Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Geek in Your Life

You did it.

You waited until the last minute and now you have to scramble to find the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your significant other—something that embodies the subtle complexity of your heart’s desire . . . without breaking the bank.

It’s a tall order. But if your sweetie happens to dig on tech toys, you’re in luck. Below you’ll find a list of some great Valentine’s Day gift options that say “I love you” with uniquely geeky flare.

This Is a Casual Thing – Under $25

Architec Tablet Stone

The Architec Tablet Stone comes in multiple colors and provides a beautiful solution to a basic problem—how to prop up your tablet when you need your hands free. It’s great for everything from cooking together to chilling and watching a movie.

Cube Key Finder

Does your new romantic interest struggle to keep up with those pesky car keys? Say no more. The Cube Key Finder will help them find their keys in a jiffy using a handy app on their smartphone.

We’ve Been Together for a While – Under $200

Google Home Mini

The smart speaker market exploded last year, with estimated growth of approximately 300% compared to 2016. If your sweetheart is ready to embrace the idea of the smart home, you can make that dream a reality for as little as 50 bucks.

Skagen Hybrid Smart Watch – His/Hers

There’s something almost magical about a stylish smartwatch. If your valentine is on the prowl for a timepiece that looks like a classic but performs like a high-tech beast, Skagen has several models to choose from—all of them affordably priced.

APEMAN Mini Video Projector

It wasn’t that long ago that a reliable, high-quality, portable video projector would have cost thousands. Now you can snag one for under $200. Want to take date night on the road and watch a movie somewhere romantic? It’s totally possible.

Ready to Make an Impression – Under $500

Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones

Available in nine different colors, Beats Solo3 headphones offer unparalleled sound quality with style. Not only that but with 40 hours of battery life, your significant other won’t have to hassle with cords getting in the way.

Kindle Oasis E-reader

E-readers are great. They’re convenient, far easier on the eyes than reading on a tablet, and they can hold literally thousands of books. It’s kind of a reader’s dream. And the Kindle E-Reader is more or less the cream of the crop. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving.

Go Big or Go Home – No Limit

Tesla Roadster

Billed as “the quickest car in the world,” the Tesla Roadster can do 0-60 in 1.9 seconds. Vroom-vroom. Of course, all that speed isn’t cheap. Be ready to put down a $50,000 deposit just to get on the waitlist. But man, oh, man, what a ride.

An Out-Of-This-World Trip

Literally. For a cool quarter-million, you can give the love of your life the opportunity to become an astronaut aboard Virgin Galactic’s six-passenger spaceship. To date, more than 700 tickets have been sold. One thing’s for sure—this gift is unique.

C Seed 262

There are TVs and there are TVs. We can assure you, the C Seed 262 is well beyond anything you’ll find at your local Best Buy. With a 262-inch screen, it’s the largest 4K TV in the world—and at over $500K, it costs more than most homes. Who’s ready to Netflix and chill?

Are You Wasting the Help of Your MSP?

Managed service providers (MSPs) work to deliver proactive support, but we can’t fix what’s not on our radar. That means your team needs to fire up the Batsignal when problems rear their heads.

Sometimes there’s a sense of disconnect about when it’s okay for clients to call for help. Unfortunately, that mentality can cost your business considerable amounts of time and money.

The cost of self-service IT support.

Okay, so you don’t always call your managed services provider. Is that really a big deal? Can’t the folks in your office who are tech savvy just help the others?

Yes, but at considerable cost.

Think about it. All that time adds up, as do the delays that inevitably result from untrained “tech support” personnel who end up contributing to problems rather than solving them. Going without a managed services provider can be appealing purely because of the cost savings. We get that.

But if you spend more fixing problems later, is that really a good plan?

“What’s the secret to enabling IT to work more strategically? The answer is managed IT services, a cost-effective way to extend SMB IT talent and free-up skilled resources to accomplish business goals.” – Forbes

But let’s assume you can cover all the tech support for your business yourself. Even if you can handle all the “little fixes” on your own, you’re still wasting precious time.

