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IT Support From BIS

Computers save time and allow us to do more with less but can also be one of the most frustrating parts of everyday office life. How many times do we find ourselves impatiently waiting for our computer to do something? Do you dread picking up the phone to call IT support because you don’t want to listen to an automated system tell you how important your call is? 

We understand: you want to get on with your work helped by technology rather than hindered! Our Texas-based IT Techs are friendly, knowledgeable, and responsive. We are the IT support you and your team want to call. BIS IT Maintenance is much more than solving problems when they arise. We work behind the scenes to keep your computers up to date with the latest software and security patches. We make sure your anti-virus is current and monitor your backups.  

Our techs understand that IT issues don’t always start at 8am or stop at 5pm so we have a dedicated-on call after hours serviceWe aim to solve problems before they become problems, so that you and your team can keep working.  

As an IT maintenance client, you can reach out for support by phone, email and now online. We have a brand-new system that lets you easily log an issue for the IT team.  Make sure to register to submit tickets online HERE

Our expertise is not limited to fixing problems with your existing equipment. We can replace computers, servers, printers, scanners, and more. We have software solutions such as hosted email to help you and your team do their job efficiently. Whatever your IT needs are, let us know how we can serve you. 

If you would like more information on our IT maintenance service please email bcallear@bisconsultants.com

Remote Solutions – Online Forms

The COVID-19 global pandemic in late 2019 and early 2020 caused many businesses to close their offices to the public. The BIS Online Forms service will help you to reduce unnecessary foot traffic in your office and make processing forms more efficient. The system allows property owners to conveniently file appraisal related forms via the web. Appraisal district staff are then able to review submitted forms within the BIS Online Forms system and approve, deny, or request more information from the property owner without any need for face-to-face interaction.

 

Some additional features and benefits of BIS Online Forms include but are not limited to:

  • The system provides a safe and secure way to transmit sensitive, personal information.
  • Property owners automatically receive an email confirming that their application has been successfully filed, so there is no need for them to contact your office to confirm receipt.
  • Property owners automatically receive email notifications when any action is taken on their application.
  • Forms are easily organized through filtering and sorting features.
  • Property owners can upload supporting documents with their forms.
  • System Administrators can separate and assign forms to different departments to review and process.
  • Easily locate forms to address property owners’ questions without having to dig through a stack of paper forms.
  • Built-in archiving eliminates forms getting lost or misplaced.
  • Property owners can access ‘read only’ versions of their archived forms.
  • Saves postage expenses since the ‘form revision’ process removes the need to mail forms back and forth to property owners.
  • Easily export completed forms from the Online Forms system and import them into your CAMA software.
  • All forms within the system reflect up-to-date information and mirror the forms provided by the State Comptroller’s office.

BIS Online Forms currently supports the following forms:

  • Homestead
  • Agricultural Use
  • Business Personal Property
  • Disabled Veteran
  • Freeport

 

If you have questions about the BIS Online Forms system or would like a demo, contact us today at webmaster@bisconsultants.com or call us at 1-800-247-9045.

Remote Solutions – Virtual Meetings

BIS Consulting’s online services have always been helpful but considering recent events they are now becoming essential. With the doors locked to most appraisal districts across the state, many are wondering how to continue to connect with taxpayers for meetings, informals and protests.

If you have a BIS-hosted website we are offering a free enhancement that allows your taxpayers to chat with you directly from your home page. If your taxpayer is visiting your site and has a question, they can type in the chat box and a message will be sent in real time to the contact of your choice in the office. This add-on is easily configured to reflect your office hours. Anyone that messages outside of those hours will receive an alert and will be prompted to leave a message.

After appraisal notices go out, your taxpayers usually stop in your office for an informal meeting to discuss their values. You can now take these meetings virtual by upgrading your BIS hosted website with a scheduling plugin. This allows taxpayers to request time to meet with your appraisers via Zoom.

Are you new to Zoom? No worries!

