Category Archives for Blog

Follow These 5 Steps to Give Your Business the Best Gift of All

Follow These 5 Steps to Give Your Business the Best Gift of All


Follow These 5 Steps to Give Your Business the Best Gift of All 

As the year comes to an end, business owners are keeping an eye on the latest holiday deals to purchase new items for their companies. Ergonomic keyboards, dual monitors and stand-up desks are great ideas to consider, but there’s one gift that should be at the top of your list — cybersecurity.  

 

Hackers are targeting small and mid-size businesses in addition to big corporations. According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43 percent of victims are small businesses.  
 

How Is My Business at Risk? 

Phishing has emerged as a popular way for hackers to inflict damage. A phishing attack typically comes in the form of an email that appears to come from a trusted source but contains a fake link or attachment that installs malware on your network. This malware can come in many forms, but most notably, ransomware. Ransomware is when hackers block access to your data, then give it back after you pay the hacker money. However, there is no guarantee you’ll get your data back after you pay. According to the Hartford Courant, less than a quarter of people who pay the ransom get their data back. 

 

Fortunately, there ways you can improve your cybersecurity. Here are five steps you can take to give yourself the gift of peace of mind this year.  

 

Invest in Employee Training  

Can your staff recognize a phishing attack? According to Tech Radar, 90 percent of data breaches are caused by human error. Consider investing in cybersecurity training so your team can work smarter by avoiding blatant hacking attempts.    

 

Move to the Cloud  

It’s time to say goodbye to only saving your data on your local drive. When your information is in the cloud, you can rest easy knowing that all your data is being protected with automatic backups while being flexible enough to scale with your company.  

 

Create Multiple Forms of Backup 

Always have a backup plan ready. If your business runs on a local server, it may be time to consider getting a cloud or offsite backup. That way, if your local server ever gets compromised, you’ll still have access to your data.  

 

Install Two-Factor Authentication 

It’s harder for hackers to break through two levels of protection instead of one. With two-factor authentication, an access code will be sent to the corresponding user’s phone or email after entering a program password. If someone tries to break into your network, you’ll know right away. 

 

Replace Outdated Tech   

Money can be tight for some small businesses, and using older tech may seem like a cheaper solution, but that can be shortsighted. Microsoft is planning to end its support of many popular hardware and software solutions — including Microsoft Server 2008 and Windows 7 — in January 2020. If you’re using tech without continuing support, then you won’t receive any security patches in the future, opening the door for hackers to expose weaknesses in your system. When you update your software, you're protecting your business and increasing office morale. Your employees will appreciate working with the latest tech 

 

How We Can Help  

Don’t let a Grinch ruin your holiday season by wreaking havoc on your IT network. Let our cybersecurity specialists help you protect your business so you can get some peace of mind heading into 2020. Contact us today to find out how.  


7 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach in Your Business

7 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach in Your Business 


Don’t think you’re vulnerable to a data breach? Think again. In 2018, businesses reported 1,244 breaches – and small businesses accounted for 58 percent of victims. In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are seven ways to prevent a data breach in your business: 

 

Take Inventory of Your Risks 


Conduct a complete audit of your systems, including on-premises, cloud and third-party IT assets that could lead to your network. Think about not only obvious points, like your servers and applications, but also your employees’ devices, Internet of Things-enabled devices, and industrial control systems. 

 

Once you’ve taken stock of your infrastructure, prioritize any issues you find. Likely, you’re dealing with limited resources, so decide which problems are putting you at the most risk, like unpatched software or weak passwords. 

 

Control User Access 


When possible, employees should only have access to the data they need for their positions, and sensitive data should only be accessible to authorized users. It’s unlikely that all of your employees need access to all of your data, all the time. 

 

Think also about how to handle departing employees and temporary employees like vendors and contractors. Provide the necessary passwords, key cards, laptop access and more that those employees need, but make it a priority to rescind access as soon as their work with your company ends. 

 

Keep Software Updated 


Many high-profile data breaches, including the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, are a result of hackers exploiting a weakness in older software. In the case of the WannaCry attack, Microsoft had already released patches to close the exploit, but many companies had failed to apply the patches or were using out-of-date Windows systems that no longer had support.  

