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Webucator's Free Virtual Communications for Managers Tutorial

Lesson: Media Issues

Welcome to our free Virtual Communications for Managers tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Virtual Communications for Managers course.

Understanding communication and selecting the right media for a specific conversation are only two of the issues that a manager needs to address when communicating virtually. When communicating using any form of mediated communication, there's a likelihood that technical problems will take place. Let's look at some of these issues and how to overcome them.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn how to overcome issues, including:
    1. Transmission issues.
    2. Compatibility issues.
  • Learn how to resolve and prevent problems with:
    1. Backups.
    2. Malware protection.
    3. A backup plan.

Overcoming Transmission Issues

Transmission issues include anything that interferes with the sending or receiving of messages. The primary causes of transmission problems include:

  1. The inability to make a connection.
  2. Low bandwidth.
  3. Interference.

Making a Connection

In many situations, the inability to make a connection is due to things outside of our control, such as:

  1. Broken lines.
  2. Weather.
  3. Server issues.

These issues require contact with the providers and patience. If service will not be restored soon, reschedule the communications or select an alternative method.

There are things within our control that can be addressed immediately. They include:

  1. An incorrect email address.
  2. A wrong phone number.
  3. A typo in the website URL.
  4. A wrong login or password.

Double check all entered data and make certain it is correct. Then try connecting or resending again.

Some connection issues are caused by cached web pages. This problem can be rectified by going to the browser's tool menu and emptying the cache.

When a connection problem is with an email, you will get a "mail daemon," which is a return message letting you know that the email did not go through. Read the daemon carefully, because it will tell you why the message failed. The most common reasons include:

  1. The email address does not have a mailbox. (The email address is probably typed incorrectly.)
  2. The mailbox is full. (The other person needs to clean out old emails.)
  3. The message is too large. In this situation you may:
    1. Split the images between multiple emails.
    2. Reduce the size of the attachments.
    3. Use an alternative method for delivering documents, such as a web-based file sharing program.

Bandwidth and Interference Issues

Once a connection has been made, you may experience issues with the quality of the connection. The problem may be with a local machine or device, with the server, or with the network.

Bandwidth issues or interference are recognized by:

  1. Silence.
  2. Twanging sounds.
  3. Static.
  4. Choppy audio or video.
  5. Frozen presentations.
  6. Dropped signals.

When these things occur:

  1. Close all other applications.
  2. Lower the video quality to reduce drain on resources.
  3. Use audio only and shut down video.
  4. Move to another location with a stronger signals.
  5. Restart the meeting or conversation and reconnect.

If the issue continues and you are unable to resolve the problem, you may choose to postpone the meeting or conversation. Another option might be to switch to an alternative communication method.

Some issues may be caused by the web browser or the browser's plugins. Plug-ins are add-on applications that provide greater functionality. When experiencing communication issues while using web-based applications:

  1. Close all other programs.
  2. Try different browsers.
  3. Update Java and other browser plug-ins.

Overcoming Transmission Issues

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Respond to the following questions about transmission issues.

  1. True or false:
    1. Some things are out of our control.
    2. Connection issues are commonly caused by typos.
    3. Twangy sounds means there is no connection.
    4. Separating images into multiple messages resolves interference issues.
    5. When experiencing problems in a web-based system, one should close all other applications.
  2. Which of the following messages are common when an email is not delivered?
    1. The email address does not have a mailbox.
    2. There is no recipient.
    3. The mailbox is full.
    4. The message is misspelled.
    5. The message is too large.

Solution:

    1. True
    2. True
    3. False
    4. False
    5. True
  1. A., C., and E.

Overcoming Compatibility Issues

When working with staff members through electronic means, all parties must be able to access the same information. Sometimes, however, the information cannot be accessed due to incompatibility issues. Incompatibility may be due to file formats or hardware.

File Formats

The most obvious incompatibility issue takes place when participants are using competing software, or different versions of the same software. The software may perform the same general function, but may not use the same file formats or protocols. Examples of competing software include:

  1. Microsoft's Office Suite and Lotus SmartSuite.
  2. Skype and Apple's FaceTime.
  3. iMac and PC computers.
  4. Apple iPhones and Android smart phones.
  5. Kindle and Nook readers.

In some cases, developers have provided bridges that overcome compatibility issues. For examples, Microsoft Word and Lotus Word Pro permit users to save files to mutual file formats, including PDF and RTF.

Version Issues

Version incompatibility happens when:

  1. An application no longer supports older file formats.
  2. An application is too old to support newer file formats.

Backward compatibility issues, or the inability to read older file formats, are rare because most applications support older file formats. An example of this is Microsoft Word. The newer versions of Word create files with the extension .docx. This newer version of Word can read the older .doc files, but older versions of Word cannot read the newer .docx files.

Hardware

Older hardware may not be able to handle the resource requirements of newer software. Many newer applications, particularly those that use video or high-resolution images, can overwhelm old systems.

