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Accessible IT to solve the SMB dilemma

A lot of entrepreneurs are not well-versed in technology, nor do they have the resources to have a dedicated IT staff. Lenovo wants to help.

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If you helm an SMB, you know the challenges. Expectations are high, time is precious and financial resources are limited. Add technology to the mix, and the issues are compounded with the fact that a lot of entrepreneurs are not well-versed in technology, nor do they have the resources to have a dedicated IT staff. 

And if they do have an IT staff member, which in a lot of smaller businesses is actually someone in another function who’s just good with computers, they are probably not focusing on ways to optimize IT to drive the business forward. Instead, they are most likely tied up dealing with those pesky, but necessary, routine PC support tasks.

Ultimately, this all boils down to access to the right technology, and Lenovo wants to make the entire concept more digestible for more companies.

In response to the growing need for affordable IT solutions, Lenovo developed its Device as a Service (DaaS) model. While reminiscent of the subscription and consumption-based models of today, Lenovo DaaS is actually something all its own. Described internally as a services-led support model, Lenovo DaaS is tailored to fit the customer’s specific need. The focus isn’t on simply buying/financing devices and attached services, but rather helping the customer achieve their desired IT outcomes with a single configurable solution through a predictable, affordable and periodic fee.

This is a service that can benefit all businesses, regardless of their size, which is why Lenovo recently expanded its portfolio of DaaS solutions to include three new offerings that make it easier for small and mid-sized businesses to benefit from this model.  Simplify, Accelerate, and Transform DaaS offerings provide an easy, structured entry point to the DaaS environment making it even easier for businesses to benefit from a Modern IT infrastructure with no upfront investment.

Ultimately, this all boils down to access to the right technology, and Lenovo wants to make the entire concept more digestible for more companies.

Simplify is one of the most direct approaches to DaaS available. It’s an ideal solution for SMBs that want to dip their toe in the device-as-a-service pool without having to completely overhaul (or build) an IT infrastructure. Through this offering, customers have access to

  • The very latest technology – Desktops and laptops are offered for companies to select the devices that work best for their employees’ needs (remember that employee satisfaction metric we discussed earlier).
  • Lenovo Premier Support – The 24×7, VIP advanced-level support solution that gives customers access to Lenovo’s dedicated team of technicians to handle their device maintenance and support needs.
  • Affordably monthly payments – As per the “as a service” prerequisite of a model of this type, customers can pay for the use of the technology over the course of the 1 to 5-year contract, the end of which they can either choose not to renew, or retire and refresh their devices and start all over again.

This is the simplest version of a device-as-a-service model and is most appropriate for companies with simple IT environments and needs.

Accelerate is an expanded version of Simplify and incorporates all of those great benefits, but also includes imaging/enterprise-ready preload, asset tagging, custom BIOS settings and Microsoft Autopilot registration. Designed for medium-sized businesses and enterprises, Accelerate enhances the speed and ease of IT delivery utilizing the efficiency of Lenovo’s configuration services and streamlined deployment. These services provide a premium end-to-end user experience across the customer’s organization.

Transform is the robust offering ideal for large enterprises capable of changing the way an organization experiences Modern IT, delivering premium devices, expert support, smooth and simple deployment, plus Lenovo’s advanced IT automation and intelligence services. Wrapping in everything from the Simplify and Accelerate solutions, Transform also offers companies the flexibility to build a custom DaaS solution combining any options from Lenovo’s full services catalog. As with all of the Lenovo DaaS offerings, the services, software and devices the customer chooses are combined into a single monthly invoice with flexible Lenovo Financial Services financing.

For more info, head to Lenovo.

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Emojis make tourism advertising on social media more effective, appealing

The use of emojis in online messages about tourism destinations facilitates processing and reduces ambiguity, especially when the recipients encounter content with low levels of congruence.

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The use of congruent messages and emojis when promoting tourist destinations on social media leads to greater user attention. This strategy helps users to process the information effectively and reduces their cognitive effort. More specifically, the use of emojis in online messages about tourism destinations facilitates processing and reduces ambiguity, especially when the recipients encounter content with low levels of congruence.

This is according to a research – “The effect of online message congruence, destination-positioning, and emojis on users’ cognitive effort and affective evaluation” – that was published in the Journal of Destination Marketing & Management.

The study, which was carried out at the University of Granada’s Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre (CIMCYC), consisted of an experiment using eye-tracking techniques on 60 users of the social network Facebook. These individuals underwent a series of experimental procedures in which the researchers manipulated the level of congruence between the messages of those posting and the users, the use or omission of emojis in the content, and the way in which the tourist destination was positioned in the media (natural environment, gastronomy, hotels, sun and beach).