Which matters more? Adjusting monitors and updating email settings or overseeing projects and reviewing budgets? Every time you sigh and say, “I’ll just fix my computer myself,” you divert your attention from your high-level duties. That costs even more than the wasted time of your average employee.

Taking advantage of strategic help from your managed services provider saves time and money. Reaching out to your MSP sure seems like a no-brainer.

Managed services providers can help with the little stuff.

When I talk to other managed services providers, a large concern I hear is getting client users to speak up and let us know when something needs our attention.

The big-ticket items are easy calls to make. Disaster recovery, Office 365 implementation, and on-site new device installation all obviously merit a call to your MSP. The pain point is high, so no one feels guilty about making those calls. However, it’s the little things that our clients tend to put off.

We’re talking about the kinds of issues that users think of as annoyances or wants—not needs. Requests like these:

  • “Outlook is sending messages to junk when I don’t want them in the junk folder.”
  • “My secondary monitor is flickering a little bit. It’s really annoying and distracting.”
  • “I want a longer cable so I can move my desk away from the printer.”

We tend to hear about issues like these when we’re on site fixing other problems, but otherwise everyone keeps them under wraps. The thought process is, “I don’t want to bother your technicians with an issue this small.”

But that’s all part of why you hired us! We’re here to fix all kinds of technical issues—the large ones and the small ones.

51% of SMB owners say time is the single biggest obstacle to adopting new technology solutions. – Business Insider

We’re glad to take a look at small issues when we’re on site addressing something bigger. In fact, we don’t mind at all. But if you notify us in advance, we can come prepared with the right tools so we can take care of everything all at once. Sometimes, we can even fix the problem remotely with a much shorter turnaround time.

It’s as simple as reporting your small problem with the online tool on your managed services provider’s website. Be sure to describe it fully and mark it with the proper priority. You’ll be surprised at how quickly most things can be fixed.

All you have to do is ask.

Good managed services providers want to deliver on their promises. They made a commitment to your management to keep end users productive and happy.

We’ll automatically know about most large issues, which makes it possible for us to fix them quickly. But sometimes the smallest annoyance can become the biggest complaint.

Just tell us and we’ll fix. After all, you’re paying for that computer support. Use it!

And if you want to start benefiting from the great outcomes that KME provides 24/7, give us a call to start your partnership with the best IT support team in Orange County.

We’re ready to serve you because we give a damn about your business.

Who’s a Good Boy? Three Benefits of Allowing Dogs at Work

We call them man’s best friend (and woman’s, too). They’re furry, and sweet, and they think you’re the greatest thing to happen to since the invention of oxygen. There’s no more loyal companion than a dog. For many people they’re family, plain and simple.

At KME, we love dogs. So much that we allow our team to bring them to the office. After all, we humans have our jobs, our friends, and our lives outside of our homes. Our wonderful furry friends often only have us. Leaving them at home for 8-10 hours a day is hard on pet owners and pets alike.

Besides, dogs provide a massive amount of social and psychological benefits to the humans around them. Who says these benefits can’t transfer to the workplace? Here are three benefits of having dogs in the workplace.

Dogs Improve Employee Morale and Retention

Dogs are basically little tail-wagging balls of snuggly happiness. In fact, a 2017 survey from Banfield Pet Hospital showed that 93% of human resources professionals reported increases in employee morale as a result of allowing dogs at work. Additionally, 91% reported that dogs helped improve loyalty and retention among employees.

Those numbers are nothing to slouch at. Dogs bring with them an aura of patience, loyalty, and comfort. Just try not to smile while Reggie the Corgi is being such a good boy sitting next to the desk across from yours. We dare you not to pet him.

Dogs  Promote a Greater Sense of Connection Among Employees

Dogs can act as mediators for employees to get to know each other better. This can lead to increased productivity and team building. It also gives employees a greater sense of personal integration—their homelife into worklife—creating additional opportunities to connect and bond with coworkers over the things that matter to them.

