your workers have a phone? If not, bite the bullet and issue them a corporate phone. This will grant you guaranteed access to your team and allows your team to reach each other.

Phone Directory. Document all employee phone numbers and email addresses (leadership included) and distribute a phone directory to all employees. 

Email. Ensure your corporate email is sending and receiving reliably. Are your emails going to spam? Now is the time to address this issue.

Communication Plan. Document in writing who reports to who. When will team meetings be held? How is progress being communicated? How are delays and issues being communicated?

Talk To Your Lawyer

Finally, the uncomfortable bit of advice: talk to your lawyer. Remote work and telecommuting raise a number of unique legal concerns. Ask your lawyer:

These are questions that have no easy answer, but should be addressed before they cause greater issues for your business.

That’s Nice, Now What?

We’re doing everything in our power to spread the word about business continuity in this remotely-connected world. We won’t let coronavirus wreck your business. Download the free Emergency Remote Work Checklist and get started future-proofing your business. Too much work? Get in touch today, and we’ll make the process a breeze!

 

A.I. is changing industries. Resistance is futile.

Is artificial intelligence going to replace your job or business? If you don’t pivot now, A.I. will absolutely change your industry and before long could render your job and business obsolete.

Before we get into that though, let me explain a little more about how A.I. works. Artificial intelligence acts as a glorified button pusher. Under this condition it pulls that lever and afterwards takes these steps to gauge success. Conceptually, it’s not that complicated. The real power behind A.I. comes when you give it more “levers” to play with.

Let’s take a car as an example. What levers could we give an A.I. control of while driving? We could let it accelerate, break, steer left, steer right, etc.

The concept of a lever expands to businesses as well. Unfortunately in business, those levers replace people (and sometimes entire businesses or industries).

Deep-fried automation.

Story time. Before I was the technology guru we all know and love, I managed a quick server burger restaurant in the frigid North. Fun fact about quick serve: you live and die by your fryer operator. Fries take 3 minutes to cook. They’re only good for 5 minutes. Cook too many and you’re wasting money. It takes a talented individual to keep that fryer working efficiently.

And that individual is a lever operator. The levers they manipulate include: when to cook fries, how much to cook, how far to prep ahead.

Even as we speak, technology companies are looking to replace this pivotal role with artificial intelligence. In 2019 McDonalds started testing automated fryers with the goal of increasing product quality and speed of delivery while also decreasing labor costs. It won’t be long before your entire dining experience is automated!

Skilled service won’t survive.

That last example was a pretty clear example of A.I. replacing humans in the workforce, but a fryer operator is a low skill job. Obviously artificial intelligence can’t replace more skilled, service based businesses. Right?

Wrong. Jobs once thought safe are quickly being overtaken by technology.

Let’s take another career field we’re pretty familiar with: digital marketing. A skilled digital marketing specialist can net you massive returns on your marketing investments. They know the perfect time to run your ads, they know the exact audience you need to reach, and they know just the perfect mix of budget and pacing to keep your business growing. And A.I. is better at it.

When to run ads, which ads to run, how much money to spend on ad placement, where to place ads, how to gauge campaign success. The levers are more sophisticated, but they are levers nonetheless, and the technology to replace the human pulling them is already here. Whether it’s generating copy, scaling your audience, creating e-blasts, or simply managing ad budget, A.I. has found its way into all facets of this service-based business. One local marketing firm has even gone so far as to create a marketing A.I. that controls the entire process! Their team simply guides the machine, feeding it data on an as-needed basis.

It’s coming for you too, creatives.

Well, things are looking bleak, but luckily technology has nothing on the creative works. Or does it?

Before you go dusting off that old art degree, know that even more artistic-inclined fields are seeing artificial intelligence quickly encroach. Technology companies are teaching A.I. powered chatbots to adopt unique personalities and adapt their conversation to the tone and mood of the user. Imagine if they turned this technology towards the field of film script generation.

Oh sorry, disregard, that’s already being done. And here’s an A.I. painting (with its creation selling for more than $400,000). And here’s another A.I. composing music.

Creative works such as design and artistry are more difficult for an A.I. to reproduce, but they are not impossible to reproduce. The data channels are different, but not immeasurable. Instead of gauging financial success, we’re looking at user satisfaction.

A.I. is coming for your jobs too, creatives.

So what do you do?

Well, that was bleak. The good news is, there’s something you can do. You simply need to pivot. Don’t be the business that is made redundant by technology. Become the business that provides the technology. Become a technology provider. Get in contact today to get started.

Quick Bites: Propelling Business Growth With Technology

Let’s not get bogged down in the details. It’s simple. Technology is about innovation, and business technology is about growth through innovation.

Savvy business owners (and if you’re reading this, you must be one yourself) know technology is more than simple automation. It’s not about mending or repairing your current business. It’s about growing your business in new and exciting ways!

For today’s Quick Bite, we’ve got two simple ways technology can immediately help grow your business.

Improve Productivity and Capacity

As a business owner, you always want your team working to their pay grade. Every minute your team spends on mundane or routine tasks is minute lost that they could be spending on more specialized and profitable tasks. Chasing emails, filing paperwork, redundant data entry. These are all tasks that–to be frank–are beneath you and your staff.

Business technology is about automating the mundane so that your team has more time to shine on the tasks they’re uniquely qualified to complete. Tasks such as sales, customer relations, business development, and more.

The size and scale of productivity technology has grown considerably in recent years with the advent of mobile and cloud technologies. Most of the problems you face today are actual problems of yesterday. You just need the right technology team to get you through to your goal: a business running smarter.

Whether its putting you in a brand new operational software, migrating your sales team to a customized CRM, or simply integrating multiple existing softwares to reduce duplicate entry. The answers are out there, you just need to be pointed in the right direction.

