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iCarol response to WannaCry Ransomware attack

Security and Reliability

On Friday May 12, 2017 we were notified by Infrastructure Engineers that a massive global attack was underway which had already infected hundreds of thousands of computers and servers worldwide. This attack was known as the WannaCry virus and it targeted a vulnerability in Windows-based operating systems by encrypting the contents of a hard drive and any shared drive that computer was provided access. To decrypt the contents and return the hard drive back to a normal state, users were presented with a message demanding a ransom payment in Bitcoins, a virtual online currency that is difficult to trace.

Microsoft had recently released a patch to secure this vulnerability, which we had scheduled to deploy with our next patching cycle on June 11, 2017 after validation in our labs. However with news of this attack and following the recommendation from Microsoft Support and our Infrastructure Engineers, we acted swiftly and began the patching process of our external perimeter servers, considered to be at the highest risk of being targeted. By the end of the day Saturday May 13th, our exterior perimeter was secured in our production environments. We continued the process Sunday May 14th to secure our Disaster Recovery sites and by the end of the day Monday May 15th we completed the securing of our desktops, internal application and database servers. Following these actions, we can confidently say that all servers have now been secured in the iCarol infrastructure against the WannaCry virus.

Guidance for our users

We advise all of our users to be sure you stay up-to-date on browser and operating system updates on your machines. If you are running a Windows-based operating system please be sure to run the latest updates (Control Panel > Windows Update > Check for Updates) to make sure you pick up the latest patches and protect yourself from WannaCry and other viruses.

We take our role as stewards of your data, including sensitive information about the people you serve and the important work you do, very seriously. Should you have any questions about system security in the wake of the WannaCry Ransomware attack, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Support Team.

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iCarol to attend the 2-1-1 Leadership Summit and United Way Community Leaders Conference

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I’m excited to be attending the upcoming United Way CEO 2-1-1 Summit and Community Leadership Conferences next week in Orlando! Of the many big ideas and opportunities we can advance collectively, some of my favorites are those that contribute to 2-1-1’s operating as a coordinated national network, and that increase our relevance in key areas like social determinants of health. I’m looking forward to formal presentations and “hallway talks” about:

  • Deeper engagements with medical and behavioral health entities
  • Technology standards to harmonize the distribution of social and human services data to trusted partners
  • Coordination of the National Texting Platform
  • Greater use of “syndromic survellience” (love that term) to alert our leaders to emerging crises and issues

If these topics are of interest to you too, please let’s make sure we connect in a session or during a break to explore how we can advance 2-1-1’s overall, and your 2-1-1 network in particular, in the near term.

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Faster delivery of your data exports

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One of the most common challenges faced by non-profit human services agencies is taking all the data that they generate each day and finding ways to use it to tell the story of their impact. Every day in iCarol systems across the world, thousands of pieces of data, are recorded. There are the calls, chats, texts, and other interactions where specialists record detailed information about those contacts, what they need and what services were directly provided, or the referrals made. Each referral record may contain over a hundred fields of information updated by resource specialists on an ongoing basis. There’s shift information, who worked and when, and how many hours each volunteer logged in a given period of time. Speaking of volunteers, in addition to hours worked there are the trainings and certifications they’ve achieved, new skills obtained, contact information, and the list goes on. That’s just a small sampling of the kinds of information being captured, and when you multiply just the things listed so far by nearly 70,000 users worldwide, it really adds up!

Much of your storytelling can be achieved through the dozens of charts, graphs, and other tools available in the Statistics area of iCarol. All of the most common data points our customers require are typically found there, and especially once you add in the available standard filters like location or time frame, or more custom filters from your call report fields, the information produced from these in-system reports is very powerful. Still, there are reasons you may need to dig deeper and export detailed files. Some take the raw call report data and place it into external programs for further manipulation or cross tabulation, or prefer to write their own queries. In the cases of fields where a text answer is provided instead of selecting from a dropdown or checkbox list, an export is needed to review the information that can’t be quantified.

Using iCarol you can export much more than your call report data. Detailed information on your shifts, volunteer information, client profiles, and your full database of resource records are all available to be extracted. Some centers have policies or contracts that require local copies of contact data or a hard copy of the resource database be downloaded on a regular basis. These are just a few of the instances where a data extract may be required.