Simply put, dogs help bring people together, and provide a massive sense of relaxation and rapport. Millennial employees in particular view having their dogs at work as a full-on job benefit, and report higher levels of job satisfaction when their furry friends work with them.    

Dogs Create a Greater Sense of Work-Life Balance

We’ve all been there. Caring about your work sometimes means focusing on it at the expense of life outside the office. Most employees are constantly searching for a sense of work-life balance.

Allowing dogs in the workplace helps manage this sense of balance. It allows employees to bring a valuable part of their home life with them to work. It also encourages them to take breaks to get outside so their pets can conduct their own “business.”

These breaks provide mental resets and help employees feel like they’re engaged in both areas of their lives at the same time. They also mean that employees aren’t rushing off at 5:30 out of guilt that their fur-kids need to be let out.  

Having Dogs at Work Is All About Common Sense and Balance

We’re not saying there aren’t potential hurdles to allowing dogs in the workplace. Of course there are. But with a properly designed pet policy and a little courtesy among coworkers, they can be a wonderful addition to the office culture.

Whether that means having them in the office once a month or every day (or anything in between), the benefits are too plentiful not to consider. Not only do the owners themselves reap those benefits, their dog-loving coworkers do too.

A happier, more connected workplace is a more productive workplace. Dogs at work are a great way to further improve your business culture!

Your Superhero Suit, Part 1

It’s an iconic scene.

The call goes out. Maybe it’s the Batsignal. Or a phone call from a government contact. Or even some kind of mystical awareness, like “spidey sense.” Regardless of the specifics, the hero knows they’re needed. What happens next?

They suit up.

Iron Man dons his mech armor. Wonder Woman snaps on her bracers and grabs her lasso. Every single member of the X-Men team shows up wearing their well-known black and yellow leather uniforms.

The superhero suit doesn’t make the superhero, but it’s hard to imagine our favorite superheroes without their suits.

“A hero can be anyone.” – Batman, The Dark Knight Rises

Why put on the suit?

Superhero suits are more than fashion statements. They’re functional. That’s the primary reason superheroes wear them.

Batman doesn’t care if his utility belt ever graces the runways of Milan. But he does care about having all kinds of high-tech tools close by should he need them on the fly.

Similarly, Black Panther’s suit isn’t just bulletproof. It absorbs kinetic energy and reflects it, allowing the Wakandan ruler to avoid damage or perform various otherwise impossible physical feats.

A superhero suit supercharges what you can do. It protects, enables, enhances and equips—and if it’s designed well, it makes you look good, too.

“Someone once told me that the suit doesn’t make the hero . . . You can be a hero. You just have to have faith in what you are and what you’re gonna be.” – Booster Gold, Smallville

Your superhero suit.

Here at KME Systems, we envision our role as a managed services provider a little differently than some of our competitors. We’re not the ones jumping tall buildings in a single bound. That’s you.

You’re the hero of your story.

Whatever your company’s mission, whatever you hope to accomplish, whatever your current business goals, you’re the one who will make that happen. That makes you the superhero. The future of your organization rests squarely on your shoulders.

No pressure, right?

But you don’t have to build your legacy on your own. Like any comic book champion, you get to gear up. You get to put on a superhero suit designed specifically to protect, enable, enhance and equip you to get the job done.

Your IT network is that suit, and KME provides the behind-the-scenes support to make sure you meet every one of your goals.

“You need a new suit, that much is certain.” – Edna, The Incredibles

The Alfred to your Batman.

Batman may be the one out there dodging bullets and taking down bad guys, but he’s not fighting the good fight alone. He has backup every step of the way in the form of his trusted butler (and friend), Alfred.

Alfred’s not on the front lines. That’s not his role. His job is to make sure Batman has everything he needs to go up against Gotham’s worst and come out on top.

