Nebraska IT experts

How business owners can better prepare for 2021

Nebraska IT experts

 

Evaluating Policies, Procedures and Systems to Be Better Prepared in 2021
Applied Connective offers business owners recommendations, predictions for the coming year

Albion, Neb. – (FEB 2021)   The events of 2020 forced business owners to make significant changes rapidly, particularly when it came to supporting employees working remotely. This put many businesses into reactive mode, making decisions just to get by rather than thinking long term. In an effort to pivot into proactive mode and position themselves for a smoother year in 2021, business owners need to evaluate their internal policies, procedures and technology systems.

Applied Connective Technologies, headquartered in Albion, Neb., with offices in Norfolk and Columbus, has a unique vantage point into their partners’ business operations as a managed technology service provider. They met with a number of Nebraska-based businesses in recent months for lunch planning sessions to discuss pain points, evaluate current technology systems and provide recommendations accordingly.

“Monitoring and managing the inner workings of our partners’ business operations provides us unique insight into what works best,” says Ed Knott, owner of Applied Connective. “After working with hundreds of businesses, SMBs, hospitals, schools and county governments, we’ve developed a pretty keen understanding of what solutions are vital for businesses in this, as they say, ‘new normal.’

He continues, “It was a difficult year for everyone. We hated to see otherwise successful businesses struggling because they didn’t have the right tools. So we wanted to meet with our own partners to see how we could help. We discussed what they’re currently doing, how to adapt if needed and what to anticipate in the year ahead and then offered recommendations based on our insights as well as trends in 2021.”

In these virtual and in-person meetings, the framework of the conversation was based around these pillars:

  • Evaluate and develop policies and procedures related to supporting a remote work force; then set up a clear communication plan to employees.
  • Set expectations on how remote workforce effectiveness will be evaluated.
  • Discuss and address the business’s cyber security posture and identify practices to mitigate risk.
  • Ensure the business has the right systems, processes and technologies to successfully support its remote workers.
  • Determine a transition plan to ensure the business is set up for the long term.

“We took Applied Connective up on their offer to sit down and discuss 2021,” says Genoa Community Bank IT Officer Julie Connelly. “We discussed a few of the hurdles we faced (and lingering problems we continue to face) as a team due to Covid. Ed, Will and Jarod noted some areas of vulnerability, identified a few redundant tools we could consolidate to save money and walked us through a few tweaks to help us get more out of our technologies. They also offered some ideas on how to shore up our cyber security, especially while this pandemic has increased the number of scams.”

 

For business owners looking for guidance on technology platforms that offer great value and resolve many common pain points, Applied Connective experts outline a few top options along with some additional security tips.

Struggling with security?
“When businesses have employees accessing company resources, such as servers, from personal computers and unknown networks, it can present real security risks,” says Applied Connective IT expert Jarod Dendinger. “Cyber threats such as malware, ransomware and data breaches are running rampant and on the rise, impacting numerous businesses in our area and resulting in downtime and lost profits. Every environment is unique and may require a non-traditional approach to ensure it is secure, but typically best practices will still apply no matter your size or needs. For our needs, we leverage Microsoft Azure, partner with a Security Operations Center (SOC), and use a Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) agent at Applied Connective, but there are different options available to meet your unique needs.

“Regardless of a business’s size, it can be said across the board that business owners absolutely must focus on gateway security and endpoint protection,” Dendinger stresses. “In today’s environment it is extremely important that your team has at least some degree of cyber security awareness training.

“We always want to be sure we’re reinforcing the basics: Make sure every one of your team members understands how to use multi-factor authentication (MFA), a virtual private network (VPN) and a reputable password manager. Do not neglect software updates, do not conduct business on public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks and do not click or engage with suspicious emails. These are simple but critical standards for your team to uphold in order to protect your business from cyber threats.”