Of course we take great care to ensure that this data is secured and protected, but also accessible to you when you need it. While we act as its caretakers, the data is owned by our clients and it’s important that they be able to download it for offline use outside of iCarol when needed. As you can imagine, these large amounts of data take time to retrieve and process. Our systems also contend with multiple simultaneous requests from various organizations across the globe. As iCarol grows and more and more non-profit agencies use it and add to this mountain of data, it’s our job to ensure that our high performance standards continue to be met.

Early this year, members of our technical team endeavored to apply a fresh approach to the processing of this data. We made changes to the service that generates those data exports in an effort to reduce the wait times between making the request and receiving the data. The team was able to accomplish this by optimizing queries, re-architecting the exporter service being used, deploying additional services, as well as making changes to the exporter schedule.

So with all this talk of data, it’s time to share some of our own. Following these changes to our export service, we decided to compare some numbers occurring in February of two different years: 2016, prior to any changes, and February 2017 after the new approach had been put into place. The table below shows this comparison. The “Time to complete” accounts for the number of minutes that elapse between when the extract request is made, and then the email notification of completion gets emailed. It’s also worth noting that there were over 100 more exports requested in February 2017 than in February 2016, and yet as you can see our average time overall and for the individual types of exports all decreased by significant percentages.

Data export comparison

As time goes on we’ll continue to monitor this performance and look at comparisons using a larger sample size to get a fuller picture of the progress. This first look, however, is very promising and we’re hoping this has had a noticeable positive impact on our clients as they request these exports.

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May is Mental Health Month

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May 1st marks the beginning of Mental Health Month. It’s a fitting time for all mental health advocates to recommit ourselves to spreading awareness and education, and opening ourselves to our own further enlightenment on the subject.

A number of well-known organizations are celebrating the month with valuable information on their website and social media feeds. Here are just a few:

Mental Health America has a Mental Health Month Toolkit available for download on their website. Their theme this year is “Risky Business” which encourages people to be aware and mindful of habits and behaviors that may increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illness.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reminds us of the prevalence of mental health conditions, affecting 1 in 5 Americans, and how those conditions impact friends and family as well. Their #IntoMentalHealth campaign encourages discussion and advocacy for awareness and reduction of stigma and prejudice.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) urges us to #GetLoud as they celebrate Mental Health Week from May 1st through 8th. Going further than just reflecting on one’s mental health, CMHA encourages Canadians to demand the services, programs, and respect necessary to be well by getting loud and writing to members of parliament, speaking out on social media and in public, and donating time and money.

The National Council for Behavioral Health is promoting three key topics through infographics available on their website. These include Women’s Mental Health, Super Skills to Help a Friend, and a graphic that helps decipher whether a teen’s behavior may be part of their normal development or a warning sign of mental illness.

Undeniably one of the hottest topics in the field of mental health and suicide prevention right now is the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” which has generated some praise and a lot of criticism for its portrayal of teen suicide. While many argue that it’s doing a good thing by bringing the topic out into the open in such a huge way, others worry that its methods are unethical, that it discourages teens from seeking help from adults and professionals, and that it romanticizes suicide and presents it in a harmfully graphic way. School systems across North America have sent home letters advising parents of the series’ popularity and are encouraging adults watch the show to assess its appropriateness for their teen and to protect youth who may be particularly vulnerable to its content, as well as watching it with teens to prompt discussion and processing of the content. For its part, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention held a webinar on the topic, which quickly booked up. They’re promoting awareness of risk factors and warning signs as a part of Mental Health Month and have made the webinar recording available for viewing.

We hope these resources will help you spread the word about Mental Health Month. Is your organization holding an event or do you have your own content to share? We’d be happy to help you spread the word, just leave us a comment below!

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An update on Call Report Form and Messaging Enhancements

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In December of 2016, iCarol announced a suite of enhancements for call report forms and Messaging. These enhancements include the following benefits:






  • Greater Productivity
    • Faster completion of forms
    • Faster onboarding of new volunteers and staff
    • Quicker geographic suggestions
  • Widen your volunteer pool
    • Improved accessibility
    • User friendly interface
  • Improved Connection to Help Seekers
    • Faster delivery of chat and text messages
  • Better Documentation
    • Report form opens with chat or text conversation
  • Quicker, more accurate referrals
    • Improves outcomes
    • Streamlined, powerful resource search tools

For more information about the enhancements, please refer to the Help page in iCarol, by clicking Help in the left hand menu. There are two documents and a training webinar available in the “New” section of the Help page with information about the enhancements.

