Tag Archives: business

Natural Disasters Can Destroy, But Your Data Is Safe If It’s In The Cloud

02 Nov 17
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

This past hurricane season has brought some of the most harrowing, widespread destruction the southeastern United States has ever been forced to weather. But, despite the enormous, tragic cost of these natural disasters, the people of these communities persevere. In the wake of widespread wind damage and flooding, communities have banded together. Thousands of volunteers and neighbors are working as one to rebuild and find the way forward. There is no doubt, however, that the havoc wreaked by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will produce aftershocks that will echo through affected areas for decades.

To anyone who turtled up in their attic in the middle of the storm or just saw a picture of the wreckage in the news after the hurricanes departed, the physical damage caused by the storm is obvious. What’s less obvious is the effect these storms have on the futures of the survivors, the reverberating impact that cuts thousands of life plans short and forces individuals to completely change their course in a cruel reversal of fate.

“Forty percent of small businesses don’t survive these events,” said Russel Honore, the previous Joint Task Force commander for Hurricane Katrina. The electrical grid is knocked out for days, and businesses are forced to close the office for what they hope is a temporary period due to flooding.

Each day that a business can’t provide service, it’s bleeding money — a cost that many businesses, especially the little guys, can’t absorb. So, they close for good, their buildings go up for lease and those who were once the heads of promising young businesses are now unemployed, in the market for a job in a city up to its neck in water.

Just as common is a business that finds its central data structures wiped out by physical damage. Following a hurricane, most businesses near the storm should have little trouble cleaning up and remodeling following nasty flooding, but if their servers, computers and network infrastructure have been wiped out, it’s a completely different story.

Oftentimes, a catastrophic loss of data will shutter a business for good. A 2010 report by technology research firm Gartner Group stated that 43 percent of businesses went belly-up almost immediately after a “major loss” of data, while 51% shut down within just two years. That leaves a measly 6% survival rate for businesses that suffer company-wide data loss.

These are scary numbers, to be sure, but there is good news: Businesses that migrate their data to the cloud are at significantly less risk of losing vital data. This is not only because your typical cloud service will back up your up-to-date data with several levels of redundancy, but because most cloud services are actually more secure than their on-site counterparts in general.

And make no mistake, businesses with on-site data are susceptible to loss far beyond physical disasters like hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes or solar flares. Don’t forget the risks disgruntled employees, freak accidents and, especially, hackers pose to your precious data. While it’s true that all of these risks still exist with cloud-based services, they’re much reduced. A 2012 Alert Logic report stated that “on-premises environment users actually suffer more [hacking] incidents” than cloud-based users, while also being subjected to “significantly more brute force attacks.” When you think about it, this makes sense. With your entire system backed up on a number of off-site locations, it’s much more difficult for hackers to encrypt the entirety of your data and hold it for ransom.

That said, not every business absolutely needs the cloud to stay secure. Certain business models need on-site structures for various reasons, and a few find it more cost-effective. Still, the cloud is definitely something that any savvy business owner needs to examine closely as a potential option. It could mean the difference between flourishing in the next fiscal quarter and going under.

Skimp On Data Protection And Pay The Price

10 Oct 17
lverbik
, , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

We’ve said it time and again: Today’s cybercriminals are using more advanced technology than ever. And those malicious tools are becoming even more sophisticated at a breakneck pace. To top it all off, new software developments are enabling these criminals to cast wider and wider nets, targeting businesses that, before, would have flown under their radar. Companies small and large, of every type, are being infiltrated by vicious cyber-attacks across the world each and every day.

Even knowing this, business owners are tempted to cut costs and corners. When you’ve never had a breach, data security can seem like a distant concern, especially for a limited budget. But regardless of which digital barriers you put in place to protect your business, you can bet on one thing: One day, your security will be tested by an attack. Whether or not the hackers punch through could mean the difference between your company shutting down for good — as 60% of small businesses do in the six months following a cyber-attack, according to the Denver Post — and remaining solvent and secure in your position.

When you’re struggling to stay afloat or simply wanting to be a savvy spender, you may think the best way to lock down your data is to put one of your staff on the task or to do it yourself.