 

Fortunately, the fix for this is fairly simple. Patch and update your software as soon as the developer releases those options, and upgrade your software when it’s no longer supported by the developer. This is especially timely now with the end of support for many Microsoft products starting in January 2020. 

 

Enforce BYOD Policies 


Your employees are probably using laptops, tablets and smartphones for at least some of their work. Unsecured endpoints can lead hackers straight to your network, rendering your other security measures much less effective and making your sensitive data vulnerable to a breach. 

 

To combat this threat, you need a dedicated mobile device management program. Whether you provide the device or employees use their own personal devices, implement data security measures to ensure that employees are handling, retrieving and sending data safely. If a device is lost or stolen, create a policy to protect your data, such as remotely wiping the device. 

 

Strengthen Credentials 


No one likes managing their passwords, but unique passwords are critical to preventing a data breach. Don’t leave password strength up to chance. Require your employees to use complex passwords that are changed frequently, at least every 90 days. Employees should not write passwords down where others can find them.  

 

A password management tool such as LastPass or OneLogin can store and remember multiple encrypted passwords to reduce the hassle of employees forgetting complex passwords. Another security best practice is multi-factor authentication, where passwords are supplemented by passcodes, challenge questions and other identification measures. Even if an employee accidentally gives their login information away in a phishing attack, two-factor authentication will minimize that damage. 

 

Educate Employees 


Security-wise, employees are your weakest link; 95 percent of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Train your employees to identify and report signs of a data breach, but more importantly, train them to prevent a data breach. When your employees fully understand and support initiatives such as BYOD security or password management, your security will be stronger across the board. 

 

Perhaps the most crucial area for employee training is email. Since the majority of malware, ransomware and phishing attacks stem from illegitimate emails, training your employees how to spot and report strange senders, links or attachments can drastically minimize the chance of a breach. 

 

Back Up Files

 

Our last tip is to back up your files. While this is always a best practice for all businesses, it can especially pay off when your business suffers a ransomware attack. When your files are securely backed up to an off-site or cloud location, you won’t have to debate whether or not to pay the hacker. You’ll simply clean your systems, retrieve your data and continue your day. 

 

Unfortunately, backups are no longer a set-it-and-forget-it measure. Hackers are disabling backups and then waiting 30, 60, 90 days to take systems down, leaving companies with no choice but to pay a ransom to retrieve their data. Regularly testing your backups to ensure that they’re working as intended is key to protecting yourself. 

 

How We Can Help 


Implementing all of these security procedures can be time-consuming and costly, especially for a small or mid-size business. We assess your security needs and implement procedures to help you minimize the chances of a data breach or quickly identify and contain a breach in progress. Don’t ignore the threat of data breaches – contact us today. 


2020’s End-of-Support List: Why it Matters & What to Do

2020’s End-of-Support List: Why it Matters & What to Do 


January 14, 2020 is the fast-approaching date when a long list of Microsoft® products and solutions will reach their End of Support. That’s a lot of widely used products, and there’s a good chance your company relies on at least a few of them to get your job done every day.   

 

Why it Matters 


Microsoft solutions likely represent a big part of your daily software use. Even still, you might be tempted to ignore those incoming reminders from Microsoft about End of Support  but it’s imperative to your business and your clients that you don’t. Every Microsoft solution on the End-of-Support list will need to be upgraded or you will be facing three serious issues.  

 

  1. Security is Down – Without the ongoing patching and updates that come out regularly from the Microsoft team, your solutions will be vulnerable to the resulting security and compliance risks that can happen without proactive maintenance.  

  1. UX is Lacking – As patches stop happening, updates aren’t applied and support disappears, your users will start seeing user-experience issues that will make their everyday tasks significantly more complicated. 

  1. Support is Over – If you’re used to calling Microsoft when there’s an issue with one of the solutions on this list, that won’t be an option anymore. Microsoft’s support team will no longer be offering support for any of the listed solutions. 

 

Proactive planning and aggressive action are the keys to making sure this transition leaves your business successful, protected and ready for growth. So how do you make it happen? 