We have been working closely with the company and are excited to now offer BIS Zoom Support. Here is what is included:

Zoom Basic Training Webinar

  • How to hold a public meeting
  • How to handle executive sessions
  • Waiting room basics
  • Breakout room basics
  • Managing recordings

Essential Documentation

  • Security settings checklist
  • Board member reference sheet
    • How to join meeting
    • How to present
    • Basic audio/video troubleshooting
  • In-Meeting quick reference sheet
  • Taxpayer reference sheet to post to your website
    • How to join
    • How to participate in a public meeting
    • Basic audio/video troubleshooting

Access to virtual round-table meetings

Access to all future BIS Zoom webinars

If you would like BIS Zoom support please request an estimate by emailing ssteele@bisconsultants.com

If you would like to upgrade your website with the chat or scheduling features, please contact our Sites Department at webmaster@bisconsultants.com

Remote Solutions – Online Protest

As Notices of Appraised Value start hitting mailboxes, appraisal districts all over Texas are gearing up for protest season. Since most offices are currently closed to the public, this protest season introduces additional strain on what was already the busiest and most stressful part of the year for you and your staff.

 

The BIS Online Protest system helps improve the appeals process for both the appraisal district and the taxpayer, allowing you to receive protests, review and upload evidence files, handle requests for ARB evidence packets, conduct taxpayer to appraiser or agent to appraiser discussions, offer settlement and waivers, and much more. Your appraisers can quickly and easily work with taxpayers without the need for any face-to-face interaction, saving your district time and making the process less daunting for all users.

 

For the 2020 protest season, we’ve made big changes to the BIS Online Protest system to improve usability, add features, and make the protest experience better for taxpayers, agents, and the appraisal district.

 

These changes include but are not limited to:

  • Updates to reflect the changes made in the Comptroller’s latest Notice of Protest form.
  • Configurable reasons for protest to handle individual district needs.
  • Telephone numbers can now be required when a taxpayer or agent is registering to file a protest.
  • Text files can now be uploaded as evidence.
  • Added ability for protesters and appraisers to specify an evidence type classification to help manage evidence files.
  • Added a new feature to automatically flag protests that indicate possible requests for ARB evidence packets to be reviewed by district staff.
  • Added ability to display custom alert message from the district when a protester chooses their preferred hearing type.
  • Telephone hearing option on the Notice of Protest is now configurable to handle individual district preference on whether to ask the protester for a telephone number for the ARB to contact them, or to not ask for a telephone number and refer the protester to the county specific hearing procedures.
  • Protesters can now choose to receive their ARB hearing notice by First-Class mail, certified mail or email.
  • Improved ‘All Active Protests’ view with better sorting and filtering to improve appraiser workflow. Also added three new columns for protest submitted date, hearing type, and hearing notice selection so that the information can be easily accessed and exported.
  • Improved ‘Recently Updated Protests’ view with better sorting, filtering, and alerts to improve appraiser workflow.
  • Improved the organization of closed and archived protests. Closed protests can now be viewed by year from a dropdown selection.
  • Added ability to show a system-wide message that will display on each protest.
  • User comments can now be disabled system wide.

 

For a demo of the BIS Online Protest system, contact us today at webmaster@bisconsultants.com or by calling us at 1-800-247-9045.

BIS Cares: COVID-19 Update

March 2020 saw the start of the most significant social disruption seen in a generation. In a matter of days, many people saw their routine of getting up and heading to their place of work be replaced with getting up and working from home. Many businesses and offices are facing the challenge of changing how they conduct their daily business remotely, rather than face to face. Maybe this hasn’t happened to you, but it could be happening soon. Here are some of the ways BIS Consulting can help.

Soft Phone Service

If your office phone system does not easily allow remote workers access, we can help by setting up a soft phone service to minimize impact for your team if they are unable to work in the office.

Conferencing

Technology making it easier to work from home has steadily improved over the years. We can help you navigate the many conferencing solutions including messaging, phone and video options, allowing you to hold virtual meetings with colleagues, taxpayers, or customers. We use providers including Zoom and Microsoft.

Secure Connections

Your homeworkers need a secure way to connect with your office network and systems, and we can help by setting up a secure SSL VPN (secure sockets layer, virtual private network) connection using your existing network security systems. SSL VPNs are an encrypted exclusive connection between different computer systems, designed to keep your information confidential.

