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How to be Successful When Working Remotely


Dan: And here we are. It's 8:30 on Saint Patty's Day. Vince in here with me this morning. I appreciate you coming in this morning, Vince, braving all the atmospheric problems you might encounter on the way in here and hand sanitizer and Lysol sprays and everything. And well, here we are.

Vince: Well we're only a gathering of two. So I think we're kind of **inaudible** thing. And then you Lysoled that down area for me.

Dan: I did. I did that earlier this morning because I don't know. Honestly, when I'm not here, I don't know who's in here. But you know what? Nobody is sick in here so I think we're just fine, Vince.

Vince: Yeah, I do too. This is why, in our Bits and Bytes segment, I'm kind of wanting to give a little good information out there to help some of the small businesses that are going to go through some troubling times even after this.

Dan: Yeah. Well should we get right to it?

Vince: Yeah, absolutely.

Dan: Let's do it.

Announcer: Bit-Wizards. Bits and bytes.

Vince: So just a couple of pieces of information I thought I would throw out there to kind of help our small business community, is the Florida governor, DeSantis, has activated the business damage assessment site. So it's a public information site that allows you to put some fields in, answer some information about the impact to your organization. It doesn't serve as an application for any specific resources, but it gives them an opportunity to be able to sort of gauge what the impact is to the economy, what the impact is to business. They activate this during hurricanes, they've activated it now for COVID-19. And it also has a link out to the small business bridge loan site where you can apply for a loan. And, after filling out this particular survey, federal, state, and local agencies may reach out to you through the contact information you provided to see if you have any interest and make available some of these programs available to your business. The surveys are public records, so it's going to be a made available to the public and upon the media request. And so the main thing there, too, that is helpful is the... And the website for that, let me tell you, is httpsfloridadisaster. biz and then look for business damage assessment. So, that's the first step. The second step is the floridadisasterlone. org and there's a link on there to that site and it's a small business emergency bridge loan program that's available to business owners located in the Florida county statewide that experienced damage as a result of COVID-19. So the governor's activated that and these are short term, interest-free, working capital loans intended to bridge the gap between the time a catastrophe like this hits and when the business has secured longer term recovery resources such as sufficient profits from a revived business or receipt of payments on insurance claims or federal disaster assistance. So-

Dan: So you get them through the times right now because really and truly, the whole idea is to keep these small businesses afloat so when better times are here, they're not having to close their doors and having to get rid of employees. So it keeps everybody afloat.

Vince: Yeah. I won't mention the company, but I had to go down and rent a car yesterday because I've got my car over here at Preston Hood. My truck has got a little bit of damage from somebody that backed into it. So I had needed to rent a car while they're doing the body work on it and I went over and rented a car and the lady told me that all of their SUVs and trucks, they are selling right now back in. They don't want to keep them in inventory because of the cost. They're paying a lot more for them and with people canceling vacations and things like that, they want to get that inventory. They also told me that they're cutting back their number of hours, there's a number of stores that are doing that. They're trying to be prudent and I get it and I understand. On those Florida disaster... I think the people in our committee, because we're predominantly... You've got the military, which is 72% of our economy but then you also have tourism. There's a lot of people that are out there that are going to be affected by this. And I think the key thing is to not panic and manage things one day at a time and look for facts-

Dan: And even for the locals, Vince, don't you think a lot of local restaurants that ordinarily people like military and everybody else would be visiting the restaurants, that's going down as well. So their patronage is going down so they're not making as much money and they're cutting some hours. And a lot of it's going to just take-out only instead of dining in. And so that's going to affect people, of course, these businesses, it's going to affect their profit margin, which isn't going to be well for them. So the idea here is to try and help everybody get through this very... It's going to be a difficult time and not only because of there is a threat because right now in our area there is no threat. There's just a possibility of a threat. And like we were talking earlier, some people panic with that and unfortunately, you hate to see the panic, but it's going to set in and we all have to kind of work around that.