And sure, your team can conduct hours of research searching for inexpensive security. And you’ll almost certainly find something cheap with good reviews and a decent track record. You’ll figure out how to install the software across your system, complete with firewalls, server protection, antivirus and maybe a bell and a whistle or two. Perhaps you’ll even hold a meeting to educate your staff on the do’s and don’ts of cyber security.

“Use intricately constructed passwords,” you’ll tell them. “Don’t click suspicious links in your email.”

Then, after a few days of fiddling with settings and ensuring the security software is properly in place, you’ll forget about it altogether. After all, it’s already installed, and you’ve checked to make sure there aren’t any gaps in the system. It’s not something you need to constantly monitor.

A year later, your business has — miraculously — doubled in size. You’re finally reaping profits. Best of all, a recent news story has brought your company into the public eye, and brand-new leads are contacting you every day. For the first time since the company’s inception, you can breathe easy.

Then, one Monday morning, you log into your computer. For a second, everything seems to be normal, until an innocent-looking pop-up fills your screen. “Attention!” an eerie robotic voice barks from your speakers, “Your documents, photos, databases and other important files have been encrypted!”

Thinking it’s a hoax, you click into your server drive. To your dismay, you really are locked out of everything. So, palms sweating, you read the rest of the pop-up. It provides instructions to install the deep web browser Tor as well as an address for you to visit. When you go there, you learn that in order to recover all your data, including the credit card information of your customers, you’ll need to dish out $50,000 in bitcoin.

A year ago, you couldn’t afford adequate cyber security. Can you afford $50,000 in cash today?

Identical situations are unfolding every day, with people exactly like you. Back in April, CNBC reported that across the previous 12 months, half of all small businesses had been infiltrated by malicious hackers. “Cyber security is clearly a concern that the entire business community shares, but it represents an especially pernicious threat to smaller businesses,” wrote the Securities and Exchange Commission in a 2015 report. “The reason is simple: small and midsize businesses are not just targets of cybercrime; they are its principal target.” Cheapo security solutions might be fine for a lone browser surfing the web at home, but they are shockingly inadequate resources on which to base the entire success of your company, your livelihood and the livelihood of your employees.

Frankly, it’s irresponsible to lock your data behind a flimsy $5 firewall. Invest in robust cyber security solutions and secure the future of your company.

Winter 2017: Disaster For Your Data?

26 Oct 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

With winter just around the corner, everyone around you may be getting “all wrapped up” in the upcoming holiday season…

But you’ve got a business to run, customers to keep happy and mission-critical data to keep safe, even if a major blizzard, lightning strike, windstorm or epic flood is taking place right outside your door.

Here are 5 easy steps you can take this holiday season to get your office prepared for this winter’s worst, without seeming like Mr. Grinch.

Be ready for power outages. A power outage can hurt your business in more ways than you think. Besides employee downtime, it takes time to safely get everything back up and running. Then you need to make sure no critical files have been damaged or lost.

Autosave features can help minimize lost files in a sudden power outage. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can give your team anywhere from ten minutes to an hour to back up files and properly shut down equipment. If you need longer power durability during an outage, you might want to look into a backup generator.

Keep lines of communication open. Customer frustration due to production delays and not being able to reach key people at your company can be very costly in terms of both revenues and your company’s reputation. Here are three ways to make sure calls to your office don’t get bobbled when a storm rolls in:
1. Create a new automated greeting to let callers know about changes in hours or closings.
2. Set up an emergency override that automatically reroutes key phone lines to one or more numbers that can be reached during an outage.
3. Make sure you and your staff can access voice mail remotely – from a smartphone, by e-mail as an attached sound file or transcribed message, or as a text notification.

Manage employees working from home. Many of your employees can work from home if need be. But you’ll need to prepare in advance if it’s not the norm at your company. Have your IT specialist check with employees who could work from home during rough weather. They’ll need a virtual private network (VPN) to safely access the company network. Be sure it’s set up well in advance to avoid any glitches when that winter storm hits and you need it most.