Hardware and Software Sales

Need a cost-effective laptop or five for your team? Need a camera for your conferencing system, or do you need to make sure your team can access their email from their smartphones? Our Sales and IT Departments are working hard to find the right products and solutions at the right price.

Finally, BIS Cares…

The transition from working in an office to working at home can be difficult, and you and your team may face many different challenges. Ask us for help? We are experienced at working from home, and managing home workers. We can help you and your team manage a new routine, keep up with colleagues, as well as use new software and solutions.  We are here for you and we will all get through this together…but separate.

Phone: 1.800.247.9045

Email: support@bisconsultants.com

Live Chat: https://www.bisconsultants.com/

 

Remote Solutions For Your Office

We wanted to take a moment and let you know that we realize that the way you conduct business has drastically changed over the last week. Our team is here for you and ready to equip you with the
technology solutions you need to help keep your business flowing. Whether you are looking to enable remote employees or needing to stay connected with your taxpayers and board members while keeping your offices closed to the public, we can help.

BIS IT Remote Solutions – Helping your team stay safely connected from anywhere:

Remote desktop access
Virtual phone numbers with cell phone routing that act as a call center and can hide your cell phone number when taking and placing calls
Teleconference software for remote staff, taxpayers, and board members with recording capabilities
Antivirus for home computers when employees are using their own personal machines
Office 365 with Microsoft Teams enables staff to connect with cloud based/remote collaboration tools
Hardware replacement drop shipping

For more information contact support@bisconsultants.com

BIS Online Software – Taxpayer solutions designed to minimize the need for office visits:

Online Forms allows taxpayers to file exemptions online. Your team can approve/deny/request more information through the software alleviating the need for anyone to come into the office.
Online Protests handles the entire protest process within the software online.
Online Tax Payments lets taxpayers quickly, easily and safely make payments online.
Interactive Maps gives your taxpayers access to all of the geographic, appraisal and aerial information at home instead of travelling to your office.
Website Hosting keeps an open stream of communication to your taxpayers. All of your office information can be posted and updated easily from any computer no matter where you are working.

For more information contact webmaster@bisconsultants.com

  • BIS Education Services – Remote training for your team that can be done from any computer:

The following internet courses all earn CE credit with TDLR:
-Truth In Taxation/SB2 Compliancy
-BIS Website Training
-BIS Online Protest Training
-BIS Online Forms Training
-BIS Interactive Map Training

Cybersecurity Training Webinar – HB3834 mandates that every employee that has access to a local government computer must have their training certificate by June 14, 2020. To sign up click HERE.

For more information contact ssteele@bisconsultants.com

Cybersecurity Safety

When we hear about a rise in infections, we gather information about the disease and take every recommended precaution. We wash our hands more, use hand sanitizer, we avoid noted infected areas, and load up on recommended vitamins. However, even if you have followed the steps to protect yourself there is still a chance you will still become infected. If that happens you will go see the doctor and follow their treatment plan so you can battle the infection and get back to being healthy.

Computer viruses and infections are much the same way. When there is a threat of a computer virus or ransomware, we should educate everyone in our office on how to stay protected, what the symptoms are of the infection and what the treatment plan just in case they do get infected.

Here are some general guidelines to help get the conversations started in your office.