We’re talking about kick-ass support.

Support gets a bum rap in our opinion. Take IT support as a prime example. It doesn’t sound sexy. At all. In fact, it’s likely you only talk about IT support with a frustrated sigh, and that’s a shame.

Because IT support done the right way should make you feel like a superhero.

“I believe there’s a hero in all of us . . .” – Aunt May, Spider-Man 2

A different kind of IT support.

Okay, let’s set the analogy of the superhero suit to the side for a bit and get down to brass tacks.

Obviously, we don’t literally build superhero suits. (How cool would that be?) But what we actually do is just as impressive.

We provide the back-end IT support necessary to give you all the tools, equipment and resources you need to take your business to the next level.

Granted, you can do amazing things on your own. That’s how you got to where you are. But you can do even more with the right kind of IT support.

Our goal is to take the burden of IT maintenance off your plate. You shouldn’t have to worry about keeping your network stable. You have more strategic things to focus on than cybersecurity. And your tech tools should just work.

We cover everything from backup and disaster recovery to cloud computing so you can zero in on increasing profits. That’s our job.

“It’s about what you believe.” – Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman

Up next.

In the next installment of this five-part series, we’ll explore exactly what it looks like when IT support enables you to focus exclusively on your goals without the hassles of managing your own network.

Until then, we want to remind you one more time: you are the hero. We’re here to help you be as heroic as we know you have the potential to be.

Ready to gear up? We have a superhero suit waiting for you.

Tech Trends That Will Transform the Way You Work in 2018

We saw some pretty big tech trends in 2017, like the rise of the Internet of Things, machine learning, and cloud computing. Those advances even made it into the mainstream business world. And robots haven’t risen to destroy their human overlords as a result. Yet.

In 2018, we expect these tech trends (and others) to continue to advance . . . while hopefully avoiding the bleak mechanized apocalypse depicted by T2’s Skynet (We’re kidding. The machines totally won’t take over. We’re completely sure. Well, 90% sure… Soft 90%… We’re pretty sure…).

So what tech trends should you keep an eye on in 2018? Let’s check out a few of the advances poised to dominate this year.

Flexible Workspaces Through Cloud Technology

Business becomes less of a 9-to-5 game every year. It should come as no surprise that employees prefer working at home in their sweatpants to uncomfortable business attire at the office. No technology has powered this shift more than cloud computing.

The cloud empowers folks to work from anywhere at any time (in any attire) with seamless collaboration. In 2018, flexible workspaces will become the standard as companies take advantage of cloud technology to connect better and produce more.

How your business can use it: Mobility will increasingly dominate the business environment. By harnessing the cloud’s power you can increase connectivity between employees as well as increase their productivity outside of the office. There are also a host of cloud-based tools that can revolutionize your business operations.

Related: 11 Small Ways Office 365 Boosts Productivity, Bigtime

Voice Recognition Technology Invades the Workplace

Sick of hearing your kids ask Alexa how much she weighs? Or how to spell jalapeño? We’ve got some good news: she’s coming to your workplace.

With Amazon announcing Alexa for Business, the artificial assistant could soon be a part of your work life. This addition could lead to a massive increase in productivity. Repeat after us: “Alexa, turn in my TPS reports.” Doesn’t that sound nice?

How your business can use it: Voice-activated research, appointment setting, and other task management strategies are sure to optimize productivity in new and unique ways. Alexa can also handle simple tasks like ordering your lunch.

AI Will Impact Business in Powerful New Ways

Advances in machine learning in 2017 have opened the door for powerful AI innovations in the coming year. Expect cloud service management, apps, and smart solutions to make huge leaps in 2018. Where this ultimately leads is anyone’s guess (again, hopefully not Skynet).

It’s predicted that 2018 will be the year AI really begins to make waves in the workplace, automating routine tasks and freeing you to focus more on strategic, non-grindy work.

But don’t worry. AI isn’t coming for your job anytime soon. It’ll just make work easier and more productive.

