Posts Tagged ‘Data Strategies’

Five Things Worth Doing in January

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Uncategorized

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

January, 2018! The start of a new year! New beginnings are part of the Christian life, and January is a great time to make certain a few IT items are ready for the New Year. Let’s focus on protecting systems and data….

Firewalls
The most common entry point for malware and other system ills is the internet. The best way to protect your system and data from bots, rascals, and compromised websites is to be certain your firewall is adequate and is current. Some points worth examining:

  • Is your firewall adequate? There are many options to consider when buying firewall solutions– whether hardware or software. My firm’s preference is SonicWALL firewalls (we don’t sell or benefit from our hardware and software recommendations). We find the features and price point are a good ‘sweet spot’ for churches and ministries. Yes, you can buy more expensive and capable firewalls, but very few churches and ministries benefit from any features beyond what SonicWALL includes in their firewalls. We also recommend purchasing their Total Secure package, which can filter internet content.
  • Is your firewall subscription current? Regardless of which firewall you use, make certain that if it requires a subscription to stay current, your subscription is current and in force. Not doing so is the equivalent of welcoming intruders, rascals, bots, and malware that have developed new methods for gaining access to your systems and data.
  • Make certain there is no connection from your systems to the internet that don’t go through your firewall. We have seen many churches and ministries mistakenly connect their internet connection directly to their network switch. The internet connection should connect to your firewall, and then your firewall to your switch so that all internet traffic MUST go through it.

SPAM
The second most common way for malware to access your systems and data is via email attachments and links. SonicWALL is not our preference for this important role; we prefer the Barracuda SPAM Filter. It is best of breed and a best practices solution.

My firm inexpensively hosts SPAM filtering for many churches and ministries. I don’t mention that to try to sell our service, but to point out that we were surprised to see how many users of Microsoft O365 email use our hosted SPAM filtering solution (yes, we use a Barracuda SPAM Filter, model 600). We moved our email to O365 for six months and were shocked at how much SPAM got through Microsoft’s filter! Now we know why so many O365 users have their email scrubbed by other solutions!

Anti-Malware
Protecting systems and data requires multiple layers. An important one is your anti-malware solution. And simply purchasing and installing it is not enough! These solutions also have subscriptions that keep them updated and identifying new methods used to cause  harm. It is essential that the subscription on your anti-malware not be allowed to lapse– the same as your firewall subscription. I know churches and ministries that have been hit by new ransomware methods because they didn’t keep their subscriptions current.

The anti-malware my firm recommends is Thirtyseven4.com. It is capable, and it is reasonable in cost.

BTW… it should be installed on every Windows and Mac computer– whether notebook, tablet, desktop, or server. Some say it’s not necessary on Macs, but that isn’t true. Even though few anti-malware threats are written to impact Macs, Macs can be carriers that infect shared data drives and more.

Passwords
What is your password policy? Here are some quick thoughts on this important topic:

  • Passwords should be strong (minimum of 7 characters that include uppercase and lowercase alpha, numbers, and common punctuation).
  • Passwords should not be required to periodically change! Our firm has been saying for many years that forcing users to change their passwords actually lowers system security. In 2016 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission agreed with us based on two studies! You can read about it at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/techftc/2016/03/time-rethink-mandatory-password-changes.

Backup
Some say protecting the integrity of system data is IT’s most important responsibility. Do you have a comprehensive backup strategy? And do you test it? An untested strategy is dangerous! Here’s what we recommend:

  • Establish a strategy that makes certain all important data is on your server. This is worth doing because 1) it is the organization’s data, and 2) it eliminates the requirement that all systems need to be connected to the network (facilitating notebooks, etc).
  • Backup all system data nightly to an appropriate device. LTO tape is the most affordable and durable technology for this, and is preferred by most of corporate America. Our favorite backup solution is Veeam. It’s powerful, easy to use, and they offer churches and ministries very reasonable pricing.
  • Take a copy of your backup tape off-site weekly to protect your organization from a larger disaster.
  • Create a monthly task in whatever task tracker you use (like Outlook) to test the backup. You can do this by restoring a random file or folder, and then confirming that the restored files are intact.

These five things will likely take less than an hour to check, and can help ensure that your organization’s systems and data are well-protected for 2018! Happy New Year!