Protective Measures

  • Update to use the latest operating systems
    • An outdated machine connecting to the internet is vulnerable and can be an open invitation to hackers.
    • Every computer should be running Windows 10. If you are running Windows 7 please note that support will end in January 2020. Microsoft will no longer provide any future security updates for these machines, leaving them vulnerable to security breaches or attacks.
  • Regularly run Windows updates
    • It is important to make sure that every computer in your office gets regular Windows updates to stay protected from known vulnerabilities.
    • If you are a BIS IT Maintenances client, we run updates Tuesdays overnight. On the days that the updates are pushed we send a reminder pop up on each workstation, so the end user knows to leave their PC on that night to receive the update.
  • Use antivirus and antimalware programs
    • Verify that you have a reliable antivirus program installed on ALL machines in your office and your subscription is up to date.
    • If you are a BIS IT Maintenance or you’ve purchased our antivirus solution, we manage your subscription for you.
  • Always back up your data
    • Verify that you have good backups that are encrypted and in more than one location. It’s always good to have a local backup and an offsite one as well.
    • BIS Automated Backups clients, we manage your backups for you.
  • Verify that you are using updated browsers and plug ins
    • The annoying Flash or Java updates in your browser can make a world of difference when it comes to malware and ransomware. Clicking on an ad can seem harmless enough but it could land you on an infected site and while you’re trying to hit the back button it’s working hard to drop files on your machine.
  • Insist that all third-party remote access software is using two factor authentication
    • It is very common for your vendors to need access to your computers from a remote location. Make sure that they are doing everything in their power to keep your computers protected by requiring them to utilize two factor authentication for these programs. Some of the most common types are ConnectWise Control, LogMeIn, and TeamViewer.
    • At BIS we use ConnectWise Control with two factor authentication.
  • Don’t click on anything that is questionable in an email.
    • Business Email Compromise is one of the most common means of attack. The simple act of opening an attachment in an email has opened the door to some of the costliest ransomware attacks out there. Here are a few best practices to follow:
      • Delete suspicious emails without opening.
      • If an email looks odd but it’s from someone you know call them to verify.
      • Don’t click on links within an email. Hover over the link and look at the URL that shows up in the bottom of your screen. If it doesn’t look right – don’t click.
      • Make sure you use spam filtering.
      • Do not open attachments unless you are 100% positive they are safe
  • Protect your office network
    • Setup a guest wi-fi for using personal and mobile devices. This way they can access your Wi-Fi without compromising the security of the office network.
    • Verify that your firewall is up to date.
    • As a BIS IT Maintenance client we maintain your firewall for you and will setup your guest Wi-Fi at your request.

 

 

Signs You May Be Infected

This is not a complete list, but these are some signs that you should alert your IT team about.

  • Your computer is running very slow – this is not always a sign of infection, but it should be checked.
  • Unwanted pop-up windows in your browser.
  • Your browser homepage has changed.
  • You have new and unfamiliar icons on your desktop.
  • A pop-up appears on your desktop telling you that you have a virus with steps to “resolve”.
  • Suspicious hard drive activity
  • Unusual messages or programs that start automatically

 

Treatment Plan

It is important to provide an action plan for everyone in your office to make sure each person understands what to do if they think the computer has been compromised. Here are some recommended steps:

  • Unplug the internet cable or turn the Wi-Fi off to disconnect the machine from the network.
  • Disconnect external hard drives.
  • Report the issue immediately to the IT department for your office.

 

Our IT team is always looking for ways to improve and keep your data safe. There are new group policies in place, new authentication methods we are adding to protect from email spoofing and new password policies. The truth is that even with all these things in place we will be more successful with your help in educating your team on how to avoid, recognize and treat an attack.

For more resources on cybersecurity please visit https://staysafeonline.org/ which is powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance and works in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to our IT team at 1-800-247-9045.

Email Spoofing 101

Wait? Is that genuine?

Have you ever received a call from somebody, and they tell you that your email has been hacked, because they have received an email claiming to be from you but it really wasn’t? Working in our industry, the chances are that you have had this call, and, your email wasn’t really hacked. Instead your email was spoofed.

Today, I’m writing about spoofing. “Hacking” and “spoofing” are not words we normally drop into polite conversation, and many people confuse the two terms. When your email account is spoofed, this means that somebody has received a message that looks like it’s from you, but it’s not really. When your email is hacked, this means that your account has been compromised and the bad guy has control.

Some of the easy ways to spoof an email address is to change the FROM, REPLY-TO, and RETURN name and address. The best way to check is to look at the email address sent from and what you might reply to.

Back in April I received an email from Britt Martin, Co-CEO and Company Founder. This is what I see:

Seems legit, right? No. Look again at the very top line. The email name and address shows “Britt Martin <text@verizonwireless4g.com>” and not Britt’s BIS email address. This is also a suspicious email; Britt will absolutely find ways to surprise the team here, but this isn’t something he would email me about.

In this case, I checked in with the real Britt Martin – this is the golden rule: communicate using other means. Usually, this means calling.