Have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) ready to go. Unless you can afford to shut down for days at a time, or even just a few hours, it’s absolutely critical to keep a written DRP on hand. Write out step-by-step details of who does what in every type of winter disruption – from simple power outages to blizzards, flooding or building damage caused by heavy winds or lightning. A downed network can cost your company big-time every minute it’s offline. Make sure your plan includes one or more ways to get it back up and running ASAP. Consider virtualizing key parts or all of your network so your team can access it remotely. Once you’ve written out your plan, keep one copy at your office, one at home and one with your IT specialist.

Get help from a professional you can trust. Trying to recover your data after a sudden or serious outage without professional help is business suicide. One misstep can result in losing critical files forever, or weeks of downtime. Make sure you’re working with a pro who will not only help set up a recovery plan, but has experience in data recovery. The old adage about an ounce of prevention applies doubly when it comes to working with the right people who can help you prepare for – and recover from – whatever winter throws your way.

Spooked About Your Network’s Security?

13 Oct 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments
You should be, unless somebody’s keeping a vigilant eye on it for you…
Not too long ago, in a place not so far away…when ancient hordes attacked your city, a single breach in the wall could mean certain death – or at least the end of life as you know it.
Yet times change…or do they?
Attacks by today’s cybercriminals on your network, while perhaps not physically life-threatening, can inflict severe damage to the life and health of your business.
FACT: The odds of a successful cyber-attack against your business today are one in five. And, at a typical cost of $300,000 or more, a full 60% of smaller businesses that suffer a breach shut their doors for good within six months, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance.
So, who’s “guarding the gate” at your company’s network?
The problem with keeping your network safe today is that these attacks don’t just happen randomly – they are constant and unrelenting. Ever more sophisticated “robot” software is making it easier than ever for attackers to stalk the Internet, probing for vulnerabilities 24/7.
Here are just a few of the ways these vigilantes can penetrate your network’s defenses:
An SQL Injection can destroy your database, steal e-mail addresses, usernames and passwords, gain access to sensitive client management and billing data, deface your web site and defraud your business. It’s also now the most frequent mode of attack.
Open Ports – An open port is basically a channel for Internet data to connect with devices on your network. A firewall normally filters data, but hacker “web-bots” constantly probe for vulnerabilities. When they find an open port, and if they have installed malicious code inside your system, they are then able to control your devices.
In a DDoS attack, a network of computers attacks a single server with a surge of traffic, forcing it to crash. They most often target political organizations and banks; however, small businesses are also at risk. To avoid getting shut down, you need a defense plan in place and around-the-clock monitoring.
Malware and Viruses – Unfortunately, anti-malware and antivirus software programs in reality often fall short of claims, leaving many SMB networks highly vulnerable. The problem is twofold: First, they only detect a breach after the malware or virus has infected your system. Second, detection solutions often lag behind the latest threats by days or even weeks, leaving a big window for them to inflict heavy damage.
Targeted E-mails – Cybercriminals seem to get better each day at creating enticing e-mails that innocent readers will click on without a moment’s thought. If that reader happens to be on your network, you now have yet another hidden attacker to deal with.
“Drive-By Downloads” are a client-side intrusion where a person in your network innocently picks up a nasty bug…
Credit Card Theft – How would you feel if one of your customers’ credit cards got hacked due to a flaw in your security? Now imagine how you would feel if that incident turned into a lawsuit… Yet that is exactly what can happen if your DLP (Data Loss Prevention) system isn’t up to snuff. As you’ve no doubt seen in the news, credit card data theft is now epidemic. To keep customer data safe and maintain PCI compliance, it’s absolutely crucial to make sure your DLP is on duty 100% of the time.
As cybercriminals hone their evil craft, we must now be on guard, as our businesses grow ever more web-dependent. Yet how do you find the time to keep up with it all, much less make sure your network is safe?
Lucky for you, there’s a silver dagger…our Techno Pros can help you find and install the right protection.  Contact us.

 

 

 

Backup

Will Your Backups Be There When You Need Them?

06 Jul 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

When the livelihood of your business depends on data stored in your computer network, you simply cannot afford to leave anything to chance. Data preservation and the ability to retrieve it at any point in time is the foundation of business continuity.