Church & Donor Management Software – ChMS

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
Ministry Business Services, Inc. President
Reprinted from inSIGHT

Solutions from church and donor management software providers keep improving in their ability to help churches and ministries fulfill their mission! Their features to track and communicate with people, their web and mobile device interfaces, and their powerful database tools make this category of software a big help and a valuable asset for today’s ministries in reaching many with The Gospel and discipling them.

Church Software Historical Perspective
In the mid-1980s the number of these programs had grown to 262! Then some merged, some consolidated, and some went out of business, reducing the number to only 34. In the 1990s the Internet made it so easy for those writing solutions to share them that the number of solutions has since more than doubled! Our research this year found 58 solutions focusing on the church and ministry market, of which 40 qualified for this article (requirements include active marketing, minimum growth, and active development of their solution).

We always include new providers (those three years old or less) to give them a chance to build some momentum and compete with ‘the big guys’. It also keeps all of the providers ‘on their toes’ as the up-and-comers sometimes develop new technologies that benefit many churches and ministries in a new way.

Why Church Management Software?
The solution providers on the following pages meet the sophisticated and complex needs of churches and ministries. Tracking more than just names, addresses, and phone numbers, many of these also help build community and track traditional and modern family relationships, spiritual gifts, talents, interests, attendance, nursery security, contributions, fundraising campaigns, volunteerism, small groups, and more.

Church and ministry offices can be stressful workplaces because of the many deadlines that must be met by an administrative staff that is typically smaller in number than what would be found in a similar-sized secular business. Church management software, if well written, can be a soothing balm. If it’s powerful, capable, fast, and stable, the ministry team can rely on it to help them get the most possible work done– efficiently and with minimal stress. And if its abilities are broad enough, every ministry in the church or ministry can focus on just one database, increasing synergy and minimizing cost.

Church Management Software Defined
Some time ago Steve Hewitt, then Editor-in-Chief of Christian Computing Magazine (recently re-branded as MinistryTech Magazine), labeled the software category tailored to meet the needs of churches as Church Management Software, or CMS. More recently some began calling it ChMS to help prevent confusion since there are now so many software categories called ‘CMS’. Parachurch ministries need to track similar data, so we invited those solutions into this article too. Following is a well-researched list of the leading ChMS providers at the time of this writing, with each stating at the top of the feature chart whether their focus is church, parachurch, or both.

Not-for-Profit Accounting
Churches and ministries exist in a unique accounting niche that most software (and even most CPAs!) can’t help with. But many ChMS packages can help in this area.

One of a ministry’s most vulnerable areas is finance. All too often we hear about churches and ministries that have suffered embezzlement by a trusted team member. One of the best protections is an accounting system that has a good audit trail, tracking the detail of every transaction and whose data cannot be altered in any way. For these reasons, some ChMS providers have written their own fully-integrated accounting system.

Some churches and ministries want a ChMS that has a fully-integrated accounting system, and we list the functions they look for in the chart. Others may not care if the ChMS provider has written its own accounting system, and for them it’s good to know that most ChMSes can interface with ‘third-party’ accounting systems such as those in the chart that only provide nonprofit accounting solutions.

Feature Chart
We’ve tried to give you the most comprehensive and quickest format possible of those ChMS database and accounting functions ministry teams request most. We removed features provided by all ChMS providers to help focus on solutions’ distinct feature sets.

The chart lists solutions by the name their providers use to market them rather than by the company name. We include the company name in the section following the chart in which we give information on each provider such as how to reach them, how long they’ve been making their solutions available, how many organizations they currently serve, their support hours, and how often they update their software. All of the information in this article was provided by the software companies.

The chart uses two symbols:

  • The ” 1 ” symbol indicates features ChMS companies provide directly, and
  • The ” 2 ” symbol indicates needs they meet through an outside (third party) source.

Happy Hunting!
Shop wisely. We recommend that you do your due diligence and check with current users of the software you’re interested in. Ask questions like:

  • Does the software do what was promised?
  • Is their support team capable and available?
  • If you were faced with the same decision today, what would you do differently?

Feel free to contact any of the providers listed.  They would love to help you in your ministry.  Happy hunting!