Vince: Yeah. As you and I were talking, people are irrational beings and there's sort of this herd mentality that kind of comes as people see. We were talking about, that you go into the grocery store and you go in there for normal stuff and then you see other people starting to grab stuff, it kind of affects you. So you're absolutely right. I just can't stress enough the calm and paying attention to the facts and doing your best. There's some things that you can do. If you're sick right now, you can call Uber Eats and get food delivered to you and things like that. And this is a time for us to try to help out neighbors and stuff like that. I don't want to contribute to the panic. I have my thoughts on this and my undergraduate degree is in mathematics and I'm looking at the math on this and I'm not entirely sold on where things are going, but I do understand prudent action.

Dan: I do too. I really do. And we've been through... You've lived here an awful long time so you understand the ideas of when we have hurricanes and when we have natural disasters. And then people will stock up on water, you understand that and you stock up on food. We get that because what if the grocery stores get destroyed or we don't have water because of things that may happen in a natural disaster. However, in this particular case, the grocery stores are all still going to be there. The gas stations are all still going to be there. So my thought process is this, okay, if you get sick and you haven't hoarded all of this, who's to say that you can't call a neighbor or a friend and say, " Hey listen, could you get me some stuff at the store? I'm right here in my self quarantine. Could you get it, drop it off on my porch so I'll have some things to get me through this next week or so?" It's just kind of common sense.

Vince: It is. And helping each other out. With the hurricanes and things like that, you can always evacuate. And this one, we're kind of hunkering down inside and trying to limit our exposure. But you're absolutely right. In IT at Bit-Wizards, we're no strangers to crisis and so we have things happen all the time. People call us up and they're panicked and freaked out-

Dan: Just lost all my stuff.

Vince: ... And so, what we already try to tell people, when these mission critical events happen, how you react to them is absolutely critical. So I tell my engineers, don't panic. You got to ascertain the facts and then responding emotionally is only going to exasperate the situation. So you just need to smile, calmly fact-seek questions and make sure that there really is a problem and then help reassure the customer and get it done. Typically, we have backup always. We have backups sort of things that we take care of to make sure that we can restore a customer back to their original state. And we don't have a ton of these but in IT, every time something happens to somebody in a business, it's a crisis. They need it right now, they're under the gun and so-

Dan: Oh, sure. Well, their business is going on and they can't stop. That's the whole deal. And with Bit-Wizards, you guys make sure, like you said earlier, everything gets backed up someplace so we can get you right back where you were back when the crisis supposedly happened and you get your information back and you press on. Because that's what you do when you set up somebody in their business.

Vince: Yeah, we try to make sure we've got disaster recovery and some sort of business continuity for our customers set up. The customer has to plan for their own business continuity, what are they going to do? Are they going to work remotely? Do they want us to set them up to work remotely or do they want us to do VPNs? And most customers do. And we try to set that stuff up and make sure that they're ready. It's kind of like now, if they don't decide they want to do it and then all of a sudden there's a problem and it's panic and they want to do it right now. You can't make these things happen overnight in most cases. But we try to.

Dan: And you, Vince, you guys over it at Bit-Wizards, you guys have good insight on that. Obviously you deal with businesses on a regular basis and you have a little insight like, what if. And you guys look out for that for these folks.

Vince: And we try to tell them about that stuff. We try to be proactive. When we see different viruses and malware and stuff like that, I know that we send out some guidance to let our customers understand that with the COVID-19, there's scammers that are trying to take advantage of that, take advantage of that panic that people are having and that uncertainty. And we tell people, it's the normal stuff that you need to do. Is make sure you've got antivirus, we've got that covered for you. We've done it at multiple levels. We want to make sure that you don't click on things that you don't know where they're from. I know it's tempting to go to some of these websites, especially with the sensationalized headlines that they have, but stick to the sites that you know or are going to give you the right information like the CDC or Johns Hopkins or somebody like that. And make sure that somebody is not bait and switching you when you do it. So just being vigilant-

Dan: I got an email just last night on my personal email and it said that it had a cure or a temporary cure or prevention for COVID-19, click here. If you really want it, click here. Three different times gave you the opportunity to click to get this information so you could get this that would help you get through the COVID-19 issues. And it was just a bait. You could tell it was just phony and you were probably going to get some kind of malware if I clicked on anything. Obviously, I discarded it. But still, I wonder how many people freaking out would click on that. And that's what they're hoping for.