It is our goal to upgrade all clients to the new version of the call report form and Messaging by the end of 2017. Therefore, this upgrade is mandatory, and all clients will be upgraded. We began this work by sending out a survey to iCarol Admins which asked which quarter they would like to be upgraded in. We used the responses to this survey to begin scheduling clients for the upgrade. Those who did not respond to the survey have also been scheduled for the upgrade. The timing of the upgrade for each client is based on the features they are using in their call report forms. Not all features are available in the new version of the call report form yet, but these features will be added throughout the year.

iCarol staff will be in close communication with clients who are being upgraded, and will provide all the information needed to successfully complete the upgrade. Timely responses from clients throughout the upgrade process would be greatly appreciated so the upgrade can proceed in an efficient and effective manner. Clients will be informed of when the upgrade will occur, and if the timing does not work for them, they can request to be rescheduled for a later date. Please be aware, we will do our best to re-schedule clients to a time they request, but we cannot guarantee this. We must balance the requests with the availability of iCarol staff to complete the upgrade.

The call report upgrade process and Messaging upgrade process when Messaging portals are being used will proceed as follows:

    1. At the end of each month in 2017, iCarol will send an email to all clients scheduled to be upgraded the next month.
    2. A case will be created by iCarol staff to track the upgrade process.
    3. A member of the iCarol Support team will respond to the case and provide the following information:
      a. Which week the client is scheduled for the upgrade
      b. Where to find information about the enhancements
      c. Which forms, if any, are ineligible for the upgrade, due to special features which may not be available in the new version of the call report form yet
      d. Information about adding demo forms to the client system
    4. A member of the iCarol Support team will add demo forms to the client system. These demo forms will be copies of the client’s call report forms, upgraded to the new version of the call report form.
    5. A member of the iCarol Support team will respond to the case when the demo forms are added. The demo forms will allow clients to preview and play with the new version of the call report form prior to completing the upgrade. They can also be used to train staff and volunteers on the new version of the call report form.
    6. A week prior to the upgrade week, a member of the iCarol Support Team will respond to the case with the exact date the upgrade will be completed.
    7. On the day of the upgrade, the upgrade will be completed, and the demo forms will be deleted. A member of the iCarol Support team will respond to the case to indicate the upgrade is complete. If there were call report forms not eligible to be upgraded, iCarol staff will reach out later in the year to schedule the upgrade of these forms.

If Messaging portals are not being used, the upgrade process is a little different, and will proceed as follows:

    1. At the end of each month in 2017, iCarol will send an email to all clients scheduled to be upgraded the next month.
    2. A case will be created by iCarol staff to track the upgrade process.
    3. A member of the iCarol Support team will respond to the case and provide the following information:
      a. Which week the client is scheduled for the upgrade
      b. Where to find information about the enhancements
      c. A detailed list of steps to upgrade to Messaging portals
      d. Specific questions that the client will need to answer so the iCarol Support team member can begin setting up Messaging portals. Please note, the process cannot continue until these questions are answered, so it is very important that a timely response be sent.
    4. Once the answers to the specific questions noted above are received, the iCarol Support team member will begin to set-up Messaging portals in the client system. Once completed, they will respond to the case with instructions on the next step in the process which the client will need to take, which is to assign Vols-Staff member to Portal Programs.
    5. Client assigns Vols-Staff to Portal Programs, and responds to the case to let the iCarol Support team member know they have completed the task. Again, the process cannot proceed until the iCarol Support team member receives confirmation that this task is complete.
    6. Once confirmation of the task outlined above has been received, the iCarol Support team member will complete the set-up of Messaging portals.
    7. The iCarol Support team member will respond to the case and provide instructions on next steps, which include:
      a. Setting up Shifts for Portal Programs
      b. Updating website with new URL(s) for Messaging
      c. Editing Standard Messages
      This response will also include which week the upgrade process will be completed in, and information about adding demo forms to the client system.
    8. A member of the iCarol Support team will add demo forms to the client system. These demo forms will be copies of the client’s call report forms, upgraded to the new version of the call report form.
    9. A member of the iCarol Support team will respond to the case when the demo forms are added. The demo forms will allow clients to preview and play with the new version of the call report form prior to completing the upgrade. They can also be used to train staff and volunteers on the new version of the call report form. If there are call report forms that are ineligible to be upgraded at this time, these will be noted in this response.
    10. A week prior to the upgrade week, a member of the iCarol Support Team will respond to the case with the exact date the upgrade will be completed.
    11. On the day of the upgrade, the upgrade will be completed, and the demo forms will be deleted. A member of the iCarol Support team will respond to the case to indicate the upgrade is complete.