 

What to Do 


If you’re ready to be proactive about updating your solutions, you have a few important steps to take. 

 

  1. Replace your Windows Server instance with cloud-based Azure and Windows Server 2019 

  1. Make the move to Windows 10  

  1. Replace your SharePoint and Office instances with Microsoft 365 and Office 365 

 

These three steps represent a big change for your business and your end users, but making the switch means future-proofing your business and building a stronger foundation for growth. Upgrading to cloud-specific solutions can offer you the flexibility of the cloud without the added cost (and expiration date) of paying for Extended Support from Microsoft.  

 

But to make the transition to the cloud as successful, simple and stable as possible, you’ll need an IT expert solely dedicated to your solutions and systems. Don’t have one on staff? That’s where we come in. 

 

How We Can Help 


We are the IT experts you need to take the pressure of the 2020 End-of-Support date off of your shoulders. With our comprehensive IT support, we can help you create an upgrade timeline, update your systems and avoid a dip in productivity. Don’t wait until the final hour to think about how your business will handle Microsoft’s 2020 End of Support. Call us today and we’ll get started on your upgrade plan. 


4 Ways a Business Continuity Plan Can Help Your Company

Ways a Business Continuity Plan Can Help Your Company 

business continuity

Businessman blocking domino effect

As a business owner, the buck stops with you. Your employees rely on you to have the answers when problem occurs. But what are you going to do when you find out a hurricane or wildfire is heading your way? What about massive hardware failure? Will you be prepared?  

 

Nobody wants to think about a natural or manmade disaster affecting their business, so that’s why companies delay or ignore creating an emergency plan. A Travelers Insurance study found that 48 percent of small businesses have no plan in place.  

 

To be prepared in the event of a data, natural or manmade disaster, companies need to have a business continuity plan in place before a crisis occurs. A business continuity plan is a document outlining how a business will continue services following an emergency.  

 

With that in mind, here are four ways a business continuity plan can help your business: 

 

  1. Identify Essential Business Functions 

Do you know the minimum requirements for running your company? One of the primary goals of a business continuity plan is to identify the core functions of your business. These functions are what need to be addressed first to get back up and running at a minimum acceptable level. That way, you can reopen while continuing to address other issues. 

 

  1. Minimize Downtime 

Every hour your website, production line or office is down costs you money in lost profit. Following a disaster, 90 percent of smaller companies fail within a year unless they can resume operations within five days, according to FEMA. With a well-developed plan, your employees will know what to do to get operations running again as quickly as possible.  

 

  1. Uncover Gaps in Your Business 

While doing a business impact analysis, you may find gaps in your plan. For example, if you’re in manufacturing, do you have a secondary location to shift operations if the main facility is inoperable? If not, then you may need to come up with a plan to temporarily use a rental facility or stock up on emergency inventory.  

 

  1. Get Peace of Mind 

Researching and developing a business continuity plan can be a daunting task, no matter the size of your company. But once you’ve tested your plan and it works, you’ll be glad you have it. You and your employees can rest easy knowing that if the worst happens, you’ll be ready.  

 

Unfortunately, not all small-to-midsize businesses have the time to halt work and focus on building a plan. Luckily, they don’t have to do it alone. Our team of experts can help simplify the business continuity process to help prepare your business if the worst ever happens. 

 

Stop worrying about the worst-case scenario and contact us today.  


BDR: A Shelter From the Storm

BDR: A Shelter From the Storm

backup-disaster-recovery

commercial illustrator

As a business owner, you’re always focusing on how to best move your company
forward. But have you taken time to consider the potential threats to your operations?

Having a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan is the best way to safeguard your
data from all types of loss and destruction. Get to know these threats and the
preparations you can make to keep your business going when dark clouds begin to
loom.


Natural Disasters


You may assume backing up your data locally on a hard drive is the best way to recover
it in the event your primary system fails. But what would you would do if that hard drive
(and the entire building it resides in) was destroyed by a natural disaster?
Be it a hurricane, earthquake, fire or flood, the threats to your vital data are very real.
But even if your business becomes a sinking ship, you can have enough lifeboats for
every byte.