Vince: Well, the virus scanners, they do their best to try to tell you those things. But again, there's people coming up with all kinds of scams all the time. And, as I mentioned, I think Microsoft's got a whole emergency response center where they're looking at things inside of your email and making sure that they add those to the list as fast as they possibly can. But it does take some human looking at these things. It can't all be automated. And then once they get them and they know how to solve the problem or they put that site on the list that says, " This is a site that is known giving malware ", then that gets automatically transmitted down to your Office 365.

Dan: I got you. Which is probably the best you could do right now with Office 365.

Announcer: Bit-Wizards. What's up our sleeve?

Vince: So what I thought we might talk about today is remote working, which is what a lot of people are doing and-

Dan: Hot topic.

Vince: It is, it's a hot topic. And I found this article that I thought I might share some seven or eight things that you can do if you're remote working. For me, when Louis and I first started the company, before we got our office in Shalimar, we were working out of the house while the building was being built. I believe the builder was Bob Bonezzi. And so we were waiting for the building to be done over there in Shalimar and we were working out of the house and I do not work well at home. And it's taken me quite a while to figure out how to do that because now I have to do it more and more because I travel on the road and things like that. And technology has gotten much better in terms of allowing you to do that. So I thought we might cover some of those things. The first one is, if you're a remote worker, you want to over-communicate. And what I mean by that is you're no longer a few desks down from your coworkers or your manager so it's kind of your job to schedule these one-on-one check-ins and check-ins with your team and to let them know what's going on, making sure that you're advocating for yourself, making sure that you're communicating what the status is on projects. I know as an employer, what people often do is if they've got a remote worker, " Well I haven't heard from them, so they're not doing any work." Well, that's not really true. So...

Dan: Yeah, I guess when you're not in the same office, it's hard to tell if they're doing their work or not unless they tell you they're doing their work.

Vince: Well, it is. And then also a lot of companies don't have systems and processes in place to measure work and work output and that type of thing. If you're doing something like you're doing a call list or you're processing applications or something, that's a number driven thing. But for typical information workers, there's not necessarily a clear metric or a clear thing that you can tell what people are doing. So, what I tell people is if you're working remotely, you need to over-communicate.

Dan: That's a good idea. That would eliminate any of those maybe suspicions.

Vince: Yeah, absolutely. And it also makes you connected more to your team and lets them know that you're still there. If you're out of sight, out of mind, your manager may not know that you need additional work or that there's something else to do. So, you want to make sure that you over-communicate. The second thing is, is that I would say invest in reliable technology. You need good WiFi at your house. You need a good VPN connected back into the organization. Have a good laptop or a computer there, that's a given. And then the right software, like we talked about, office 365. Some other things that people don't think about is when you're at home, you've got distractions. Maybe you have kids at home, that type of thing. You want to make sure that you might want to have a set of noise-canceling headsets. If you want to be a little mobile, you maybe need to move from one place to another, wireless keyboards or mouse. So, invest in that tech and make sure you got it. I think that's important.

Dan: Kind of like you would have at your office only at your house.

Vince: Yeah, exactly. So another one is, lean on your community and be a part of that remote community. So staying connected with people at work. In addition to that calling, we use a product called Microsoft Teams, which is part of Microsoft Office that allows us to chat immediately or have immediate meetings and do face-to-face. Back on the tech side, investing in reliable tech, make sure you've got a video camera so that you can see people. It's more comforting if you turn on your video cam and people can see you face-to-face. I know you want to sit there in your pajamas or maybe pick your nose or if they know about it. But-

Dan: After you wash your hands, of course.

Vince: After you wash your hands, of course. And put a little hand sanitizer.

Dan: That's right. And it smells better.

Vince: But there's a lot of collaboration, communication tools and Teams is great way to do that because you can share and work on documents in real time. And it's one of the tools that we use and it's part of that Office 365 suite that is part of our managed IT services we use for our customers. And we train them on how to use it. So, that's a good one. Another one is consider your workspace. Make sure you've got a place free of distractions with a designated spot. I remember when I was working at home, one day I was at the kitchen table, the other day I was at a desk and then I thought, " Well, if you don't mind, I'm going to sit here on the couch and I'm going to flip the news on in the background." And before I knew it, I was distracted.