If the fake Britt had sent me an attachment, I shouldn’t click on it. Imagine if Britt had sent me what looked like an Excel spreadsheet and asked me to check what gift cards I could buy from the list? It is difficult not to click on email attachments – many of us open email attachments several times a day. Unfortunately, email attachments can contain malware or a virus. If you do click on something you shouldn’t, call the BIS Consulting IT team at 800 247 9045 or email us and we can help.

Microsoft Windows Critical Security Vulnerability

 

There were unhappy faces all around on May 14 as Microsoft published a critical security vulnerability article detailing a flaw in the Remote Desktop Services, or RDP, part of older versions of Windows. The vulnerability could potentially allow malicious code to run on a susceptible computer without any involvement from the user. In plain English: an unprotected system is vulnerable to an invisible hacking attack.

The vulnerability exists in Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Server 2008 and older version of the popular Microsoft Windows operating system. The flaw is so severe that Microsoft has taken the unusual step of writing a security patch for Microsoft Windows XP, although users need to manually download the software to their computer. Microsoft Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, and later versions of Windows (including Windows 10) are already protected against the vulnerability.

What Should You Do?

BIS Consulting already lock down the RDP connection away from the Internet, which means customers enjoying our IT Maintenance plans will be protected.

If you are not one of our IT Maintenance clients CONTACT US anyway. You have enough on your plate without having to worry about extra IT issues. Let our IT pros give you a no-cost security assessment and determine a plan of action to keep you protected.

If you have someone on staff that handles your IT, we strongly recommend they immediately install the security patch using Microsoft Windows Update. We also recommend they check that your firewall has locked down the RDP connection port.

 

Still Using Windows XP, Server 2003, Windows 7, or Server 2008?

If you have machines running the older version of Microsoft Windows, we encourage you to retire the obsolete Windows operating system or even the computer. For a free, no obligation estimate of any costs involved, please email or call David Steele.

BIS Welcomes New Team Members

We are rolling into 2019 with a few new faces at the office so we wanted to introduce you. Please welcome Dan, Alex, Deanne and Brian to BIS!

Dan Fasteen, Ph.D. is the Director of Special Projects for BIS consulting where he coordinates, designs, and implements analytical services and solutions for GIS and mass appraisal. He has been in the property valuation profession since 2010 working for local government jurisdictions in North Dakota and Minnesota. His primary areas of expertise include the design and application of spatial automated valuation models (AVM’s) to mass valuation problems, and the integration of GIS and CAMA systems technology. Dan has a Master’s degree in Geography and a Ph.D. in Research Methodologies and applied Statistics, both from the University of North Dakota. He has presented papers at numerous conferences and international research symposiums, currently serves on the editorial review board of the Journal of Property Tax Assessment & Administration, and is a former Chair of the IAAO Research Subcommittee. Dan also coauthored the book, “GIS for Property Tax and Assessment Professionals” available on the Amazon market place.

Alex Sanders joins the BIS team as the new lead technical GIS analyst. Alex is a proud alumnus from Southwest Texas State University (for some reason they are calling it Texas State these days) with a degree in Geography. After college, Alex worked a few years for private Engineering firms before joining the State of Texas with the General Land Office. He is excited to bring his many years of experience of working with GIS systems for the State of Texas and his continued focus on customer support to BIS Consulting. Alex lives with his family in Georgetown and enjoys the plethora of outdoor activities that central Texas provides.

 

 

 

 

Deanne Gonzalez is joining our fast growing deed processing team as a Deed Processor II. She worked at Travis CAD as a GIS Tech and also at Kerr CAD as an Ag Appraiser. Deanne was born and raised in Austin and moved to Boerne Texas 6 years ago. She enjoys riding her horses, mountain biking, fishing, working out and watching sunsets with a glass of wine and her husband.

 

 

 

Brian Noble is our new Chief Financial Officer. He has 20 years of experience guiding start-ups from content to market in varied industries and has a deep knowledge of financial reporting and accounting. Brian has been in the C suite for more than 20 years holding titles such as CEO, CFO, and COO. He has a certificate in General Management Distinguished, Darden School of Business – University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA and he holds a Bachelor’s of Science from Missouri State University.

 

 

The entire BIS team is looking forward to serving you in 2019!

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