CLICK CHART IMAGE TO MAGNIFY

chms-chart

 

List of ChMS Providers in Chart

ACS
by ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  39
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  10,000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9-8 Eastern, 9-6 Fri
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  8

Iglesia HOY
by JRSoftware
Phone:  52.1.664.251.5478
Email:  informacion@iglesiahoy.com
Web:  www.iglesiahoy.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3,060
Number on Team:  6
Support:  8-6 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Jan, 2017
Updates per Year:  3

AgapeWORKS
by AgapeWORKS
Phone:  760.718.3273
Email:  info@agapeworks.org
Web:  www.agapeworks.org
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,421
Number on Team:  5
Support:  9-5 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  12

Intacct
by Sage Intacct
Phone:  877.437.7765
Email:  info@intacct.com
Web:  www.sageintacct.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2,000
Number on Team:  500
Support:  6-5 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

Aplos
by Aplos Software
Phone:  888.274.1316
Email:  sales@aplos.com
Web:  www.aplos.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  6
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,000
Number on Team:  40
Support:  8-4 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Ministry Tracker
by Faithlife
Phone:  360.450.3542
Email:  support@ministrytracker.com
Web:  www.ministrytracker.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  14
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  600
Number on Team:  20
Support:  9-5 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Jun, 2017
Updates per Year:  52

Breeze
by Breeze
Phone:  888.320.6030
Email:  support@breezechms.com
Web:  www.breezechms.com
Company Founded in 2012
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3,582
Number on Team:  27
Support:  9-5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

MinistryPlatform
by Think Ministry
Phone:  678.404.2467
Email:  info@thinkministry.com
Web:  www.thinkministry.com
Company Founded in 2007
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  545
Number on Team:  15
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Jun, 2017
Updates per Year:  20

CCIS Shield CMS
by CCIS Church Management Software
Phone:  800.295.7551
Email:  sales@ccissoftware.com
Web:  www.ccissoftware.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  37
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,722
Number on Team:  60
Support:  8-4 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Mar, 2017
Updates per Year:  3

Parish Data System (PDS)
by ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  39
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  9,000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9-8 Eastern, 9-6 Fri
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  8

CDM+
by Suran Systems, Inc.
Phone:  877.891.4236
Email:  sales@cdmplus.com
Web:  www.cdmplus.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  30
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,500
Number on Team:  30
Support:  8:30-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

PowerChurch Plus
by PowerChurch Software
Phone:  800.486.1800
Email:  info@powerchurch.com
Web:  www.powerchurch.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing ChMS:  33
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  38,500
Number on Team:  16
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Nov, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Church Community Builder
by Church Community Builder
Phone:  866.242.1199
Email:  support@churchcommunitybuilder.com
Web:  www.churchcommunitybuilder.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,421
Number on Team:  121
Support:  7-6 Mountain
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Raiser’s Edge NXT/Financial Edge NXT
by Blackbaud
Phone:  404.323.0274
Email:  michael.blanton@blackbaud.com
Web:  www.blackbaud.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  20
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,050
Number on Team:  500
Support:  8-8 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Church MemberLink
by CAA Software, Inc.
Phone:  706.864.4055
Email:  support@caasoftware.com
Web:  www.churchmemberlink.com
Company Founded in 2005
Years Marketing ChMS:  3
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  60
Number on Team:  2
Support:  9-5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Realm
by ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  info@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  39
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  5,000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  8-5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  23

Church Windows Software
by Computer Helper Publishing
Phone:  800.533.5227
Email:  sales@churchwindows.com
Web:  www.churchwindows.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  30
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  12,000
Number on Team:  25
Support:  9-6 Eastern, 9-5 Fri
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2016
Updates per Year:  3

Roll Call
by By the Book
Phone:  800.554.9116
Email:  info@bythebook.com
Web:  www.bythebook.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  25
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,600
Number on Team:  6
Support:  8-5 Central; 7-1 Sun
Last Major Release:  Dec, 2016
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Church360°
by Concordia Publishing House
Phone:  800.325.2399
Email:  softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web:  www.church360.org
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,100
Number on Team:  25
Support:  7:30-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Seraphim Office
by Seraphim Software
Phone:  855.681.6160
Email:  sales@seraphimsoftware.com
Web:  www.seraphimsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2012
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  300
Number on Team:  20
Support:  8-4 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Quarterly