Yet the facts about backup failures are shocking:

  • According to the Boston Computing Network, 31% of PC users have lost data due to events “beyond their control.”
  • Analysts at the Hughes Marketing Group found that 40% of businesses that experience a critical IT failure go out of business within one year.
  • In a recent Gartner study, only 35% of backup tests were successful.

Some of the more common reasons for backup failures include unintentional formatting of a hard drive, accidental data deletion, malware or virus attack, firmware corruption, natural disasters, logical errors and continued computer operation when the hard drive is starting to fail.

So how certain are you that your backup system is 100% reliable? Could a false sense of security be preventing you from taking actions that will insure your backups will really be there when you need them?

7 Ways to Avoid Data Disaster Due To Backup Failure

Without proactive measures in place – and Murphy’s Law being what it is – the odds of a successful restoration when you need it most may not be as great as you’d like to think… So what can you do? Here are seven ways to avoid a damaging loss of data due to backup failure.

  1. Insist on regular, remote and redundant processes. A good rule of thumb is 3-2-1. That means three copies of your data stored in two off-site locations, backed up a minimum of one time per day.
  1. Don’t go too cheap on disk drives. Less expensive arrays that save money by doing without features like redundant power supply and hot spare disks may leave your data at risk.
  1. Guard against human error. Make sure people performing backups and restores know exactly what to do – and what not to do. Take people out of the loop and automate wherever possible. And be especially cautious in situations where backups aren’t a part of someone’s regular duties.
  1. Are your backup software settings being checked routinely? When new software or updates are put into service, a change in the way the settings are configured can cause incomplete backups, or backups that fail completely. Do the people who maintain your backups include this on their regular to-do list?
  1. Could some files be getting left out? As resources are added and priorities shift, files and folders can get misplaced or accidentally left off the backup list. Insist on a quarterly or annual meeting with your backup management team to make sure all mission-critical files are included in your organization’s data recovery systems.
  1. Address network issues immediately. Any component in your network that isn’t working properly can introduce another point of failure in your backup process. Every juncture in your network, from a misconfigured switch to a flaky host bus adapter, can hurt your backups.
  1. Ask for help with your data backup and recovery system. You cannot be expected to be an expert in all things. Yet data is the backbone of your business – its protection and recovery should not be left to chance. Why not leverage the knowledge, skill and experience of an expert in the field?

Even with all these measures in place, the best way to keep your organization safe from harm due to data loss is to verify your backup system by performing regular test restores. This will help identify any problems in advance so they can be fixed – allowing you to avoid getting hit with an ugly surprise when you least need it.

The Smart Way To Assure Backup Success

Unless your team has all the time and expertise required to consistently close all open loops in your backup system, your organization may be at risk of serious harm due to data loss.

Contact us today at 317-857-0150 – before disaster strikes.

Professional E-mail Addresses

04 May 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

Are you turning business away with your e-mail “saddress”?

We see it all the time and there’s just no excuse for it. It’s just sad, really, when a company is still using an e-mail address that projects a less than professional image to its recipients. What do we mean by that?

Look at your e-mail address. Does it end in @hotmail, @gmail, or—don’t make me say it–@aol? I just URLed in my mouth a little. The time has come to make some simple changes that will have far reaching effects on your business and its perception with your intended audience.

The fastest, easiest and most inexpensive change you can make is to have an e-mail account that links to your business’s domain. For example, joesmith@WidgetCorp.com. This is a simple matter of linking any e-mail account you may use, such as gmail, through your company’s domain. The back end secret is yours; recipients will never see signs of gmail. They only see a business that’s all business.

Another suggestion is to avoid using a clever descriptive name or nickname as part of your e-mail address, like SwankyLover@WidgetCorp.com. You might think it is clever and that it makes you stand out—and it does, but not in the way you want for a professional business. Customers will not find it easy to take SwankyLover seriously, nor will they risk taking a chance on a “persona” rather than a straightforward actual person. Use your name. It shows you are professional and mean business. It lets people know who they’re talking to.