The best course of action is to store all data in a secure location using cloud services.
This way, when it’s time to pick your business back up, your only concern will be
selecting new office furniture.


Cyber Crime


A common way for cyber criminals to steal your data and make money is ransomware.
This malicious software holds data hostage unless a specified amount is paid.
“WannaCry” ransomware was a recent program that received worldwide attention for its
effectiveness in blocking access to crucial data. Unfortunately, many of those who paid
the ransom never had their data returned.


Setting up a firewall will block most attacks, but having an active image of all your data
stored is the best defense. Data images provide a comprehensive and usable mirror of
everything you’ve worked on and provide access when your primary system is locked
out. It will also save you time on setting up new servers and reinstalling applications.


Internal Problems


Technology will induce audible rage in even the quietest cubical when it malfunctions for
seemingly no reason. Sometimes data loss can occur due to forces from within your
company. Even though you invested in the best servers and equipment, there’s always
the chance something will cause a catastrophic failure and the loss of everything your
business relies on to function.


Data loss can also stem from basic human error. Employees who are new, temporary or
even long-term could mistakenly delete vital data. There’s also the unfortunate reality
that data could purposely be deleted or corrupted by disgruntled employees.


How We Can Help


With so many unpredictable threats looming, BDR is your shelter from the storm.
Disasters do happen, but you can rest easy knowing that the most important things will
survive. Contact us now and ask how we can disaster-proof your business.


Is Your Business Following the Right Financial Compliance Regulations?

Is Your Business Following the Right Financial Compliance Regulations?

Financial Compliance

Does your website or company accept payments online or store financial records digitally? If you answered “yes,” then you need to be compliant with industry regulations.  

 

In simple terms, compliance is the act of meeting established industry or government guidelines. These guidelines are in place to protect you and your customers’ data. As technology changes, these compliance regulations evolve, and it can be difficult for some businesses to keep up with the changes.  

 

Here are two compliance regulations businesses need to be aware of regarding financial information: 

 

PCI 


With more and more financial transactions conducted online than ever before, you have to be vigilant in protecting your and your customers’ payment information. All it takes is one data breach for your customers to lose trust in your business. Enter the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS. These regulations and requirements are designed to ensure that all companies that accept, store, process or transmit cardholder data during a credit card transaction maintain a secure environment.  

 

There are different compliance levels, determined by how many online credit card transactions your business performs within a year. Each major credit card company has its own specific requirements, such as annual questionnaires and quarterly network scans by a third-party vendor. 

 

SOX 


In the early 2000s, the U.S. government passed legislation to crack down on inaccurate financial information following scandals involving high-profile corporations such as Enron and WorldCom. This legislation became known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or SOX. The act protects shareholders and the general public by improving the accuracy of corporate financial disclosures. 

 

The financial and IT departments of all public companies are required to follow SOX regulations. The act outlines which records need to be stored and how long you need to maintain a secure backup of your financial data.    

 

What Happens if You’re Not in Compliance? 

For companies that are not in compliance with PCI, SOX or other regulations, there can be harsh penalties. For example, if you’re found in violation of the SOX requirements, you could get kicked off your exchange listing and face multimillion-dollar fines.  

 

How We Can Help 


If your business takes any kind of online payment, you need to be in compliance. We perform audits and assessments to determine whether your company meets industry regulations. Most importantly, we can create policies, controls and procedures to ensure your company prevents future issues and meets compliance every time. 

 

Don’t navigate complicated compliance and industry regulations alone. Contact us today​​​ to get started. 


Checklist: Do You Need a Project Management Solution?

Checklist: Do You Need
a Project Management Solution?

Project management (PM) software plays a critical role in how successfully you implement a new solution or resolve a task. In fact, a study by Hive found that 77 percent of high-performing projects use project management software. So, if projects are more successful using PM software, why aren’t more companies using it?

The answers are as unique as each company, with one of the top responses being that there is a general misunderstanding of how project management impacts your services. But, how do you know if a project management software solution is truly right for your business?