Overcoming and Preventing Problems

Should a staff member not be able to read a document due to software or version incompatibilities:

  1. Save the document to an older version using the Save As feature.
  2. Have your staff member download a "viewer" that will allow him or her to read the document.
  3. Find an alternate format for the document. For example:
    1. A word processing document may be saved as:
      1. A PDF file, which can be read with Acrobat Reader.
      2. An RTF file, which can be read by most word processing applications.
    2. An Excel spreadsheet can be exported to a comma-delimited or tab-delimited file and imported into another spreadsheet program.
    3. A JPG file or other image file may be converted from one file format to another using a downloadable converter.
  4. Use an open source version of an application; for example, two free, open source office suites that communicate with Microsoft Office are:
    1. Open Office for PCs.
    2. Neo Office for Macs.

In situations in which older hardware, such as a computer or device, cannot perform the desired function:

  1. Eliminate non-essential media.
  2. Reduce resolutions of documents, images and videos.
  3. Find alternative communication media for resource-heavy objects.

Proactive planning can prevent problems. When preparing to communicate with others:

  1. Find out what software the participants are using and plan documents accordingly.
  2. Choose the "lowest common denominator" solution; the solution that works with the oldest technology.

Overcoming Compatibility Issues

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Fill in the missing words in the following sentences.

  1. When working with older software versions, you may experience problems with _____________ ______________.
  2. A downloaded ______________ lets a person read a document.
  3. Two alternative document file formats that provide easier sharing are ______________ and _____________.
  4. When working with varying levels of technology, choose the ______________ _____________ ____________________ solution.

Solution:

  1. When working with older software versions, you may experience problems with backward compatibility.
  2. A downloaded viewer lets a person read a document.
  3. Two alternative file formats that provide easier sharing are PDF and RTF.
  4. When working with varying levels of technology, choose the lowest common denominator solution.

Transmission and Compatibility Issues - Personal Application

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes.

Respond to the following questions about transmission and compatibility issues as they relate to your work team.

  1. Do all of your staff have access to the same level of technology? If not,:
    1. Does it present a problem?
    2. What can you do proactively to avoid the problem?
    3. What is your "Plan B"?
  2. Sometimes the only difference in technology among remote workers is the quality of connectivity. Do you have varying connectivity issues within your team?
    1. Does it present a problem?
    2. What can you do proactively to avoid problems?
    3. What is your "Plan B"?
  3. Think of a time when you experienced compatibility issues.
    1. How was it resolved?
    2. Knowing what you know now, list any other options you might have had.

Backups

Backups provide a copy of a system, program, or data so that, should anything happen, the system can be restored with minimal loss. Managers and staff should protect their data so that the company does not lose valuable information or time reconstructing work.

Backups protect a person from consequences related to:

  1. Corrupted files.
  2. Files that are accidentally deleted.
  3. Dying computer hard drives.
  4. Data that has become inaccessible.
  5. Phones, tablets, and laptops that are lost, stolen, or broken.

There are different types of backups. They include:

  1. Full system backups that include everything on the hard drive.
  2. Partial backups that include only that data that changed since the previous backup.
  3. Data backups that include only data of a specified type or in specified locations.

Backups can be performed on any storage device, including

  1. Servers.
  2. Workstations.
  3. Thumb drives.
  4. Phones.

Backups should be kept in locations that are accessible. Many backups are kept on:

  1. Company backup servers.
  2. Portable hard drives.
  3. "Cloud" servers.
  4. Peripherals and portable media, such as thumb drives.
  5. Peer-to-peer data sharing systems.

Peer-to-peer systems store copies of shared data on multiple workstations. If one computer loses the data, it can be retrieved upon connection with a team computer.

The choice of backup types and backup locations may be dictated by company IT policies. Regardless, mobile employees should have systems in place for backing up their data often, and have easy and quick access to the backed up data.

Backups

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Respond to the following questions about backups.

  1. What are the different types of backups?
  2. Which of the following are not true about backups:
    1. They can be stored in many locations.
    2. They might be stored on other people's workstations.
    3. They are only needed if the data is confidential.
    4. They protect us from lost, deleted, and corrupted files.
    5. Mobile devices are harder to backup.

Solution:

  1. The different types of backups are:
    1. Full system backups, which include everything on the computer.
    2. Partial backups, in which only those things that changed since the previous full backup are backed up.
    3. Data backups, which back up only data of a specified type or in specified locations.
  2. C and E.

Malware Protection

Malware is short for "malicious software." Malware is any uninvited software that behaves negatively on one's computer or device.

When communicating with staff, many opportunities present themselves for the introduction and spread of malware. A malware infection can cause major damage to company data and a loss of valuable time. The following are common ways that malware is spread:

  1. Opening shared files.
  2. Downloading software.
  3. Accessing websites.

Depending on the type of malware, the following may happen:

  1. Files may be corrupted.
  2. Information may be deleted off hard drives.
  3. Unwanted programs may run in the background.
  4. One's identity may be stolen.
  5. One's privacy may be invaded.