If there were call report forms not eligible to be upgraded, iCarol staff will reach out later in the year to schedule the upgrade of these forms. If there are any questions about the upgrade process, please feel free to submit a case to the iCarol Support Team via the online case management system, accessed by clicking Help in the left hand menu in your iCarol system.

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iCarol to attend the American Association of Suicidology Conference

On the Horizon- Upcoming t copy

From April 26th through the 29th, members of our team will be in Phoenix for the 50th American Association of Suicidology Conference.

We’ll have a booth at the conference and you’ll see us at many of the events and sessions, too. It’s important to us to learn about and be aware of all the latest research and the expanding needs of helplines as they work to build suicide-safer communities.

We hope you’ll stop by our booth and let us know how things have been going for your organization, and tell us about the exciting initatives you’ve had going on. We’ll be available to answer any questions you may have about iCarol, and we’ll have some fun activities to check out that are brand new this year!

In particular we’d really enjoy hearing your feedback about the new iCarol Ideas Portal we recently released. We’re excited to hear from our users about how it’s going, what you like about it, and any other feedback you may have. So if you’ve used the Ideas Portal, we definitely want to see you!

With all the excitment and so much going on, the time at the conference goes by quickly, so please look us up at the conference, or beforehand to schedule some time to chat so we’re sure not to miss the opportunity to see you!

We look forward to seeing you and learning about all the latest in the life-saving work being done by the helpline industry so that we can continue to build our systems to support you.

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Join us for the iCarol User Group Summit in Tampa

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Following the success and positive feedback we received after last year’s iCarol Summit, we’d like to announce that on May 21st, the day before this year’s AIRS Conference officially kicks off in Tampa, Florida, our AIRS certified team members will again hold a User Group Summit at the same venue as the conference. Our Summit is an all-day event that includes training and informational sessions along with our traditional User Group session. While we do ask that you register to attend this even, there is no cost to participate.

This year we’re excited to cover the fundamentals for your I&R service, while also diving into topics we know are of increasing importance in your field. We’ll feature two main sessions to address both of these areas. Our first session of the day will focus on managing your resource database and the important basic tools such as editing, field visibility, filtering, managing regions, custom fields, verifying your records for accuracy, and more.

After a break for lunch (there are plenty of great choices for you to explore close to the conference venue) we’ll continue on learning about the growing need for services to participate in continuums of care within communities. Human service agencies can’t afford to operate in silos — they need to work together, communicate with one another, and share client information to ensure clients are engaging in the full spectrum of available services and that all providers are aware of their status and progress. Community organizations striving for this model often practice a “no wrong door” policy so that regardless of where a help-seeker begins their treatment journey, they’ll be able to smoothly enter the systems of care rather than getting turned around, improving their chances of success and greatly reducing the frustration or discouragement that they may encounter otherwise. In this session we’ll discuss potential ways your agency can become a leader in these care networks within your community using some unique strategies and iCarol tools.

Finally, we’ll end our day with a traditional User Group session to which all are invited, regardless if you registered and attended earlier sessions in the day. This is a chance to learn more about iCarol for those who may be considering use of our solution, and to hear more about our strategy, planned new features and enhancements in our product “roadmap.” Of course we’ll offer time for questions, comments, and discussion of challenges and priorities.

We’re working hard on prepping everything for our Summit as well as other fun and exciting activities at this year’s AIRS Conference. Don’t miss this chance to connect with us — our full agenda and other details are available by following the link below.

Learn More and Register

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iCarol attending the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference

iCarol Webinars

From April 2nd – 5th, iCarol Co-founders Jackie and Neil McKechnie will attend the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference in Seattle, Washington. Many of our friends and clients have encouraged us to attend and have spoken highly of the conference, the people and organizations it attracts and the fantastic learning opportunities it presents, so we’re looking forward to experiencing this first hand.

In case you are not yet familiar with this organization, the National Council for Behavioral Health with its 2,800 member organizations, is dedicating to serving millions of adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions. The cornerstone of their mission is to advocate for Americans’ access to comprehensive, high-quality care so that everyone has the tools needed for recovery. Many of you may also be familiar with their Mental Health First Aid program, a course that many of our users have not only taken, but their agencies often provide this training to their community. This highly impactful program has trained nearly 1 million people to play a role in helping someone experiencing a mental health or addictions emergency by providing immediate intervention and empathy while encouraging professional support. This program empowers all people, regardless of their personal field of expertise, to care for others and not ignore situations or feel powerless to help when they see mental health emergencies play out in front of them. It also highlights the importance of everyone having basic knowledge of mental health and addictions issues, which ultimately saves lives and reduces stigma.