How your business can use it: Data aggregation, system optimization, automated updates, automated analytics, automated customer service bots—you name it. The immediate applications are exciting, but they’re probably nothing compared to where we’re headed. That’s great news for your business’s future.

Tech Trends 2018 and Beyond

Businesses took a wild technological ride in 2017—some of you in your pajamas! But 2018 could be the year when technology truly revolutionizes business.

That’s good news for the economy and good news for loungewear manufacturers. It’s also good news for your company. Never have so many powerful tools been within reach.

With the stage set for tech trends to support real change and growth, continued advances will almost certainly transform business operation, setting the standard for years to come. Business technology stands ready to breakthrough with powerful new tools that offer a real competitive edge, as well as advanced cybersecurity, both in the short and long terms.

What will you do with these new tools? That depends on the company’s vision and your strategic plan. We encourage you to start thinking about how these tech trends will impact your business.

You know, before the robots take over. (Really, we’re not at all worried about Skynet.)

11 Small Ways Office 365 Boosts Productivity, Big Time

While appealing, taking a shortcut isn’t always the best option. These quick fixes are often born out of laziness and taking certain ones will force you to sacrifice quality for a faster result. However, there are plenty of shortcuts out there that allow you to accomplish projects quickly with top-notch results. The trick is discovering them.

In a business setting, there are plenty of technology solutions out there that help you and your team do more in less time. One we always recommend is Office 365. With 60 million users, Office 365 is currently the most used collaborative platform on the market. That’s no surprise, as there are a variety of features that allow for increased collaboration and productivity while also being very user-friendly.

We’ve put together a list of 11 ways the popular cloud suite helps you optimize resources and boost productivity in your business.

1. “Tell Me” Box

This feature lets you ask questions about how to do something, similar to how you might type a question into a search engine. For example, you can ask the “Tell Me” box things like: “How do I insert a photo into a Word document?” or “Where can I find the strikethrough text feature?” The box will then help you find the tool or feature you’re looking for, saving you valuable search time.

2. Co-Author Documents

You and your team can now edit documents in tandem in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. As changes are made, the document is updated for everyone to see. Color coding lets you see who’s made these changes.

3. Browse the Internet, In-Document

When you need to look something up on the internet, you no longer need to open a separate browser. Office 365 lets you right-click a word and choose “smart lookup” in order to search Bing for what you need, all without leaving your document.

4. Use Outlook Add-Ins

Various add-ons (like GoToMeeting, SimplyFile, and MailWasher) allow you to do things like attend a meeting from any location, convert meetings into tasks, and safely preview emails before downloading them – all without leaving your email application!

5. Schedule Emails  

The Boomerang app allows you to schedule emails to send at a later time and reminds you to follow up if you’ve forgotten to respond after a set time period. You’ll never need to worry about failing to reply, again.

6. See Who’s Doing What  

The Delve tool lets you search documents within your company’s Office 365 suite, showing what colleagues are working on by name.

7. Declutter Your Inbox

In Outlook, the Clutter feature allows you to sort through low-priority email messages using mailbox rules. This way, your high-priority messages appear first in your inbox, and you don’t have to spend precious minutes throughout each day sifting through promotional offers and unimportant updates from vendors you haven’t used in years.  

8. Chat with Co-Workers

Skype’s in-app integration with Office 365 allows you and your team to chat, share screens, and have audio or video conversations together. You don’t even need to leave the application you’re working in. And, if you need to continue a conversation on-the-go, you can pick it up right where you left off via Office 365 on another device.

9. Find Templates and Themes

Instead of coming up with a document template or theme on your own, you can explore the hundreds already created in the program. The search bar within the template section allows you to type in the kind of document you’re looking for, and images let you see exactly what each template and theme will end up looking like.