Struggling with communication?
ACT Voice Manager Will Zoucha says, “Mobile phones are great, but get the most out of them by integrating a solution that allows for greater accountability and transparency.” Working with phones for 10+ years, Will knows what works for connecting a mobile workforce and is impressed with a few front-runners for such a scenario. “We recommend finding a cloud-based platform that’s robust, user friendly, and mobile, like Zultys. It’s great because of its per-user pricing and simple mobile integration that ensures your entire team is reachable any time from anywhere. With the mobile app, the whole team can stay connected, chat, file share, and see who’s online, and the ability to leverage status updates leaves no excuse to miss one another.”

Struggling to stay connected with the team and collaborate securely?
Knott weighs in, “This is the big one. Every business has had to navigate this problem.” He punctuates the point adding, “On top of feeling disconnected due to distance, radio silence from the team can really make productivity plummet. We highly recommend a team collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams. In fact, we’ve used it ourselves every single day for years to connect our workforce, since we have employees working on various job sites and from different offices daily.

“Teams has allowed us to communicate (instant message within channels, divide into smaller group chats, jump on a quick video call), collaborate on projects without skipping a beat (secure file sharing, real-time document editing) and calendar share (create meetings, join conference calls, and share schedules). It’s the central hub of communication for our organization.”

Struggling to stay on the same page?
Applied Connective Operations Manager Brigitte Burbach offers her expertise. “When your team is unclear on expectations or a plan hasn’t been laid out, your business experiences needless (and costly) downtime while ill-equipped employees attempt to get back online. Establish clear but comprehensive policies and procedures, accounting for all possible scenarios, and walk through them with the team. At bare minimum, you should identify your essential personnel and ensure they have the equipment they need, e.g., PC or laptop, docking station and monitors, cloud-based phone solution, a VPN. If you’d like some assistance in developing your policies and procedures to set your team up for success, we’re just a phone call away.

Applied Connective launches cloud-based file storage program to enhance business collaboration, security and simplicity

COLUMBUS, NE – Applied Connective, a leader in unified communications, has launched  a cloud-based file syncing and storage program in order to enhance business productivity for their small to medium-sized customers. This program’s overarching goal is to streamline daily operations for their customers and enable businesses to collaborate, share, and securely backup business critical files. In recent years, businesses have witnessed the profound flexibility of cloud-based technology and nearly every application has become cloud-friendly. Data storage is a natural fit for this environment and today, Applied Connective is proud to announce their new development.

In essence, this program is about ease of collaboration. As businesses grow from small teams to larger organizations, there is a growing need to communicate and collaborate effectively. The problem that central data storage solves is that it gives everyone on the team the ability to immediately retrieve, backup and share mission-critical files in realtime. Salespeople no longer need to wait around for support staff to send them follow-up files for customer contact. Managers can instantly access subordinate data in order to make sure that work is getting accomplished. In sum, everyone can get what they need, when they need it, wherever they are, without having to wait on other people. 

When evaluating cloud-based data storage services, two primary concerns for businesses are security and ease-of-use. One of the pioneers of cloud-based data storage, Dropbox.com, is clearly a simple-to-use solution, yet they lack in security. According to Business Insider, “Nearly 7 million Dropbox usernames and passwords have been hacked, apparently via third-party services that hackers were able to strip the login information from.” This security breach has huge implications for other off-the-shelf data solutions in that they lack the foundational feature of data storage technology; it must keep your company data safe. This is exactly why Applied Connective is actively educating their customers on this type of technology and why they feel compelled to stress the importance of encryption for data to reside safely behind.

The second key factor is to examine a solution’s simplicity and ease-of-use. With many providers data storage can be set up at a secure physical location and a central file repository can work well within the confines of an office. Unfortunately, this falls short for the “71 percent of businesses who require technology that enables their staff to work anywhere, at any time.” Solutions that are cloud-based and work independently of employee location are clearly superior. “It’s become quite clear to us how valuable collaboration is to the health of a business in today’s marketplace,” stated Ed Knott, president of Applied Connective. “Today’s businesses cannot afford to have staff waiting around, in order to get access to the tools they need, so they can do the job. And that’s what we’re focused on. We’re thrilled to finally have a secure, unifying collaboration tool that we can put in the hands of our customers. We’re very excited to release this solution.”