Churchteams
by Churchteams.com, Inc.
Phone:  817.405.9750
Email:  info@churchteams.com
Web:  www.churchteams.com
Company Founded in 2001
Years Marketing ChMS:  9
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  900
Number on Team:  8
Support:  8:30-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Servant Keeper
by Servant PC Resources Inc.
Phone:  800.773.7570
Email:  sales@servantpc.com
Web:  www.servantpc.com
Company Founded in 1994
Years Marketing ChMS:  23
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  30,000
Number on Team:  30
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Feb, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

ChurchTrac Online
by ChurchTrac Software, Inc.
Phone:  877.704.0222
Email:  support@churchtrac.com
Web:  www.churchtrac.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  13
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  7,500
Number on Team:  7
Support:  8-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Shelby Arena
by Shelby Systems, Inc. (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  640
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7-6 Central
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

COMS for Windows
by Specialty Software
Phone:  800.568.6350
Email:  sales@specialtysoftware.com
Web:  www.specialtysoftware.com
Company Founded in 1982
Years Marketing ChMS:  35
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,800
Number on Team:  6
Support:  9-5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

Shelby v5
by Shelby Systems, Inc. (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  42
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8,400
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7-6 Central
Last Major Release:  Jul, 2017
Updates per Year:  2

ConnectNow
by ParishSoft (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  866.930.4774 x131
Email:  parishsoftsales@parishsoft.com
Web:  www.parishsoft.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  11,673
Number on Team:  78
Support:  8-8 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

ShelbyNext
by Shelby Systems, Inc. (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  42
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,500
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7-6 Central
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Donarius® Church Management Software
by Nuverb Systems Inc
Phone:  888.479.4636
Email:  question@nuverb.com
Web:  www.donarius.com
Company Founded in 1993
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2,300
Number on Team:  1
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Apr, 2017
Updates per Year:  20

Shepherd’s Staff
by Concordia Publishing House
Phone:  800.325.2399
Email:  softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web:  www.shepherdsstaff.org
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing ChMS:  24
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3,400
Number on Team:  25
Support:  7:30-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Quarterly

Excellerate Church Management
by Micro System Design
Phone:  888.371.6878
Email:  info@excellerate.com
Web:  www.excellerate.com
Company Founded in 1989
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2,473
Number on Team:  2
Support:  9-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Feb, 2017
Updates per Year:  12

SimpleChurchCRM
by SimpleChurch LLC (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  866.392.1744
Email:  sales@simplechurchcrm.com
Web:  simplechurchcrm.com
Company Founded in 2010
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3,335
Number on Team:  25
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  25

Faithful Steward
by Diakonia
Phone:  800.325.6642
Email:  info@faithfulsteward.com
Web:  www.church-software.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  23
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,085
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Apr, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Software4Nonprofits
by Cooperstock Software
Phone:  416.423.7722
Email:  info@software4nonprofits.com
Web:  www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,500
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9-9 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  6

FellowshipOne
by FellowshipOne (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  844.459.8525
Email:  sales@fellowshipone.com
Web:  www.fellowshipone.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  13
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,000
Number on Team:  60
Support:  7-7 Central
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

The City
by ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9-8 Eastern, 9-6 Fri
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

Fresh Vine
by Fresh Vine
Phone:  888.708.1905
Email:  contact@freshvine.co
Web:  https://freshvine.co
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  6
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  330
Number on Team:  3
Support:  10-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Mar, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

TouchPoint Software
by Pursuant
Phone:  901.654.5750
Email:  andrew.triplett@touchpointsoftware.com
Web:  www.touchpointsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  300
Number on Team:  15
Support:  8-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  12

IconCMO
by Icon Systems
Phone:  800.596.4266
Email:  sales@iconcmo.com
Web:  www.iconcmo.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  16
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,500
Number on Team:  12
Support:  8-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Jun, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Web Church Connect
by Web Church Connect
Phone:  800.516.7800
Email:  info@webchurchconnect.com
Web:  www.webchurchconnect.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  6
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  863
Number on Team:  6
Support:  7-5 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2016
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web 

 

Helpful Computer Hacks

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

I grew up in an age when a ‘hack’ was someone who was incompetent. In those days there were no personal computers or mobile devices. Now everyone has access to multiple computers and various mobile devices. And wouldn’t you know it– ‘hack’ has a new meaning! Today a hack can be a clever way to get things done well.