We’re looking forward to learning more about this organization, attending some amazing sessions, and connecting with those in attendance to see how we might be able to work together. If you’re an iCarol user and you’re going to be there, we’d really love to connect so we can say “hi” and catch up with you, and perhaps grab a bite to eat or cup of coffee in between sessions. With this being such a large conference and knowing how much there is going on, it’d be great to plan ahead and schedule a time to connect and make sure we don’t miss one another. Please reach out to so we can find a time to meet up at what is sure to be a great event. See you in Seattle!

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Rachel Wentink appointed General Manager of iCarol

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As our user base has grown over the last few years, we’ve scaled by putting into place major enhancements with our infrastructure. This ensures a stable foundation for your iCarol system to support the important work that you do. Likewise, we’ve recently added additional depth and stability to our company with the addition of a new position in our organizational structure. This change allows us to ensure continued quality service for all iCarol clients.

We’re pleased to announce the promotion of Rachel Wentink to the position of General Manager of iCarol.

Rachel first joined our team in February 2015 and came to us with a broad and extensive background in technology, product and business development, professional services and marketing along with many years of experience in managing small and large teams and working with clients in local, regional, national and international environments. Her educational background includes advanced leadership training and a Masters of Business Administration.

In the two years since joining CharityLogic, Rachel has taken on multiple responsibilities and managed several key projects. Most recently she served as our Director of Product Management and Strategy and was instrumental in forecasting our clients’ needs and then planning and implementing a product roadmap that exemplifies iCarol’s reputation as an innovative technology leader.

As General Manager, Rachel will oversee iCarol’s daily operations and drive strategies that ensure iCarol’s continued growth and success. She will also continue her work directing the Product Management team and will see through her current projects in that department.

Please join us in welcoming Rachel to this new role and wishing her much success!

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Introducing the iCarol Ideas Portal

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One thing that makes iCarol software so especially suited for not-for-profit helplines of all types is that it was created from the direct experience of helpline volunteers, and continuously grows by incorporating the great ideas from our users and from industry experts. In fact, a bunch of the features and enhancements you enjoy today started out as an idea from someone who uses iCarol at their helpline. While we work on new big features and changes with our planned roadmap, we also use a community development approach for custom projects which enhances iCarol for all subscribers. All of this amounts to creating a robust and comprehensive all-in-one software solution that is invaluable for helpline staff and volunteers in their daily work.

So, with so many users sharing their great ideas, how do we gather and track them and eventually decide which are developed and added to iCarol? Well, we’ve been working on a new system for organizing and tracking the ideas submitted to us, and now it’s ready to make its debut! It’s called the iCarol Ideas Portal — a new and better way to submit and follow enhancement ideas. This portal is available to all iCarol users with a security setting of Standard or higher and offers a number of features and benefits, including:

  • Directly submit your idea right within the security of your iCarol system
  • Browse ideas submitted by other iCarol users
  • Add comments or additional thoughts to existing ideas
  • Filter ideas based on their status, feature area of idea, how recently they were added, or see ideas that are trending
  • Receive updates when your idea or an idea you’re interested in changes status or when another user adds a comment
  • Vote on the ideas which are the most important to you

That last capability will surely add some fun and interactivity to the portal, while also giving us helpful feedback towards prioritization by seeing which ideas are the most popular and meaningful to our clients. Each user will get 10 votes to apply to the ideas they like, and you can apply up to 5 votes to a single idea you really love. Ideas can also be retracted and added back to your bank of votes. This may be useful in times where you are out of votes but see a new idea you like more than one you’ve previously voted for. When an idea is released to iCarol, or if we move an idea to not likely to implement, all votes for that idea are returned to you.

You’ll find the iCarol Ideas Portal by navigating to the Help section of your iCarol system. We’ve also included a number of Help Articles that outline how to use the portal to browse ideas, vote on enhancements, add comments to existing ideas, or add your own idea for consideration.

It’s our hope that the new iCarol Ideas Portal will improve communication and help you share your great ideas for iCarol with us. We’re excited to open this new communication channel with the aim of continuing to enhance iCarol and have it reflect the many fantastic ideas from which all our users, and their communities, can benefit.

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