Nebraska IT group does Secret Santas

Applied Connective in the business of “making spirits bright” during these hard times

Albion, Neb. – (DEC 2020)  Applied Connective Technologies, Albion-, Norfolk- and Columbus-based IT group, got in the spirit of giving for their third consecutive year teaming up with local nursing homes on a Secret Santa gifting spree.

For most, 2020 was difficult. For some, it was devastating. The elderly is a population that immediately comes to mind. For each of the past three years, the team at Applied Connective has worked with local nursing home activities directors to collect the wish lists of each and every resident at Good Samaritan Wolf Memorial in Albion and Mid-Nebraska Lutheran Home in Newman Grove. Through assisted craft time, residents write their wish lists on handmade ornaments, which are then picked up by Applied Connective and hung on the Christmas tree that twinkles in their Albion office lobby. Participating ACT employees select one or several residents’ wish lists and enjoy shopping for them throughout the season.

On a normal year, employees of Applied Connective (and their children) would deliver the gifts personally to their assigned residents on the day of the nursing homes’ respective Christmas parties. However, with Covid restrictions this year, a contact-less drop-off was necessary.

 

Nebraska IT group does Secret Santas

 

“We love this tradition,” says Applied Connective IT Service Desk Manager Sara Rasmussen, who plays a critical role in facilitating the annual gifting spree. “The holidays are a time of great joy for many, but they can be a time of aching loneliness for many others. While we know we’re incredibly fortunate to have such wonderful nursing home facilities in the area, most nursing home residents have still oftentimes survived many of their loved ones and have lost a great deal of their independence and, therefore, their holiday traditions. We want to bring some of that joy back into the holidays and remind these seniors that they are remembered and cherished.

“This year especially, we recognize how irreplaceable human connection is. And with residents having endured months of isolation, we felt it was more important than ever before to connect with these lovely people. After all, many of them have spent decades being ‘Santa Claus’ for their own families.”

Team Jack radiothon powered by Applied Connective

Team Jack Radiothon Raises $100,000 and Counting for Childhood Brain Cancer Research

Team Jack radiothon powered by Applied Connective

 

Article & photo from: The Lexington Clipper-Herald

Elwood, NE – The 8th Annual Team Jack Foundation Radiothon was held on Thursday, August 27. This was the second year in a row that the Radiothon was hosted by presenting sponsor, Jim & Sharri Baldonado family and The Home Agency, at their home office in Elwood, Nebraska.

Hosting an event during a pandemic makes the anticipated results uncertain at best. However, while the world struggles with COVID, children are still being diagnosed and treated for brain cancer with some dying from the disease. The Team Jack Foundation is committed to funding research for better treatments for kids, so hosting the radiothon which is a low-traffic event was never a question.

Kylie Dockter, the Executive Director of the Team Jack Foundation, said, “We are so thankful that at a time of uncertainty so many people were willing to support the radiothon. The generosity of our sponsors and our supporters is truly amazing. On behalf of the Team Jack Foundation and families fighting child brain cancer, thank you for continuing to help us push forward in the fight.”

The eleven-hour broadcast day, hosted by Kevin Thomas and several guest hosts, was filled with over 30 interviews with families affected by child brain cancer as well as celebrities that are advocates for the disease. Kevin Thomas invests countless hours into interviewing, producing and hosting the event. Kevin was recognized for his efforts at the 2020 Team Jack Gala when he was awarded the Team Jack 2019 Teammate of the Year Award.

Donations were received via the phone bank powered by Applied Connective and staffed by The Home Agency team as well as online throughout the day. At the end of the day, over $100,000 was raised with donations continuing to come in.

In addition to the normal activities of the annual radiothon, Jim and Sharri Baldonado family and The Home Agency also sponsored a $25,000 giveaway contest. Tickets are still being sold for a $1,000 pledge to Team Jack, with only 100 tickets total. Once all the tickets have been sold, a winner will be drawn and win the $25,000! Nearly 45 tickets were sold on the day of the event and the Foundation will work to sell the remainder during September, which is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. While the lucky winner will receive $25,000, the Team Jack Foundation will raise $100,000 to put toward impactful childhood brain cancer research!