Following are some hacks that can really help improve your efficiency on a computer!

Hacks for Computer Users
The following hacks are especially helpful for computer users.

Keyboard shortcuts. In today’s world of Windows and Mac operating systems we have become dependent on pointing devices. Granted, those devices are very helpful. But before these current operating systems, we used keyboard combinations to do some of what we now do with a mouse or track pad. Those keyboard shortcuts are still available to use, and they can save time! Here are six I still use often:

Function

Windows

Mac

Print

Ctrl + p

⌘ + p

Copy

Ctrl + c

⌘ + c

Cut

Ctrl + x

⌘ + x

Paste

Ctrl + v

⌘ + v

Italics

Ctrl + i

⌘ + i

Bold

Ctrl + b

⌘ + b

Multiple Monitors/ Displays. For those who’ve always used one monitor or display, having two or may three seem excessive. But the increase in productivity with two or three is surprising! I always recommend at least two now; the cost is minimal and the benefits are significant! My desk is configured with three: the one on my left always has Outlook running on it, the one in the middle is where I do most of my work, and the one on my right is for research references (browser, database, etc). I also find it helpful when opening large spreadsheets to stretch them across my middle and right displays!

Recurring Tasks. We all have them: recurring deadlines that are due every Wednesday, once a month, quarterly, etc. I use Outlook’s task functionality to set the reminders I need to help me hit my deadlines. This is one of the most helpful and least used tools available. I also use Outlook tasks to remind me to do things I’ve promised to do, helping me avoid them falling through the cracks of my active schedule.

Managing Email. Email consumes a larger part of our days than most of us want. I have three email hacks that help me stay focused and efficient, even though my average daily email count is well over 100.

  • Inbox. I keep my Inbox as empty as possible so I don’t waste time reading the same emails over and over. When an email comes in I either respond and then delete the original (a copy of the original is in my response!), put a flag (due date) of when I want to respond by and drag it to a subfolder based on the type of email it is (personal, business, etc), or delete it if it’s one I don’t care about (like an ad).
  • Sent Items. Once I send an email I delete it unless I need a reminder that I’m waiting for a response or it was a topic that could have legal ramifications (if it was, I make a PDF copy and store it).
  • Trash. I empty my trash at the end of every day. In the rare case that I need to find something I deleted, I log into our email server via browser (using Outlook Web Access), search deleted files, and restore it.

Automatic Backup. I always feel bad for someone who says a hard drive crashed and they lost all of their files, including photos that were irreplaceable. Losing important files is painful. There are many cloud services available to consumers that will automatically back up files to their cloud servers. There are also utilities in the Windows and Mac operating systems that will automatically back up files to an external drive.

Hacks for IT Professionals
The following hacks are especially helpful for IT professionals.

System setup checklists. As IT pros, we often set up new systems. If the process isn’t automated, I recommend creating a checklist to help achieve standardization. In addition to improving setup consistency, checklists save time because you don’t need to review your work to determine what you’ve already done after an interruption.

Professional Relationships. It’s so helpful to build friendships with people you can turn to when a challenge comes up that stumps you! Those ‘lifeline’ calls can save so much time! The best professional organization I’ve found for those in church and ministry IT is The Church IT Network (http://churchitnetwork.com). They have a low-cost annual gathering in the Fall, and low-cost regional gatherings in the Spring.

Monthly Backup Test. Set a task in Outlook to test your backup monthly. A good test is to restore a file or folder structure and then open the file(s) to verify the backups you’re relying on are good.

Those are some hacks that can really help!

Don’t Become a Cybercrime Victim

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
Ministry Business Services, Inc. President
Reprinted from inSIGHT

The most current stats published by the FBI (2015 via ic3.gov) show they received nearly 290,000 cybercrime complaints that year, with an associated loss of $1.1 billion! At the time of this writing a new ransomware called WannaCry (aka WannaCrypt) is infecting computers worldwide. Are you and your data safe? What do you need to do– and not do– to be safe?