Dan: You were watching the news, not working.

Vince: I was. So, set yourself up in an area. And this ties into another one is figure out what your working style is. When you're at home, I have to have a quiet place and-

Dan: Yeah, you have to be able to concentrate a little bit.

Vince: ... Focus. Yeah. So I kind of worry about what my space is like and what kind of environment that I need. I try to plan out my breaks, get a routine going about what I'm going to do. Routine actually helps these things that you can kind of define what you're at. Another thing-

Dan: It truly does because just like when you're at work, you have to kind of emulate that you're in an office setting. Because I work out at my house all the time and you're right, I have set work hours that I try and... And they might be different every day, but I set work hours, take a break, things like that. Make sure you take a lunch, that sort of thing.

Vince: Yeah. It's like when my wife was a realtor, I tried to tell her, she liked the aspect of going out and meeting and talking with people and stuff like that. I said, " Baby, you got to run this thing like a business. You got to remember, you got sales, you got marketing, you got finance, you've got lead generation, you've got all these different things you've got to do. You need to plan your time. I know it's great to go First Friday coffee and meet and talk with people and "-

Dan: That's the fun part.

Vince: ... " It's great showing a house and it's fun but it's that structure that kind of helps you." So I tell people that work remotely, make. sure you've got a structure. And take that time for self care. One of the things that happens with people that work at home is that they often do get incredibly focused. They don't take the breaks that they would typically need. Get up out of your chair, stretch your feet, walk around-

Dan: Get some exercise.

Vince: Yeah, exactly.

Dan: Absolutely.

Vince: There's some things that you need to work on. And the other thing is to know when to log off. The statistics show that people that work from home actually work more because there's no delineation between when they're on the job and when they're working and when they're not, which is why I say that structure has to be there. So, set a habit for when you're going to log off for the night and when you're going to... Make sure that you don't end up being available 24 /7. That's even true for us in IT. I have to tell people, " You got to take your breaks, you got to take your vacation, you got to take care of you. Know when to log off and get out."

Dan: I would imagine that's a lot for you guys because there might be people who are working late at night or early in the morning and they're contacting you like, " Hey, something's happening and I need some help."

Vince: We do, we have that. And people do. And we try to help our customers understand when something's an emergency and when it's not, that type of thing. But we always try to respond and make sure that we're there and we have somebody covering things. We typically cover our customers from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM in the central time zone, which allows us to cover from the Pacific all the way to the Eastern time zone. So everybody's covered during normal business hours. And then we have some after hours escalation procedures that we utilize that they can call us and get ahold of us if they've got an-

Dan: Emergency.

Vince: ... And we call them afterwards, exactly.

Dan: I agree with you.

Vince: So in short, we try to utilize some tools to help people work remotely. We get you set up. If you're in your business and you're using our managed IT or if you're interested in managed IT, come seek us out. We can set you up so you can work remotely. So when you have things like this and you need to disperse your office workers out, you can and then they can still be productive and they can still make you money and keep your business operating continuously.

Dan: Those are great ideas, Vince, because there's a lot of people with this outbreak with the coronavirus that are being told to work from home. So these are good tips for people that really haven't worked from home before. To listen to your tips here to be able to understand, this is what I need to do to be not only productive but also be successful from working from home so I don't fall behind with everything.

Vince: Yeah, absolutely. And during the time right now, the thing that I try to tell people is just try to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Be with your family, do the things that you need to do. And then also, you still have to work. You still have to get the job done. Figure out how you do that and don't panic.

Dan: Life goes on.

Vince: Life goes on to go on.

Dan: It has to go on.

Vince: It's must.

Dan: You must. All right, Vince. Good stuff.

Announcer: Bit-Wizards. From the spell book.

Vince: So I thought we'd do something a little bit different on the spell book and I thought we might do some fun facts around IT that might be interesting to people just to get their mind off of all the other, what I will say is, proverbial crap going on right now.

Dan: Oh, my gosh.

Vince: So the first one is, is that, you know Firefox, the browser?

Dan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I have it right here.

Vince: Yeah. Firefox.

Dan: Yeah.

Vince: Well-

Dan: So what do you think about Firefox?