Start by filling out this checklist:

  • Do you have visibility on each step of a product or process deployment?
  • Do you have a way to tell who is responsible for each task?
  • Can you organize your tasks into projects to eliminate chaos and confusion?
  • Can you easily track time spent on a project for accurate billing?
  • Can your team see which deadlines are approaching and prioritize their workload?
  • Can your team collaborate and share information in a single location?
  • Do your team members know their timeline before they begin a project?
  • Can you or your team quickly identify gaps in your deliverables?
  • Can you identify projects holds and quickly determine why they occur?
  • Do you have a way to generate reports based on the completed projects?

0-3 Yes: You need a project management software solution ASAP. You’re likely losing valuable time, money and resources on projects that you don’t quite have a handle on. You’re missing deadlines and struggling to get the entire team on board with process changes. By adopting a PM solution, you’ll gain visibility and control over your projects and deployments – helping you keep on schedule and budget.


4-7 Yes: You have a handle on some things, but you’re likely losing valuable visibility when it comes to where projects are being held up or how your team’s time is being spent. Don’t let a deployment come to a screeching halt because your teams lack communication about when a task has been completed and when another task should begin. A PM solution will help your team stay on the same page and work towards a common goal – total project euphoria.


8-10 Yes: You have a handle on most things, but do you have a comprehensive solution that lets you assign tasks, track time, create project reports and manage timelines all in one place? A PM solution makes it easier to monitor and manage your team and work together across different departments. Cut out the costs of adopting multiple software programs when a single solution can help you streamline and optimize your business.


To learn more about project management software, which solution is right for your business and how we can help you keep it secure, contact us today.

5 Things to Outsource to Your vCIO

5 Things to Outsource to Your vCIO

As your business grows, you’ll eventually need someone to help you choose and deploy technology to protect your business, improve processes and support your organization’s goals. If you’ve never heard of a virtual CIO, you might assume you don’t need one – but virtual CIOs, or vCIOs, give companies the benefits of a high-level technology executive without the cost of hiring an in-house CIO.

Virtual CIOs examine your current infrastructure, locate gaps in security and productivity, and implement solutions to improve your business operations. They bring their personal experiences and a network of technical resources to work with you and determine the best IT solutions for your business. Here are five aspects of your business that you can outsource to a vCIO:

Strategic Initiatives 

Have you been putting off large projects because you’re worried about not having enough bandwidth to successfully manage them? Virtual CIOs can be brought in on an as-needed basis to oversee strategy IT initiatives that promote long-term growth and competitiveness within your organization.

Business Continuity Planning

Natural disasters, employee errors, even potential data loss during a planned system update or migration – there are numerous threats facing your business’s mission-critical information. A vCIO designs a comprehensive strategy to keep your business in operation during and after a disaster.

Emerging Opportunities 

Technology trends come and go, but the right solutions can make a measurable impact on your efficiency, growth and profit. Your vCIO keeps on top of emerging technologies and identifies opportunities for innovation in your business to help you make higher-ROI technology investments.

Cybersecurity Services 

Small and medium-sized businesses aren’t immune to cyberattacks – in fact, hackers often view them as easy targets. With help from an experienced vCIO, you can protect your business by implementing strong security measures to deflect malicious software and unauthorized access.

IT Budgeting 

Technology costs can vary wildly from month to month – or, you can partner with a vCIO who helps you stick to a predictable IT budget. Plus, virtual CIOs implement technology strategically to reduce operating costs and drive revenue, allowing a larger budget for your business to expand and thrive.

Virtual CIOs are ideal for businesses that don’t have the budget for a full-time, in-house CIO. With our vCIO services, you get access to a team of knowledgeable IT experts at a price that makes sense for your business. To discuss how a vCIO fits into your company, contact us today and start your business transformation. 


3 Technologies that Flourish with the Cloud

3 Technologies that Flourish with the Cloud

According to research from Ovum, 20 percent of business processes have already moved to the cloud. The cloud isn’t only an asset to your business; it’s become a requirement for driving efficiency and reducing costs. So, what are the next steps for cloud usage?

By combining innovative cloud technology with the latest trends, you can empower your business with the tools it needs to enhance operations and outperform the competition. When integrated with the cloud, these three technologies lower operating costs and make your life easier.