10. Work Offline

Yep, that’s right! You can work on documents offline and upload your changes later. This is particularly helpful in situations where you need to work but don’t have access to Wi-Fi. Instead of putting it off until you find a connection, you can complete your document offline and save locally. As soon as you reconnect to the internet, your updates will be automatically applied and a new version of the document notified to any connected devices.

11. Plan Projects

Office 365 Planner helps you and your team collaborate better by planning your workflows. The project management tool lets you create plans, organize and assign tasks, share files, set due dates, and provide status updates – all in one location. The app also sends out email alerts so you can stay informed of progress without logging in.

If you have any additional questions about how you can use Office 365 to increase collaboration and save resources in your company, give us a call. We’re passionate about helping organizations optimize their technology and workflow. We’d be honored to help you find the best IT solutions and meet your business goals.

 

Switchvox Training – Better Than Watching a Hollywood Superhero Movie!

Training is the most fun I’ve ever done at work!

. . . said no one ever.

I’m Shane Adams, the senior VoIP engineer at KME Systems. I’m writing this post to share a few ideas for our Switchvox clients that can help them get the most out of their technology. Yes, it’s a bit of training, but I promise to make it fun.

After all, the ultimate goal is to get the most value from your Switchvox. That’s your goal because it makes you more efficient, more effective and more profitable. It’s our goal because we really do give a damn about your investment.

So let’s take a look at 4 critical areas.

4 Switchvox Training Tips

1. Phone Videos

There are many how-to videos on YouTube. New and existing users should take 5 minutes and check out the offerings around phones, switchboard and other aspects of the technology.

For example, check out Digium’s YouTube channel.

2. Switchboard—are you using it right?

Real-time updates on ACD queues, user status, mouse-click-to-transfer and more are available at your fingertips. Are you taking advantage of these robust tools?

3. Headsets

There are many headsets available, including ones that integrate seamlessly with your deskphone, Skype/Spark and your cell phone. If you need more information, just ask us!

4. iPhone/Android App

There is a great softphone app available! You can remotely take calls from your desk phone, listen to voicemails, and even see the real-time status of your co-workers. It’s like you’re in the office without being in the office.

And did you know you can easily transfer a call from your desktop phone to your cell? You don’t need someone to call you back. Just push a couple of buttons and the transfer is done. It takes a little setup, but for those of you with a KME support contract there’s no charge. And if you don’t have support, let us know and we can assist you quickly.

We’re always here to support your entire IT infrastructure. And if you have any phone needs, I’m your guy! With over 20 years’ experience, I can get it done.

 

Office 365 Support: Coaching Your Business Through the Cloud

When you think of successful sports teams, chances are that the first thing that comes to mind is the performance of the players. Every NFL fan remembers Eli Manning’s amazing 3rd-down pass to David Tyree during Super Bowl XLII, ensuring the New York Giants a win. Or Tom Brady’s famous 65-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss against the New York Giants, allowing the New England Patriots to maintain their undefeated record in the 2007 season.

But what about their coaches? The individuals behind their team’s strategy, practice regimen, and training? A team’s coach is equally important to their success as a high-performance organization. A coach acts as their team’s lead trainer, chief strategy officer, and mentor. They’re responsible for bringing the team together, building players’ confidence, and helping bring out the best in their athletes – all with the goal of winning games every week.

Without a coach, any team would find it a heck of a lot harder to come together and create the right results to meet the goals of the owners, managers, players, and fans. Similarly, without Office 365 support, your team will likely find it challenging to integrate this robust solution into your business.

To illustrate this point, we put together a list of the three biggest benefits of having Microsoft Office 365 support to coach you toward a winning workplace.

Migration Assistance

Once your company decides to use Microsoft Office 365, the transition process begins. While the solution’s efficiency, security, and reliability make it worthwhile, adoption isn’t something that happens overnight. There’s data to move to the cloud, server coordination, mailbox migration, software installation, employee training and more that needs to happen.