Vince: Oh, it's great. It's great. We use it just like other browsers and we use Firefox and Chrome and Opera and Edge and Internet Explorer still.

Dan: Have you ever used DuckDuckGo?

Vince: The search engine? No, I haven't. But I know some other people that have because they are anti-Google but we'll leave it at that.

Dan: Okay. Anyway, you were talking about Firefox's logo.

Vince: Yeah, the Firefox logo. A lot of people think that their logo is a fox. But it is not. It's a common misbelief that because it's named Firefox, it must be a fox. But surprisingly, their logo is actually a cute red panda.

Dan: Where did... Nevermind. Who knows. All right.

Vince: Okay. So here's another good one, that Google rents out goats. So-

Dan: Rents out goats?

Vince: Goats, yeah. Goats as in, that-

Dan: Baa.

Vince: ... Eat everything. Baa. So instead of mowing their lawn, being socially conscious, Google rents out goats to eat the grass at their Mountain View headquarters. So, I find that very interesting.

Dan: That's a nice [crosstalk 00:20:59]-

Vince: And a herder will bring 200 goats, which is herded by a border collie named Gin.

Dan: Whoa. You must've been... Were you drinking last night when you wrote this?

Vince: No, no. No, bourbon last night.

Dan: Okay. All right.

Vince: Trying to maintain a clear mind.

Dan: That's funny.

Vince: Here's another interesting one. The first Apple logo isn't what you would think. It was a picture of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree with a apple about to fall on his head. And it was designed back in 1976 and it featured a phrase around the border, which said, " Newton, a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought alone." That's pretty damn dark, don't you think?

Dan: Come on, now. That's got to be an apple, come on.

Vince: Crazy.

Dan: I'm going to look at it completely different from now on.

Vince: And so here's another interesting one. A megabyte used to weigh hundreds of pounds. More specifically, five megabytes of data weighed one ton. So if you can just think about that, in 1956 the first computer had something similar to a hard drive and at the time, it was a huge leap in storage capabilities. But the cabinet that contained the hard drive weighed over 2, 200 pounds and could hold up to five megabytes of data.

Dan: Only five megabytes.

Vince: Yeah. Think about it today.

Dan: Only five megabytes. That must-

Vince: I know people that have five terabytes-

Dan: Oh, my gosh.

Vince: [Inaudible 00:22:24].

Dan: That must have filled a room.

Vince: Yeah. Yeah-

Dan: You know? Really.

Vince: Yeah, it's crazy if you think about it and how fast things have been miniaturized over and how far we've come. If you just think about it, computers, there are some computers in the 60s and then the dawn of the personal computers just happened in the 1990s. It's not that long ago-

Dan: No, it really wasn't.

Vince: I grew up in the 80s and 90s and so if you think about it, man, we've come a long way.

Dan: Well, you think about events back in the 1950s and 60s when those things were so huge, your cell phone that you hold in your hand has more power than they had.

Vince: That's a true... Well, think about what took the Apollo to the moon. Come on. I mean-

Dan: Isn't that crazy to think about?

Vince: It's crazy. So I've got two more that I want to share and then we'll do a plug for one of our customers here. But Alexa is always listening to your conversations and that's probably not new to you because Siri is too. And she's been doing it forever. So basically what these things do is they listen to you and it stores your dialogue history to its cloud and it's to help improve your Alexa experience. So big brother is watching. Watch out for that.

Dan: What about your TVs?

Vince: Your TVs are doing it now, too.

Dan: They're listening too. Yeah, that's right.

Vince: Your Smart TV because now all the TVs are powered by Google, it's Android underneath.

Dan: Yeah, well if you have it in your bedroom... Nevermind, we don't want to go there. That would be bad news all the way around.

Vince: This one actually surprised me. I was shocked. There are such things as Amish computers. Can you believe that?

Dan: Fingers?

Vince: There are computers specifically designed without internet video music capabilities just for the Amish.

Dan: Well, what is it good for then, exactly?

Vince: Dude, I have no idea. It is a fun fact-

Dan: What would they do with it?

Vince: ... I don't know. If it's not connected to the internet. How do you get access to that data?

Dan: You know, I've seen those, but they're usually on furniture made out of plastic.

Vince: That's awesome.