Holding the event in the small town of Elwood, Nebraska has been a fantastic experience the past two years. Community groups and businesses pitched in and held fundraisers of their own to contribute toward the proceeds of the radiothon. The Elwood Senior Center set up on site and sold root beer floats and the Elwood Hometown Cooperative Market held a raffle while the community banded together to host a bake sale. Free lunch was offered on site to any donations received in-person. The generosity of the Elwood community and surrounding towns is second to none.

Donations are still being accepted as well as tickets being sold for the $25,000 prize. To donate or get a ticket, visit www.teamjackfoundation.org/2020radiothon.

 

Thank you to the following: The Home Agency, Jim & Sharri Baldonado family, Applied Connective Technologies, KLIN, the New 94Rock (live stream), Broadcast House Media|NRG Media, Husker Sports Network, Jack Mitchell, Mookie in the Morning, Brandon Benitiz, Omaha Scheels, Cooper & Co., Think Whole Person Healthcare, Lincoln Scheels, Traeger, Fleet Feet Lincoln Omaha, Steakmaster, Cast Iron Bar & Grille, and Plum Creek Market Place. Lastly, a special thank you to the many businesses and individuals who donated in support of the event and to the families for sharing their stories!

It’s Music to the Ears for the Fullerton Football/Track Complex

By Dr. Jeff Anderson

Wednesday, July 18, 2020 (FULLERTON, NEBR) – If you have heard some great tunes coming from the Fullerton football/track complex in recent weeks, it has been a sampling and testing of the new sound system installed this summer. Due to a need to deal with a failing and outdated sound system at the complex, an effort was put forth to make improvements. That effort was assisted by some incredible local support making the project a reality.

The project was put into action under the direction of the Fullerton School Board.

Dr. Jeff Anderson, superintendent of Fullerton Public Schools, worked with representatives from Applied Connective Technologies to design a quality sound system that would allow for both the playing of music and produce a quality speaking sound. The system was created and then proposed at a cost of $14,657.

While the school district had limited funds available for such a project, Dr. Anderson reached out to the Fullerton Track Committee (through Kurt Pickrel) that proceeded to donate $5,000. Next, the Fullerton Booster Club (through Shelli Horacek) was approached. The Boosters contributed $7,000. A Margaret Russell Grant submitted by Dr. Anderson covered the remaining $2,657.

In weeks to come, we will continue to work with the system’s features that include both Bluetooth capability and wireless microphones. A sincere “thank you” goes out to the Fullerton Booster Club, Fullerton Track Committee, the representatives of the Margaret Russell Grant and all those connected with the generous donations to those entities making the funds possible. A big “thank you” also goes out to Ryan Robinson and the crew from Applied Connective Technologies for designing and installing the new system. This is, once again, a project that resulted from amazing contributions, support and efforts.

Applied Connective donates to Fullerton Food Pantry

On Thursday, July 2nd, staff from local IT company Applied Connective Technologies (Albion, Columbus) non-perishable goods to the Fullerton Food Pantry. This marks the third year the company has worked with Terri Larsen to deliver a sizable donation.

As part of their Philanthropy Program, which encourages employees to get involved in charitable causes in their communities, each June, the group divides into teams and competes to collect the most items—canned foods, boxed meals, household supplies, and other shelf stable goods—to donate to local food pantries.

This year’s competition theme was WWE, and teams got in the spirit by inventing on-brand team names (like The Bulk Hogans, Stone Cold Steve Awesome, The Piledrivers, and The People’s Elbow Macaroni) and “fighting” to donate the most items.

Staff members say they were able to fill two vans and one pickup full of items and divvied up the collection between the Fullerton, Boone County and Platte County food pantries, communities in which most of their employees reside.

Ed Knott selected as part of TAG Technology Advisory Council

PUBLISHED BY TAG NATIONAL:

Introducing TAG’s Technology Advisory Council (TAC)

TAG is excited to introduce our Technology Advisory Council (TAC).