Age Groups Affected
The two age groups most impacted by cybercrime are ages 20-39, and ages 40-59, and both of those groups are about evenly split. Together they account for 80% of cybercrime victims in the U.S. Thatmakes sense when you figure that those under 20 (4% of victims) don’t have much to spend online, and of those over 60 (16% of victims), only a portion of those are heavy computer users. So, what the stats seem to say is that if you use a computer, you are equally at risk no matter what your age is.

How Do Cybercrime Infections Happen?
Most cybercrime happens one of two ways:

  1. Via Email. An email appears in your inbox that has a link, graphics, or a form to complete, or may appear to be from someone you know (known as spear phishing).
  2. Via Infected Websites. Websites, even those that are legitimate, can be infected with malware easily if their hosts are not keeping up with security patches and strategies. Criminals can buy inexpensive ‘crimekits’ that look for and infect vulnerable websites. We’ve even seen that happen to church and ministry websites!

How to Protect Yourself and Your Data
Let’s address this in the two categories of email and websites.

  1. Via Email. There are a number of things you can do and are best not to do to help in this area:
    • Make certain your email is scanned by a capable SPAM filter to help minimize the number of dangerous emails that get to your inbox. I say minimize because some will still get through even the best SPAM filter; those are often referred to as zero hour emails. Zero hour emails are newly introduced methods and strategies that have not yet been identified as a pattern of dangerous email.

      Our firm prefers Barracuda SPAM filters. We even tested Microsoft’s O365 SPAM filtering solution, and found that it let many more unwanted emails through than the Barracuda– especially­ from other O365 email accounts.

    • The FBI warns as follows:
      • Do not click links in emails. I modify their warning, that you can click only if you first hover your mouse over the link, which will show you where it wants to take you. If you’re not certain the destination is safe; do not click the link.
      • Never reply to senders you don’t know. This gets tricky, though, because the sender can be spoofed, as in spear phishing. If you want to reply to someone– even someone you know, look at the email address in the ‘To’ field when you’re composing your response to be certain that address is what you expected to see there before clicking ‘Send’.
      • Do not fill out forms in emails.
      • Do not open attachments in unsolicited email.
      • Be skeptical of those representing themselves as surviving victims or friends in need.
    • I add one more item to the FBI’s list. Immediately delete SPAM emails, and empty your deleted items daily.
  1. Via Infected Websites. I recommend two methods of protection in this area:
    • Use a good firewall to protect your entire system from dangerous content transmitted from websites. The better firewalls let you filter content, but for this discussion, the focus is on protecting your systems from malware. Typically there is a subscription from the firewall provider that must be kept current to protect you from newer methods and strategies.

      The firewalls my firm recommends are SonicWALL firewalls running their Total Secure subscription package. We find those to be the sweet spot of features, protection, and cost for churches and ministries.

      If you’re a consumer vs an organization, check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and confirm with them that they have all of the protections turned on in the modem or router they provided.

    • Use a capable anti-malware solution on your computers– whether Windows or Mac (yes, Macs get infected too, regardless of what many say). The solution my firm likes most is Thirtyseven4.com; it is capable and reasonably priced.

Finally, keep a history of total data backups to help you recover from an infection that somehow slips through. There are no total guarantees of protection, and having a history of backups available (we prefer a full month of daily backups to cover an infection that has an incubation period and doesn’t ‘go live’ and get noticed for awhile), you should be able to recover from any infection that happens.

What About WannaCry Ransomware?
WannaCry takes advantage of a Windows vulnerability that Microsoft patched months before the outbreak occurred for all their supported operating and network operating systems. That said, it is important to keep your systems and apps up to date regarding patches; many of the updates are security-related.

It appears WannaCry is gaining access to files from people responding to a spear phishing attack. Be cautious with the emails in your inbox!

If you are running an unsupported Microsoft operating system, like XP, Windows 8.x, or Server 2003, Microsoft recently released a patch you can manually download and apply to shore up the vulnerability WannaCry exploits. Here’s a link directly to Microsoft for help:

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/msrc/2017/05/12/customer-guidance-for-wannacrypt-attacks/.