Dan: That's got to be the ones. That's an Amish computer right there. I figured it out.

Vince: Oh, man.

Dan: All right.

Vince: So, maybe... Oh, let's see-

Dan: There's another one. The name for a robot has dark origins.

Vince: Oh, yeah, yeah. What is that?

Dan: Let's see. The entomology of robot comes from the Czech word, robota. Wait a minute. There was a band that did Mr. Robota wasn't there?

Vince: Yeah, that was Journey.

Dan: Yeah.

Vince: Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto?

Dan: That's it. That's the one.

Vince: I guess it was first used to refer to a fictional humanoid in a play in 1920 but robota translates to forced labor or work. So the Terminator, the robots will turn on you.

Dan: What was it? Skynet?

Vince: Skynet.

Dan: Skynet.

Vince: Skynet's coming.

Dan: We're not quite to Skynet yet, are we?

Vince: Not yet.

Dan: No, it's on its way though.

Vince: Not if the coronavirus doesn't kill us all.

Dan: Skynet will. All right. So who are you going to plug today?

Vince: Oh, I thought we'd give a big shout out to our customer, Emerald Coast Marine in Niceville. They're also in Orange Beach and they have a showroom on Highway 98 in Destin and they also have a yacht club. A lot of people don't know with a swimming pool. It's very nice.

Dan: It is very nice.

Vince: Emerald Coast Marine is locally owned and operated by boating enthusiasts to deliver the ultimate all-inclusive Marine experience. But we love them. They are a fantastic customer. They are growing leaps and bounds. We're helping them out with getting their new locations wired and getting all of their IT and technology connected so that they can operate multiple locations. And that's part of their continuous enhancement for their guests and improving operations to give a best in class services to their customer. So I want to thank Emerald Coast Marine for being a customer and give a big shout out. In fact, I'm seriously considering taking my boat out today with the kids since it's spring break for the end of the today. As long as the weather holds up and it's nice.

Dan: It looks like the weather is going to hold up for you though, Vince. It looks like it's going to be pretty decent. I think it says mostly cloudy but it doesn't show any rain in the forecast.

Vince: Well, it's a chance of COVID-19.

Dan: Yes, yes indeed. Hey, speaking of that, we have just about a minute or so left. I was kind of curious about something because I've been looking and been hearing a lot of stories. Have you seen a ramp up because the COVID-19? Have you seen a ramp up in malware attacks or spyware attacks? Has that come across your desk at all?

Vince: It hasn't been a ton but there've been a few people trying to take advantage of it with all the different sites because different people are propping up new sites and stuff like that. And so what we're telling our customers is stay away from that stuff. Go to the sites like the CDC that have the known information, known places like Johns Hopkins, the Office of Emergency Management. And then be careful that people aren't spoofing. Look at your addresses in the URL. Don't just click those spammy emails that come through. There's a lot of stuff that's like click bait. That's how they try to get you. They try to use some human engineering, social engineering to appeal to your baser animalistic instincts and get you to click on something and do something that you wouldn't ordinarily do. So just be cautious and if-

Dan: They play on your emotions.

Vince: Well, they do. And it goes back to that point we were talking about is, you got to stay calm. Stay calm, make good choices. That's what I tell my kids.

Dan: That's also really good to tell your kids because those choices can affect you later.

Vince: They can, there are no do-overs in life.

Dan: There really isn't. No. The reason I asked that, Vince, is because I told you about the one that I got and I got another one that was similar to that one and it just seems like these people that were in the malware and the spyware, they're using the COVID-19 right now to try and get into your emotions on things that they are trying to appeal to you that they will be able to help you should you get the COVID-19, which is a horrible thing for them to do. But I think emotionally, people will... Look, they're grabbing at anything right now. Some people are freaking out and they may grab at that and that's probably what they're hoping for.

Vince: It is. And that's the thing, is if you have good antivirus protection and if you think smartly before you click on things and try to take a step back and slow down-

Dan: Just like you always would have.

Vince: Yeah. And don't let this freak you out.

Dan: Gotcha. All right, Vince, it's about time for us to take off. Thanks for coming in today-

Vince: Oh, thank you.

Dan: ... And we will see you next Tuesday. That's Bit-Wizards, tip of the wand