We recently shared TAC on our team video conferencing calls and would like to send it out to those of you that may have missed this announcement. TAC’s Mission is to…

  1. Identify new technology trends that affect our Members’ customer base
  2. Identify new vendors that are disrupting the market
  3. Test and pilot new technology vendors to ensure technology meets requirements of our Members
  4. Establish strategic partnerships with TAG Member Advantages
    Meet the Team

 

Ed Knott, Owner of Applied Connective Technologies
(866) 358-0109 x201
eknott@appliedconnective.com

Applied Connective’s new headquarters has ‘wow factor’

After starting as a small company 15 years ago, Applied Connective Technologies reached another milestone recently by moving into a newly remodeled headquarters building in Albion.
Since late November, the company has been operating from the former Shopko at 2585 State Highway 14. The building was purchased last June, and remodeling started soon afterward.
One of the finishing touches, a new sign on the building front, was added just last week. An open house will likely be held in May of 2020.
Visitors to the new headquarters will find an industrial chic decor, featuring an open ceiling with exposed duct work, hanging lights, and a large open 9,000 square foot office area that emphasizes collaboration. Floors are a combination of polished concrete and industrial carpet tile.
Several of the executive offices feature roll-up windows. There is a large conference room near the front entry, and a commons area with kitchen for employees and clients.
First to catch the eye is the large entry area featuring the company’s three-dimensional metallic logo and etched glass side windows. The same decor is used throughout the office area.
The building’s rear (south) portion contains parking for 10 to 12 company vehicles, with racks for tools and equipment. Along the west side of the rear portion is a large storage area for inventory.
Applied Connective Technologies started in May of 2004 with Knott and Tom Krings as co-owners, serving the Boone County area primarily with IT and communications. Tom retired in 2015 and Ed took over sole ownership.
The company has grown gradually since then, and now has 24 total employees. This includes 20 in Albion and two in Columbus.
Ed said the company’s primary service area now extends to a 120-mile radius from Albion. They also serve customers as far west as Valentine, east into Iowa, and north into South Dakota.
Applied Connective currently has three main divisions. One is information technology (IT), which includes most anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software and the Internet. Another division is infrastructure and security, which includes security cameras and systems, cabling and wireless systems. A third division is telephone systems and related services.
The company has seen a large increase in demand for high-speed wireless Internet, which it also provides in the Albion and many other area communities.

Article published December 17, 2019, in Albion News Online.

Applied Connective staff donates to Boone County Health Center’s Look Good, Feel Better CancerCare program

Pictured above is Applied Connective President Ed Knott, along with Sara Rasmussen, presenting gas gift cards to Aprill Murphy, Foundation Director/Marketing Coordinator at Boone County Health Center. Rasmussen donates her time and services helping patients with their hair and makeup through the CancerCare program.

ALBION, Nebraska (November 4, 2019) – Applied Connective staff got a jump start on the giving season this year with a donation to the Boone County Health Center’s CancerCare program.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Applied Connective held a company-wide fundraiser this October selling pink t-shirts depicting the breast cancer awareness message “proud to wear pink.” With costs of the t-shirts covered by Applied Connective Owner Ed Knott, 100% of the proceeds from staff purchases went into a pot to be donated to the CancerCare program. Staff decided to use half of the proceeds to purchase gas cards for local cancer patients who need to travel for treatment and the other half to be given as a cash donation to the CareCare program.

 

A portion of the funds was also used to purchase a mirror for the CancerCare program’s Look Good, Feel Better program at Boone County Health Center.

The Look Good, Feel Better program gives cancer patients free access to Professional Cosmetologist Sara Rasmussen, who offers makeup application tips and techniques to help with skin changes during cancer treatment. Rasmussen is an employee at Applied Connective and has been volunteering for Look Good, Feel Better since the program’s start in 2012.

“I’m proud of the work our staff does through volunteering and fundraising to help cancer patients at Boone County Health Cancer. Cancer is a tough diagnosis, and it’s important to support our local people any way we can,” said Knott.

The Look Good, Feel Better program also offers help with wig selection, fitting and care, as well as help with scarves and turbans through volunteer expert Sheila Leetch. Cancer patients also get tips to restore dry skin, nails and cuticles after treatment.

Look Good, Feel Better is free to all patients, and donations such as that of Applied Connective help keep the program strong.