Handling these things on your own can potentially lead to downtime and data loss if you are unfamiliar with the process or even if things don’t go according to plan. That’s why it’s best to leave the migration process to the experts. Your Office 365 support team will help your company roll out the solution smoothly in a way that doesn’t disrupt its business flow.

Training & Guidance

Office 365 is currently the most used collaborative platform on the market with more than 60 million people using some form of commercial subscription. That’s not surprising, considering how many advantages there are to using the cloud-based solution. However, if you don’t know how to do so correctly, you’ll be missing out on many of its biggest benefits.  

Just as coaches develop specific strategies and drill their teams on different plays, your support team will train your employees how to most efficiently use Office 365. Given that it’s a robust solution, there are many different applications and functionalities your team should know in order to maximize your investment in the program. An MSP well-versed in the solution will be able to instruct your employees on best practices, application in your environment, and any other questions they have about the suite and its features.

24/7 Office 365 Support

Downtime is expensive. When software isn’t working correctly, employees aren’t achieving their productivity potential or focusing on their key strengths, which costs your company time and money. Partnering with an MSP that supports Microsoft Office 365 means that, no matter what the day or time, your team has access to experts that are ready to tackle application-related issues.

They’ll act as your team’s mentor and work to resolve any problems that arise so your employees can get back to completing projects instead of playing out of position and losing critical time to move the ball forward. Plus, they’re always available for questions, no matter how complex.

Moving Forward  

Think of Microsoft Office 365 support as a coach for your team. They’ll guide your employees through transitioning over to the cloud, train your staff how to use the service, and be there to assist you 24/7. If you have any questions about getting set up with Office 365 or how it works, give us a shout. We’re here to help your company win business and successfully adopt this game-changing solution.

 

Put Regulatory Compliance on Your Radar

“Once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Even though Leonardo never got to experience the magic that is soaring among the clouds, he’s not wrong. Many people enjoy the experience of flying and seek to recreate it by building their very own aircraft. With all of the technology and resources available today, it’s more doable than you think.

When you build an airplane, there will be certain engineering, design, and construction standards that you need to follow. There are those elements required for every sort of aircraft: you must have essential parts (think wings, an engine, landing gear), submit plans to the Federal Aviation Administration to approve your airworthiness, and follow the Major Portion Rule. However, much of how you build an aircraft is up to you. You get to choose the kinds of materials you use to build your plane, the different features you want it to have, the timeline in which you’ll build.

In this sense, creating a contingency plan that keeps your business HIPAA- and HITECH- compliant is similar to how you go about building your own airplane.

HIPAA and HITECH are both laws put in place to protect sensitive patient data. Essentially, HIPAA lays the basis for privacy and security of health-related information, while HITECH enforces HIPAA in terms of electronic health records.

Both HIPAA and HITECH regulations require that you have a business continuity (or contingency) plan in place when disaster, natural or man-made, strikes. There are certain specifications for a contingency plan that are required and ones that are addressable.

If a specification is required, it means that a business must have that specification implemented as a part of their plan with absolutely no exceptions.

If a specification is addressable, it means that it must either be implemented, a substitute for it must be implemented, or a compelling reason is documented as to why a business elected not to implement it.

So, what kinds of specifications are there? Being aware of some of the most common required and addressable elements is the first step in creating an actionable plan for regulatory compliance:

Risk Assessment – REQUIRED

In order to be compliant, you must conduct a thorough assessment of potential vulnerabilities and how critical they are.

Testing and Revision Procedures – ADDRESSABLE

The idea behind this specification is to make sure that plans are in place to periodically test and revisit your contingency plan, test for new risks, and revise documentation if necessary.   

Data Backup Plan – REQUIRED

Maintaining regulatory compliance means having a plan in place to retrieve exact copies of protected health information in the event of a disaster (large or small). This plan must be documented and updated whenever something affecting it changes – a new software, server, regulation, etc.   

Applications and Data Criticality Analysis – ADDRESSABLE

The purpose of this analysis is to determine the data and software applications that are most important to your business operations. This will help your company determine which applications and data to restore first in the event of a catastrophe.