The UGR research team, which includes Beatriz García Carrión, Francisco Muñoz Leiva, Salvador del Barrio García and Lucia Porcu, point out that the study “clearly illustrates the benefits in terms of the effectiveness of using congruent messages in marketing communications in general, and especially in digital communications via social media, as well as how the use of emojis contributes to improving users’ information processing, increasing their attention and reducing the cognitive effort involved. Moreover, congruent messages not only facilitate users’ information processing, but also improve their affective evaluation — a crucial aspect when it comes to making a decision on a tourist destination.”

The key findings included:

  • Importance of maintaining a high level of congruence in the information they convey through social media. As the researchers explain: “This involves systematically reviewing and managing comments across all communication channels to identify any comments that do not align with the destination’s desired positioning, with a view to mitigating potential negative effects.”
  • Pictorial representations (emojis) significantly enhance the overall comprehension of the information. However, the study did not find a significant impact of emojis on the formation of affective evaluations.
  • Tourism managers should focus on information related to the destination’s gastronomy and natural environment, rather than more conventional aspects such as sun and beach facilities or hotel offerings, as the former attract more attention and are perceived more favorably, even under low levels of congruence.

The research findings suggest a shift in the preferences of potential consumers towards more nature-based tourism. “Therefore, tourism managers should place greater emphasis on communicating aspects related to the environment and sustainability of the tourist destination in their social media posts, thereby reaping benefits in terms of visual attention and affective evaluations,” the researchers stressed.

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Tech & Innovation

How to make the right impression online

From emails to Zoom meetings, research reveals tips for making positive first impressions on co-workers, customers, and clients.

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First impressions are often long lasting and can impact a professional career in profound and unintended ways. Today, because initial business contacts often happen online — think an emailed intro, a phone text, or a Zoomed teleconference — many individuals form first impressions through these media.

Andrew Brodsky, assistant management professor at Texas McCombs, with Hayley Blunden of American University, recently conducted a literature review of 124 studies on virtual impressions and how people make them. He offers a wealth of research-based suggestions on how to put your digital best foot forward.

The subject is part of Brodsky’s larger research interests that focus on individual work-based tech use and communication, with a particular interest in workplace virtual communication. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why are virtual impressions important in the workplace?

Impressions can be really sticky. When you first meet someone, you form a variety of impressions: “How smart are they? They seem like a hard worker. They seem like someone you’re going to like. Are they a good leader or not?”

Very often, these initial impressions can last for a long time and color how you view someone’s behavior later. If you have a negative first impression, you might see something they do later in a more negative light, because your brain works to confirm its preexisting thought.

First impressions in business contexts are particularly important. Interviews are first impressions. When you reach out to a potential customer or client, they’re going to get first impressions, which help determine whether they respond to your email or whether they decide to buy your product.

How do you see this research benefiting employers?

It can help people be more objective in how they evaluate their employees. Oftentimes, people evaluate each other’s performance based on: “Do I want to get a beer with this person? Do I like this person?”

We don’t realize that we’re making those biased evaluations. So, one of the things researchers can do is help employers or managers or executives understand how they are forming impressions and why those impressions are biased.

Second, for those employers who are interested in training and helping employees improve, this is a good framework for providing guidance about how to make a better impression with customers and co-workers.

What about for employees?

When someone’s working virtually or remotely, the only way their boss gets to see them or observe them is through their online interaction. That impression you create, through how you communicate and what you communicate, becomes that much more important.

But now, pretty much every employee — at least to some degree — communicates virtually, whether they’re in the office or not. Even restaurant workers or grocery store workers are often getting schedules via email or via text, or they’re communicating with their manager via text message. So, the idea of virtual workplace communication is not limited to office jobs anymore.

What does research say about using emoticons and emojis in workplace communication?

We found that there were mixed outcomes. On one hand, they often increased feelings of warmth and likeability. On the other hand, when it came to perceptions of intelligence, it was perhaps negative, because it made the person seem less intelligent or competent. So, it’s nuanced. They make us more likeable but risk making us seem less intelligent.

A less obvious source of virtual impressions is the time people take to reply to an email. What did your review show?

Timely responses matter. Being slow to reply has been shown to decrease perceptions of trust and competence.

That said, you can relax a bit, as research also shows that people overestimate how quickly they need to respond to messages. The takeaway is that you should aim for a happy medium.

There doesn’t seem to be a benefit to rushing to reply to emails the second you receive them, but you also don’t want to delay for too long. The studies that showed response time matters tended to have delays of one day or more, which suggests no meaningful negative consequences for that timing.