###

Media Contact:
Aprill Murphy |402-395-3252 |foundation@boonecohealth.org

Applied Connective celebrates 15 years in business as company continues to evolve

ALBION, Nebr. – May 2019 – Applied Connective Technologies is celebrating their fifteenth year in business this month. Originally starting out as a two-man operation focused primarily on IT and communication solutions, Applied Connective has evolved tremendously in the decade and a half since their inception.

Today, the 23-employee business operates as a full-service MTSP, providing customers with expert managed IT, voice, cyber security, physical security, surveillance, audio/video and high-speed wireless Internet solutions. Coming off of what was their best year yet in 2018, the group is well on their way to a year of exciting new developments, bigger office spaces and even higher goals.

Following his college graduation in 2002, Ed Knott worked as an IT professional in Lincoln, Nebr., for a couple of years but was itching to escape the urban environment to settle down in a small town. At the same time, two hours away, Tom Krings, owner of Krings Communication, Inc., was in search of a business partner with technical experience. A mutual acquaintance, knowing both parties’ strengths and long-term aspirations, introduced the two in late 2003, and soon, Tom and Ed began making plans to join forces. Ed moved to Albion in April of 2004, and he and Krings established Applied Connective Technologies in May of that same year, enjoying 11 years of success together before Tom’s retirement in 2015.

“I owe a lot to Tom both as a former business partner and a mentor,” says Applied Connective co-founder and president Ed Knott.

Fast forward a few years, and a picture of Knott assembling a growing team of IT, infrastructure and technical specialists starts to take focus. Little by little, new talent joined the company, and their service offering blossomed from a small shop to a one-touchpoint contact for all of their customers’ technical needs. Due in large part to word of mouth reviews and references from their rapidly growing list of clients, the group has stayed extremely busy.

In the past two years, Applied Connective has seen its staff add ten more employees (and still hiring), one new office in Columbus (in addition to their Fullerton and Albion locations) and countless new customers from all over the Midwest. The group has been recognized twice for outstanding performance in the industry in 2018 and will be moving from their current main office into a new, much bigger office space in Albion before year-end.

“I grew up in a very small town,” says the Taylor, Nebr., native. “And I loved that kind of true Nebraska upbringing. You learn respect and hard work. You develop important character traits much more quickly, and you figure out how to work and interact with a wide range of personalities. Most of our employees are small-town natives themselves as well, so we’re passionate about serving our friends and neighbors in rural Nebraska and beyond. I attribute our success to the skill and dedication each of our employees brings to the table.”

Applied Connective may have some firmly planted roots, but they’re also extremely mobile. Billed as the “technology group that goes the extra mile” on their website, the group certainly travels far and wide to deliver that “Nebraskan” level of personal service to their customers. As if to serve as a metaphor for the company’s evolution—starting in a singular space and expanding into multiple areas—company vehicles take off every day from headquarters in separate directions bound for consultations, on-site work, customer training and installations.

“On a given day, the majority of us typically start out in the Albion office, and within about half an hour, we disperse and scatter. By mid-morning, there aren’t too many bodies left in the office. Everybody’s out delivering personal service.”

In Applied Connective’s early years, customers were mostly localized to Boone County. Today, the company serves customers from Albion to Valentine and Yankton to Utica. And while most of the services they provide are geared toward businesses and organizations, they’ve also found an unexpected niche in providing high-speed wireless Internet to residential customers.

“High-speed wireless Internet certainly didn’t start our as our flagship service here,” mentions Knott. “But high demand in rural communities that have been neglected by larger service providers has kept us busy with installations. We now bring high-speed wireless to hundreds of households from Atkinson to Newman Grove, Albion to Duncan and Fullerton to Petersburg.”

At this 15-year milestone, Knott looks back on all the growth and change they’ve enjoyed but marks the importance of focusing on the future. “I am very grateful for the incredible customers we have and the talented, hard-working group we’ve assembled here at Applied. It’s a dream to be able to live and raise my family here in small-town Nebraska doing what I love,” he reflects.

“I’m very proud of where we’ve come from as a business, but I’m even more excited about where we’re going this year and beyond. We may have had a record year last year, but now our sights are even higher.”