IoE (Internet of Everything)
Like its well-known cousin, the Internet of Things (IoT), IoE uses cloud computing and real-time data analytics to communicate with different machines and devices. With a focus on machine-to-machine communications, IoE has a general “understanding” of how humans interact with everything in their environment – from people to devices.

As IoE develops, your customers can intelligently interact with every device within your network. You’ll gain greater insights into the relationships of consumers and how they view and purchase your products and services. You’ll gain visibility on which pages your customer views, which links they click and how many times they visit your site – adding this information to a customer profile and giving you valuable insight into how they interact with your products. Innovative cloud technology makes IoE possible and leverages crucial information for your business.

AI
Automating processes is an easy way to reduce operating costs. By leveraging AI and big data, you’ll gain a holistic view of all your business functions. As the cloud continues to grow, system administrators are getting more time-consuming, repetitive tasks. Innovative cloud technology supports AI and automation to take over labor-intensive tasks – including copying and extracting data.

By automating simple tasks and preventing duplicate effort, you can eliminate unnecessary costs and improve efficiency. Plus, AI platforms ensure work is distributed evenly and support data governance to keep your business meeting compliance regulations.


Containers
Containers are influential development tools that scale and optimize ROI across multiple cloud environments. Developers can use these containers to extract information like code, configurations and dependencies, and push it to production seamlessly and easily – making deployment a breeze.

Containers enable cloud resources to run in multiple settings, enhance data fabrics and improve mobility. When working with different cloud environments, containers make it easier to move data from one environment to another – eliminating the restrictions of on-premises applications. For businesses using multi-cloud environments – private, public or hybrid – containers are critical for transferring information.

As the cloud becomes a necessity for business operations, the next steps are learning how to integrate other IT services to enhance your cloud solution. By combining the latest technologies with a solution designed to enhance workflow, you can improve your customers’ experience and stand out from your competition. As your partner, we’ll integrate the latest trends into your strategic IT roadmap.

To learn how we can help implement the latest innovative cloud technologies to improve your business operations, contact us today.


5 Tools to Improve Your Collaboration

5 Tools to Improve Your Collaboration

The McKinsey Institute found that teams improved productivity up to 25 percent through increased collaboration. But, finding out which collaboration tools will round up your most isolated employees can be tougher than it sounds.

From tools that focus on bringing your team together to apps that strengthen your communication skills, identifying where exactly your team is struggling should be your first step to determining the right solution for your business. Once you’ve pinpointed the problem, you can scour hundreds of cloud-based applications and tools designed to resolve your issues.

To get you started, we’re sharing five top productivity tools.

Microsoft Office 365
Office 365 lets your team collaborate on documents and projects with applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Work on the same file in almost real-time, exchange feedback seamlessly and access past versions of a document. Because your files are hosted in the cloud, your team can collaborate on projects from any device and any location with an Internet connection.

Yammer
Yammer is described as the Facebook of the corporate world. That’s because the platform provides a news feed, different group channels and file-sharing features just like Facebook. Post updates in a client’s group and tag the people who need to see the feedback, or create a channel for your internal team, department or entire company to share information, communicate and collaborate on projects.

Slack
Slack provides a nearly instantaneous response platform for peers and clients. You can set up an unlimited number of channels and use them to share task information, get feedback from clients and adjust expectations for project deliveries. Because Slack integrates with other solutions like Office 365 and Jira, you can submit tickets and collaborate on documents with a single click.

Cisco Webex
Webex keeps you connected with clients, peers and prospects from anywhere with an Internet connection. Eliminate miscommunications with crystal-clear video quality that lets you see every nonverbal cue from meeting attendees. Plus, Webex keeps your video communication channel safe and encrypted with a multi-layered security solution that protects everyone – regardless of where they’re calling from.

Evernote
Evernote provides a scalable note-taking platform where you can sync and share documents to multiple users. This easy-to-use application lets teams collaborate quickly and seamlessly in nearly real-time. Whether you’re working on different parts of a project or need to quickly make changes during the quality-check process, you can do so from any laptop, desktop or mobile device.

To learn more about cloud-based collaboration tools, which solutions are right for your business and how we can help you improve your productivity, contact us today.