Disaster Recovery Plan – REQUIRED

In the case of a catastrophe, HIPAA and HITECH compliance regulations require your business to have a plan in place in order to restore any lost data, applications, and system functionality. This kind of plan should be designed to get your business back up and running quickly and encompasses the resources, actions, and materials required to do that.

These are only a handful of required and addressable elements that make up a compliant business continuity plan. There are many more. And with HIPAA and HITECH regulations consistently in flux, new regulations frequently arise.

The best way to ensure that your business is up to par on regulatory compliance specifications is to enlist the help of a professional compliance consultant. We’re happy to be that expert. Even if you choose to go with a different service provider, we cannot stress enough the importance of making sure your business is compliant, enough. Violation fines can range from $100 to $1.5 million per violation, and the reputation damage from receiving one (let alone many) has the potential to ruin your business.

Thus, regulatory compliance is not something to brush off. To avoid future headaches, start getting your contingency plan in place today.

 

Score a Touchdown with a Compliance Risk Assessment

Back in 2007, a widespread cheating scandal shook Florida State University. More than 60 student-athletes were involved in a fraud case for violating the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) academic standards. While not all the students were Seminole football players (varying FSU sports programs were affected), a large number of them were.

According to the NCAA’s report, a learning specialist, an academic advisor, and a tutor took various tests and wrote papers for the athletes. There were also a significant number of athletes who took an online music course that allowed them to pass by cheating.

The result? 23 football players were prohibited from competing in the 2007 Music City Bowl, including several of the team’s starters. FSU was also placed on four years’ probation and lost scholarship funding. The real kicker, though, was that 12 games in which ineligible players competed were retroactively removed from the record. Unfortunately for coach Bobby Bowden, this ruined any shot he had to beat Joe Paterno and top the coaches’ all-time wins list at the time. Sorry, Bobby. Cheaters never prosper.

Compliance Playbook

The moral of this story also applies to how your business handles maintaining compliance. You can’t phone it in when it comes to making sure your organization meets these critical standards. Especially when HIPAA penalties can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation. If that sounds scary, that’s because it is.

Essentially, there are two parts to staying compliant. Properly securing your network and using the right software.

There are correct ways to secure your network and then there are incorrect ways. 31% of consumers said they discontinue their relationships with an entity following a data breach,” so it’s important to do it right. You need a strong firewall, data encryption, antivirus software, strong passwords, and data backup, among other more organization-specific things.

Selecting software programs for your company is similar. There’s software that’s HIPAA-compliant, and there’s software that isn’t. Typically, the programs that are tend to be a bit more expensive. Some businesses see this and opt for the cheaper ones. While this is okay for records and information that don’t fall under HIPAA protections, if you’re caught using this software with ones that do, it’s not going to be good for your company’s reputation or pocketbook.

These are some of the rules of the game that take extra time and practice to master and put into motion in your organization.

Creating Your Perfect Play

If you’re thinking, “Uhh, that’s a lot to think about. I don’t want any fines. How do I know if I’m doing this compliance thing right?”

Simple. You hire an IT consultant who is familiar with compliance. They will provide your company with a compliance risk assessment that details everything you need to remedy in order to achieve compliance and minimize your risks. They’ll also be able to tell how to fix the problem areas that may be uncovered.  

According to KMPG, “Keeping policies current with changing regulations is the number one challenge for 47% of organizations.” Compliance regulations are complex and frequently change. It can be exhausting to keep up on your own. These experts are up-to-date on the latest standards and uniquely able to advise your business based today’s compliance requirements relevant to your business.

How you store your data, handle communication, and secure your network are all a part of maintaining compliance. That being said, we strongly recommend that you talk with an IT consultant and get a compliance risk assessment.

We’re happy to be that expert. But even if it isn’t us, we highly recommend that you speak with one. Staying compliant will keep your business in the game scoring and off the sidelines sulking.