Based upon research to date, how do virtual workplace interactions measure up?

Managers and organizations often assume that virtual interactions lack social information and make it hard for others to build strong impressions. This has been one of the arguments often used by executives against remote work.

However, our review of the research shows that strong impressions — whether they’re related to trust, competence, or likability — can often be built in brief virtual-only interactions. It’s not that virtual interactions are uniformly lacking as compared to in-person interactions, but, rather, that they are just different.

A Review of Virtual Impression Management Behaviors and Outcomesis published online in the Journal of Management.

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Tech & Innovation

Staff’s malicious actions bring risks to cybersecurity in businesses

A Kaspersky study found that in the past two years, 77% of companies around the world have faced cyber incidents, 1/5 of which were caused by deliberate malicious behavior by employees.

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Cyber incidents caused by “human factor” are usually attributed to occasional employee errors, but one more important element is often overlooked: deliberate malicious behavior by staff. Corroborating this fact, a new Kaspersky study found that in the past two years, 77% of companies around the world have faced cyber incidents, 1/5 of which were caused by deliberate malicious behavior by employees.

A variety of elements can be found when examining the “human factor” that can negatively affect the running of a business, ranging from ordinary employee mistakes to the misallocation of budget by decision makers. But one of the most important factors that is often overlooked is malicious actions by staff. This crucial finding was revealed in a recent Kaspersky study showing that, in the last two years, 20% of companies worldwide suffered cyber incidents due to malicious behavior for personal gain exhibited by employees. 

A recent case occurring at the Tesla company illustrates the dangers insider threats pose to business. Two of Tesla’s ex-employees leaked the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of 75,735 current and former employees to a German newspaper. Maine regulators were informed of the incident in a data breach notification on August 18, after the company learned of the breach on May 10 from German news outlet Handelsblatt, and conducted an internal investigation. 

Insider threats: what you need to know

What are insider threats?

There are two main types of insider threats: unintentional and intentional. Unintentional, or accidental threats are employees’ mistakes such as falling for phishing and other social engineering methods, or sending sensitive and confidential information to the wrong person, etc. 

In contrast, intentional threats are perpetrated by malicious insiders who deliberately hack into their employer’s systems. They usually do so for financial gain from the sale of sensitive data or as an act of revenge. Malicious insiders aim to disrupt or stop an organization’s regular business operations, expose IT weaknesses and obtain confidential information. 

Insiders with malicious intentions are the most dangerous of all employees who can provoke cyber incidents. Threats posed by their actions are complicated by several factors:

  • Insiders have specific knowledge of an organization’s infrastructure and processes, including understanding of the information security tools used.
  • They are already inside the company’s network, and do not need to penetrate the perimeter from outside via phishing, firewall attacks, etc.
  • They have colleagues and friends within the organization, so it’s much easier for them to use social engineering.
  • Insiders with malicious intentions are highly motivated to harm their organization.

What are the reasons for insider malicious actions? 

One of the main reasons for employees to commit malicious actions against an employer is financial gain. Often it means stealing sensitive information with the intention of selling it to a third party: competitors, or even auctioning it on the dark web where cybercriminals buy data to attack businesses.

When employees have been fired, malicious behavior might take place out of revenge. This can be conducted even through connections with current staff, but the worst-case scenario occurs if they still can log into their work account remotely because the organization hasn’t removed their ability to access its systems as soon as the employee left the company.

Employees can also act maliciously when they are unhappy with their job or “to get even” with an employer who didn’t give them an expected raise or a promotion, for instance.

Another interesting type of malicious action occurs when one or more insiders collaborate with an external actor to compromise an organization. These incidents frequently involve cybercriminals recruiting one or more insiders to carry out different kinds of attacks. There may also be cases in which third parties, such as competitors or other interested parties, collaborate with staff to obtain the company’s sensitive data.

“Malicious actors can be discovered anywhere – in huge enterprises or small businesses, you never know. That’s why businesses should build an up to date, resilient, transparent IT-security system, uniting effective security solutions, smart security protocols and training programs for both IT and non-IT staff to safeguard against this threat. Additionally, it’s crucial to implement products and solutions that will protect the organization’s infrastructure. For example, our Kaspersky Endpoint Detection and Response Optimum contains Advanced Anomaly Control which helps detect and prevent suspicious and potentially dangerous activities, both by an insider working in a company or an actor outside the organization”, comments Alexey Vovk, Head of Information Security at Kaspersky.

To combat malicious insider threats, Kaspersky recommends:

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