Make sure the body of those e-mails look good, too, by regularly employing templates. There’s nothing worse than a customer receiving hastily written e-mails littered with typos. The easy way to avoid that is the use of templates—pre-written text for the types of communications you have to send out repeatedly. You can actually purchase template programs for this scenario. Another way is to create your own set of templates and store them on Google drive so that all of your employees have access to them. This also creates a consistent level of quality across the company and helps employees who may not have the writing skill set you wish they did.

A closing tip: if you and your employees have signature lines (bio type descriptions) at the end of your e-mails, keep it to one or two sentences, not a novella. If you want people to know more, just include a link so they can make the choice themselves to click through. Putting people off by annoying them with excessive self-promotion is something easily avoided—so why not take the terse road.

We’re delighted to help you take the sad out of e-mail addresses and show your business in the best possible light. For other tips and tricks to gain the advantage using technology, contact TechnoAdvantage today.

Going to be away from the office? Do it in good taste.

20 Apr 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

You’re productive and you like to receive replies promptly to your emails when engaging in business. No one has time to mess around. So when the weather warms up, with it comes the inevitable surge in out-of-office replies. This can be frustrating for your customers and downright bad business if you don’t handle it properly.

Going into this busy season of absent employees, it’s a good time to look at the right ways and the wrong ways to inform the world—and your coworkers—that you’re away from your desk and vacationing your cares away. There is an etiquette around this seemingly trivial aspect of email. Here are some tips:

  • Create calendar update. Make sure that you update your Outlook calendar to reflect the dates you will be away. Set an Out of Office status and a standing Appointment for those days that you are going to be absent so that coworkers can see your calendar and schedule meetings appropriately, knowing when you are and are not available.
  • Don’t blanket the company with your out of office reminders. Send The Outlook appointment containing your Out of Office status only to the people who will truly be impacted by your absence—your manager(s) and those you work with regularly. There’s nothing more annoying than getting daily out of office reminders, so make sure to turn that off.
  • Prepare your auto responder message. In Outlook, go to Tools, and then Out of Office. Fill in your message, as well as dates and times you will be away. There are also Address book rules that should be set so that you choose who receives your notification. For example, you do not want your Out of Office email to go to external parties, which would include spammers. For security reasons keep it internal.
  • Provide some pertinent details. You’ll want to include the dates you’ll be away, and when you will return. Also mention when you will be able to reply to their message. You may be able to check emails once a day or once a week while away, so let them know, but do not over promise on this point. The fact is that you may not be able to keep your promise so it may be in your best interest to include a name and contact information of a colleague who will stand in for you in your absence.
  • Keep the details to business. Nobody wants or needs to know what you’re doing on your vacation so don’t be a braggart and assume people want to hear about your lobster dinners or parasailing adventures. Just the simple stuff from point 4 above is all you need.

We’re happy to help you find better more advantageous ways to use IT in your daily business. Contact TechnoAdvantage today for help using Outlook or other ideas to make your company run more smoothly.

The Hard Job of Software Management: Four Ways to Optimize Your Software Licensing

09 Mar 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

While the term software management might be routine to some businesses, others of you out there may not realize a strategy is needed to keep you cost efficient and in compliance.  This area has grown increasingly complex in recent times with the number of software titles going through the roof, and companies are finding that the situation can lead to overprovisioning as well as audits—both of which can cost your business greatly.

Think of a teenager’s closet shelves and book shelves and even under the bed stuffed with video games and you get the picture of what’s going on in business environments with software. How did you get so many software licenses? Aren’t some of these essentially duplications?  How much are we spending?

Here’s what you do:

  1. Think strategically before you renew. It’s that time of the year again for renewing software contracts. Just click yes and you’re set for another year, right? WRONG! Take a look at where you are, what’s happened in your business over the last year, how you’re doing business, and what needs to change. Then look at your software titles. Might it be time to thin out the pack? Have you grown beyond one program’s usefulness and need something more robust? Or perhaps one more full featured software to handle the job of two or three currently? Is there a way to bundle the software you need that will save you some money?
  2. Software is not valuable if it’s on a shelf—so keep it off. Software that is not being used due to obsolescence or overprovisioning is simply money thrown down the drain. Reevaluate what’s on your shelfware list and decommission what has outlived its usefulness. Bonus tip: Look for support contracts you may be paying for on software you’re not using, and start shaving the excess.
  3. Employ software asset management tools as part of your formal software policies. These tools can help you know which software is running and what it is doing. A couple examples of these are Snow and LANDESK IT software asset management products. The end goal is to make smarter, targeted software purchase based on needs, while keeping you in compliance. In addition, SAM tools help you avoid costly software duplication that can occur across your company when one department doesn’t know what the other departments are doing. You’ll get a centralized view of software assets to easily see where the duplications are occurring.
  4. Put together a software team. You may not be big enough for a formal software strategy—that’s okay. Better in your situation is either one expert or a crack team whose goal is to review, manage and maintain software and negotiate contracts in your best interest.