Don’t become a victim of cybercrime! These are easy-to-implement strategies and disciplines that you, your staff, and your family can adopt. And there will likely come a time when you’ll be glad you did.

Mobile Devices, Apps, & Other Exciting Technologies

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Uncategorized

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

The world of computing is going through more changes, thanks to the cloud and its ability to make data–and access to it–pervasive. Anywhere and everywhere! How does a church or ministry decide what technologies to adopt? The answer is surprisingly Old School.

New & Exciting Technologies
There are so many new ways to access and process data! iPads and Androids are changing everything! Or they at least want to! Between those devices and our smartphones, it doesn’t seem like we need desktop and notebook computers anymore.

There are two issues worthy of addressing here: 1) the hardware, and 2) where our data is located in the cloud.

Hardware
Tablets are terrific tools, but are they the right tools for those jobs we are called to in The Church? For some jobs they are, but for some they aren’t. How can you tell which is correct for your organization?

My perspective is impacted by my degree and subsequent studies in management. That affects how I approach and strategically use technology. I told a member of our team recently that I like to manage as though I were a NASCAR driver: I want maximum RPMs and output, but I need to be equally focused on maintenance and care. With regards to maintenance, different members of the crew need different tools to get their job done (imagine giving the jackman’s jack to the engine tuner, or the engine tuner’s computer to the jackman!). This relates to the hardware options available today.

Depending on someone’s role, they may be best to use a tablet (iPad or Android) rather than having a desktop or notebook computer. This might be true for those who rarely work in accounting or databases, for example. Tablets are terrific for email, browsing, organizing thoughts in preparation to teach or lead a meeting, and so on.

Others, however, can only be efficient with a desktop or notebook computer. This might be true for those who work in accounting or databases, as well as graphic design and audio/video editing. Those roles need full keyboards, mice or trackpads, and monitors (displays in the Apple world). While it’s true that some of this work can be done on a tablet, the process will very likely take a big hit in efficiency. As those who want to hear “Well done” at the end of this earthly journey, good management means balancing efficiency with maintenance and care.

Data Location in The Cloud
The cloud is the vehicle driving us toward more use of tablets and smartphones to do the operational side of ministry. To be fair, some solutions have focused on creating very good and efficient apps to help us do more on those devices. But some solutions, like accounting systems and databases, are so large and intense that apps only access a subset of all that the computer version of the solutions have to offer.

There’s another issue that should be strategized when trusting our data to the cloud. The issue is the safety and availability of our data. The practical issue is whether our data will be available to us when we need it.

Let’s break this into two categories: how the data is available, and the safety of the data.

  • Churches and ministries function most efficiently and safely when certain kinds of data are sharable among members of a group or department. For instance, the children’s or youth department of a church may have multiple team members on staff, and those team members each need to access the same data. Their data needs to be in a shared folder. The administrative or human resource departments may have similar needs, but their data is sensitive and needs to be secure so that only the members of those departments can get to their data.

    It is important that whoever we’re entrusting the hosting of our data to can meet those sharable and security needs. There are some providers that can’t, and thus may not be good candidates to host our data.

  • Not all datacenters are created equal. The key issues are how they protect the data stored within their buildings (physical and technical security), and how redundant the necessary systems are to ensure uptime. The redundancy is the easiest to score. I created the following chart for my book, Church IT: Strategies and Solutions:

Tier
Rating

Redundancy

%
Uptime

Downtime

1

no redundancy (only one source of power, only one internet trunk, only one way to manage HVAC)

99.671%

up to 22.8 hours of downtime annually

2

partial redundancy

99.749%

up to 22 hours of downtime annually

3

full redundancy, a.k.a.
N+1 fault tolerance

99.982%

up to 1.6 hours of downtime annually

4

at least double redundancy, a.k.a. 2N+1 fault tolerance

99.995%

up to 26.3 minutes of downtime annually

I recommend only entrusting your data to a certified Tier 3 or Tier 4 datacenter. Anything less may mean you can’t get to your data when you need or want to. Remember, your busiest day of the week is when many others might schedule maintenance!

There are so many exciting technologies we can use today! Good management means getting optimal output from our team members, and that is dependent on providing them with the right tools based on their role in our organization.