Malware may present itself in different ways. It may be malicious and damaging, it may be a simple prank, or it may even be inappropriate marketing. Some malware is simply the misuse of beneficial programs. The following is a list of common malware:

  1. Infectious malware:
    1. Viruses are executable programs attached to files.
    2. Worms are self-spreading executable programs.
  2. Concealed malware:
    1. Rootkits insure the malware stays on the system undetected.
    2. Backdoor malware bypasses authentication.
    3. Trojan horses are often used for marketing, and usually affect the web browser. They pose as something attractive to lure a person to open them.
  3. Profit seeking threats:
    1. Spyware steals information about the user.
    2. Adware is integrated with software and contains ads. Adware may also include spyware.
    3. Bots perform automatic activity over the Internet.
      1. Good bots include the Captcha applications that protect systems from spammers.
      2. Bad bots include email address harvesters.
    4. Cookies are used to remember authentication and for web personalization, but:
      1. Tracking cookies track browser activity.
      2. Poorly managed cookies may provide opportunities for hackers to intercept information.

Protection

There are many applications available to clean systems of malware and to protect systems from infection. Every computer should be protected with:

  1. Virus protection.
  2. Adware and malware protection.
  3. Firewall protection.

These systems are comprised of two parts:

  1. The engine.
  2. The database.

The engine is the program itself. It scans the computer, stores settings, and schedules scans. Database updates include information about the newest viruses. New malware is written regularly, so database updates are provided frequently.

To properly protect a system, the database should be updated before every scan, and the system should be scanned regularly.

Malware Protection

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Match the following terms with their definitions.

  1. Terms:
    1. Tracking cookies.
    2. Rootkits.
    3. Worms.
    4. Trojan.
    5. Adware.
    6. Viruses
    7. Spyware.
    8. Backdoor malware.
    9. Bots.
  2. Definitions:
    1. Malware that steals information about the user.
    2. Executable programs attached to files.
    3. Software that insures the malware stays on the system undetected.
    4. Malware that poses as something attractive to lure a person to open it.
    5. Integrated with software, possibly spyware, and contains ads.
    6. Malware that is able to bypass authentication.
    7. Track browser activity and may provide opportunities for hackers to intercept information.
    8. Self-spreading executable programs.
    9. Perform automatic activity over the Internet.

Solution:

    1. G.
    2. C.
    3. H.
    4. D.
    5. E.
    6. B.
    7. A.
    8. F.
    9. I.

Backups and Malware Protection - Personal Application

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

Respond to the following relating to backups and malware protection.

  1. Do you know what type of virus and malware protection you have on your computer?
  2. Is all your staff equally protected?
  3. If your company uses mobile devices, are they protected?
  4. How often are your systems scanned?
  5. If you do not know the answers to any of these questions, how will you find out?
  6. Take some time to write down a plan to insure all computers and mobile devices are protected. Be sure to communicate this plan to your staff.

Creating a "Plan B"

After making certain all systems are protected with backup systems and malware scanners, the most important thing a manager can do to prevent problems with virtual communication is to have a "Plan B." A "Plan B" is a backup plan should the primary method of communication fail.

When relying on technology, it is wise to plan an alternate means of communication should something go awry. The following are common backup plans for various communication systems:

  1. If Wi-Fi Internet connectivity is disrupted, a phone with a data plan may be used,
  2. If neither Wi-Fi nor a data plan are available, a manager or employee can:
    1. Seek out Internet access elsewhere, such as at a library.
    2. Use a land-line telephone.
  3. If a conferencing system cannot make a connection:
    1. Email a printout of the presentation and schedule a conference call on the phone.
    2. Make an audio or video recording of a presentation and post it on a website.
    3. Continue the meeting in a chat room.
    4. Continue the meeting asynchronously in discussion forums.

Problems are going to happen occasionally whenever we rely on mediated communication tools. To prevent stress, communicate your "Plan B" prior to the meeting and, if it is needed, simply transition to that alternative method. A manager sets the tone for the meeting. A calm manager can usually deal with the issues that arise and thereby complete the meeting objectives successfully.

Creating a "Plan B"

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Answer the following questions about creating a backup plan.

  1. Which of the following are the two best backup plans for a web conference with 20 participants?
    1. Email the visuals to the participants and proceed with an audio-only conference.
    2. Email the visuals to the participants and carry on the conversation through email.
    3. Move to a chat room.
    4. Text the visuals and comments.
    5. Post the visuals in an asynchronous discussion forum.
  2. Which of the following is the best backup plans for a confidential email conversation with a staff member?
    1. Send a letter.
    2. Begin an online discussion.
    3. Text each other.
    4. Make a phone call.

Solution:

  1. A and E.
  2. D.

Creating a "Plan B" - Personal Application

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes.

Complete the following activity related to backup plans.

  1. Consider your remote work team and the resources available to you and your staff. Write down three methods of communicating that you commonly use.
  2. For each of the communication methods you noted, write down at least one backup plan should the first one fail.
  3. Write a note to your staff describing these backup plans so they know what to do if communication is ever disrupted.