Work Remotely, Expand Globally

The growth of cloud computing and remote work go hand-in-hand. With advancements in mobile technology, your business needs to be able to operate outside of its brick-and-mortar office.

Mobile and accessible technology promotes a positive workplace atmosphere as staff enjoy an improved balance between work and life. Happy workers are more productive, work harder, and generate greater profits. It’s a no-lose situation!

But it’s more than just morale.

Mobilizing your workforce allows for a more agile business. Emergencies and priorities are easier to manage when your workspace expands outside of your physical office. Collaboration becomes a breeze and the world becomes your oyster.

So what’s next?

Investing in technology pays dividends when you have the right team backing you. Is your business ready for explosive growth? Let’s talk today.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly: Server Edition

Why does your business still own a server? With the accessibility of cloud technology, having a physical on-premises server represents a point of vulnerability and liability for your business.

The Good

The benefits of cloud-based servers and desktops are endless: anytime and anywhere access, predictable operating expenses, worry-free IT maintenance, high level digital and physical security (the CIA uses it!), and the list goes on. What wins special attention in this issue of GBU though is Amazon’s introduction of the WorkSpaces product. Access your desktop from anywhere without that clunky and finicky remote desktop setup.

The Bad

After factoring in “hidden costs” such as storage costs, labor, and lost productivity (from server outages and communication with your IT team), the average monthly cost of maintaining a physical server is $1,476 per month. Gross, right? Have you ever stopped to think how much are you paying in hidden costs?

We put a lot of trust in our IT providers. We lean on them to provide us with business continuity. Sometimes that trust backfires when on-premises servers are in the mix. Hancock Regional Hospital’s operations were crippled in recent years by a ransomware attack targeting their physical servers through a security hole introduced by their IT partner, costing hundreds of thousands in recovery costs. They have since begun moving their operations to the cloud.

The Ugly

Quotable

“Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.’”

- Vivek Kundra, former Federal CIO, speaks to the security of cloud server technology.

So what's next?

At Stickboy, we leverage our software development knowledge and background to bring our clients into the twenty-first century. Our unique Technology Partnership focuses on divesting our clients of the liability of physical hardware. Contact us today and let’s talk about true business continuity!

239.206.1193 | hello@stickboy.ai

The Dirty Secrets Your IT
Provider Isn’t Telling You

Spoiler Alert: If your company’s technology budget is going exclusively to IT and MSP services, you’re wasting money. But we’ll come back to that.

Managed Services Demystified

What is an MSP? Simply put, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is responsible for maintaining and improving your business operations through the strategic application of software technologies. From your email to your backups, to your wireless Internet: many things can fall under the umbrella of “managed services”.

The bigger question: Does your MSP really want to help you transform your business or are their recommendations actually holding you back?

Dirty Secrets From The IT World

Secret No. 1: MSPs are selling you the wrong software.
Let’s be real: You’re not a technology expert. Unfortunately, many MSPs recognize this and are taking advantage of that fact. Let’s look at a quick list of software and services. Do any of these look familiar?

  • ConnectWise
  • Webroot
  • ShadowProtect

What we’ve listed out above are a remote device manager, an antivirus, and backup software. Pretty innocuous, right? Not so much.

These services and many others, offer MSP incentives (also known as kickbacks) for your IT provider to use them. What that means is that your trusted technology partner is putting together a plan that leads to higher bills and poorly executed solutions.

When building out your technology plan, the focus for many MSPs is more on their bottom line than your needs.

Secret No. 2: MSPs are selling you dangerous software.
Cost isn’t even the primary concern here. Even more alarming: many of these technologies are downright dangerous! (Go ahead and click on some of those links. It’s scary out there!)

Did you notice an uptick in strange, potentially worrisome communication from your MSP in 2019? Perhaps long rambling emails, discussing cybersecurity. Were you subjected to surprise “security audits” without any context or followup? Or worse, were you the victim of a data breach?

In 2019 alone, ConnectWise (a device management software used by many MSPs) was subject to at least three separate cybersecurity attacks. These attacks compromised thousands of businesses, large and small, leading to spikes in data leaks and ransomware.

The average cost of a ransomware attack is $84,000. What damage could this mass-market device management software be doing to your business?

Secret No. 3: MSPs are inflating your bill with unnecessary hardware.
Let us ask a sensitive question: Why do you own a server? Seriously, what purpose does your server fulfill? Your firewall? That rat’s nest of USBs and cords?

Chances are, you didn’t ask for all that equipment. Many MSPs are keen to recommend hardware that a) you’ll purchase from them at a nice markup, and b) you’ll pay them monthly to maintain.

The secret they don’t want you to know? There’s a better solution.

We Do Technology Smarter

Stickboy started its life as a software development company, driving innovation within each business it touched. We’re bringing that same mindset to IT.

We don’t believe in funneling your technology budget and dollars into more and more hardware. You won’t catch us selling you lackluster services just because it puts a few more pennies in our pocket. That’s a gross way to run your business.

Instead, here at Stickboy we strive to downsize your IT and hardware needs. Fewer hardware costs means you can put those savings towards smarter technology investments, including software and cloud-based infrastructure. That expensive dark web monitoring package your MSP tried to sell you? We include that free of charge. Cybersecurity? We have it on lockdown, with artificial-intelligence powered protection software keeping you safer.

At Stickboy, we’re crazy about making your business run smarter.

So What Now?

The world of IT and managed services can be a confusing one, but Stickboy specializes in emerging technologies that focus on taking businesses to the next level. It’s easier than ever to take action and innovate for your business and your team.

First, ask yourself whether you are paying too much for outdated technology.

Then, bring in the bill from your current IT provider and let’s see how much money you could save every month!

Contact us today.

239.206.1193 | hello@stickboy.ai