No one wants to be audited—and by paying heed to these four simple guidelines, you can come out ahead of the game with an optimal software strategy and money in the bank. For more software management tips, contact us HERE.

Help Grow your Business with Help Desk Support

30 Dec 15
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

Here at Techno Advantage, we believe that a major advantage we offer IT clients in our integrated family of IT management products and services is our Help Desk. Because partnering with you is a priority, your outsourced IT Help Desk is here for you 24-7, at the ready to help you should your system experience a down.

Because IT management can be so complex, we keep things simple—when employees have an IT issue or question, we’re right here. Following are a few key reasons why our Help Desk can mean good things for your business.

  • Knowledge that can save you money. Taking care of your business’s IT needs sounds like it could become a costly endeavor, and it could if not handled correctly. Our Help Desk can provide guidance and wisdom to move your IT program where it needs to go without unnecessary spending. In the long run, you’re going to be glad you saved money that you can funnel into other areas of importance.
  • Keeping everyone efficient. Before small IT issues become big ones, a Help Desk can step in and head off potential trouble. From top management on down, efficiency is higher and workflow is not disrupted when you have a Help Desk to rely on.
  • Save valuable man-hours. A dedicated team solving your IT issues for you means your employees are free to stay productive and focused on the work at hand. We’re your crack IT troubleshooting snipers picking off whatever threatens to slow down your office.
  • More than problem solvers; problem avoiders. Our Help Desk not only provides help choosing the right technology, systems and software that can increase workflow but we follow up with your employees to ensure problems stay solved and employees stay productive and satisfied.
  • The go-to people for technology. Keeping up with the fast-evolving IT industry can be tough. But with our Help Desk professionals, you have the advantage of built-in expert advisors who are tracking with the latest innovations and trends to give you that edge you need to stay competitive.

Techno Advantage provides the technology to support your business with customized solutions in a true partner relationship. Our Help Desk is just one way we can take the burden from you. Contact us for more ways we can help grow your business.

What can hosted workspaces do for your business?

16 Dec 15
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

As our culture continually evolves more and more toward mobility and flexibility with the use of tablets, smartphones and notebook computers, business is happening all the time, everywhere, in places we never would have dreamed. Companies are implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies to make it easy for their employees to maintain a productive pace after they leave the office. And there’s a growing trend emerging to make it work to a company’s advantage.

The concept of a hosted workspace involves a desktop environment situated on a remote server that provides a “virtual office” where employees’ own personal devices can be used to do business seamlessly and relatively safely. Users have easy access from their various devices, from virtually anywhere they may be—inside or outside the office.

It provides a nice little setup giving users a way to interact and work with all of a company’s data, applications and programs just as they would a traditional desktop computer environment—but without the stationary, cumbersome, and costlier machines anchoring them to workstations.

The hosted workspace means that, as a business, you are saving on equipment costs and the constant software upgrades that go along with these conventional setups. Hosted workspaces work and grow with you no matter what the size of your company.

If you fear less security with a mobile environment, your fears are unfounded. The opposite is actually true. Hosted workspaces are proven more secure—providing built in security features, including virus protection and secure cloud server storage for your data. And if you think about what you could lose should your security be breached in a traditional office computer environment, you’re looking at what can be a devastating loss.

So for many businesses, hosted workspaces offer the best advantages that mobile technology has to offer, while keeping your employees nimble and efficient—to do business anywhere. We think that’s a pretty cool idea. Contact us here to find out how TechnoAdvantage can help you craft your own hosted workspace.