Tag Archives: small business

Why Cyberthugs LOVE Your Business

14 Dec 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

It was a typical morning at the offices of a small Midwestern online retailer. This company, whose name we cannot mention due to a non-disclosure agreement with our source (Gary Miller, GEM Strategy Management) owned a very successful online catalog offering a wide variety of women’s apparel and accessories. They had a terrific reputation and brand, and every reason to be excited about their future.

Then, with a single click, the death spiral began…

An employee received an e-mail with a link to a benign-looking catalog. All it took was one click and the company’s entire network was infected. The Crytowall malware dug deep into the company’s accounting system and customer files, including credit card and social security numbers.

Fifteen thousand customer accounts were locked up by the malware. A ransom demand soon followed, requiring $50,000 for the key. Unfortunately, the company’s backup systems had been down for the last three months. With no way to remove the virus without destroying crucial data, the company had its back against a wall.

They paid for the decryption key. But no luck – it didn’t work. Business came to a grinding halt. The company owners couldn’t afford to rebuild their entire network. Within six months, the company closed its doors, strangled by a lack of sales and cash flow.

Could this happen to you?

Hackers have discovered that small businesses make juicy targets. These criminals love going after small businesses because they’re often the easiest to penetrate. IBM reports that over 62% of the 4,000 cyber-attacks that occur every day target small businesses.

Cyberthugs filch information to rob bank accounts via wire transfers. They steal customers’ personal identity information and resell it on black markets. They nab key information to file fraudulent tax returns, and commit health insurance or Medicare fraud – in your customers’ names.

Most small businesses are easy prey because they fail to take precautions. But you don’t have to be like most small businesses. Here are four things you can start doing TODAY to prevent a shutdown that could destroy your fortunes.

Understand evolving threats – Know what’s at risk in your company. Stay on top of the different schemes hackers use to gain entry. Learn all you can about phishing, spoofing, social engineering, malware, systems hacking, pharming and the latest scams so you can see them coming. Identify your company’s weak points and bolster them as needed.

Institute a dual signature policy – Require that two people sign off on every transaction. At the very least, when in doubt, pick up the phone. Verify all fund transfers or requests for payment before releasing funds.

Ingrain a solid data security policy in your company’s culture – Yes, you need to define and document protocols…but that’s not enough. In order for them to work, they must permeate every activity you and your team engages in. Your employees are the gatekeepers of critical data. Train them to see the warning signs, engage in safe practices and respond effectively to an attack. Examples include using only unique, complex passwords and keeping a “clean desk,” where sensitive information isn’t exposed.

Have – and practice – an incident response plan – Just like a fire drill, being ready for a breach gives your team an edge when faced with a crisis. When everyone knows exactly what to do, you’re better able to nip a hack in the bud.

Why play Russian roulette with your company’s data?

If you’ve been putting off cyber protection measures, thinking, “Oh, that would never happen here,” you are putting your company’s entire future in jeopardy. NOW is the time to call in an expert you can trust to verify that your data is safe in today’s rapidly evolving battle against a host of online bad guys.

When it comes to protecting your data – whether it’s bank account information, customer and employee records or proprietary IP or processes – we’ve got you covered.

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.

3 Deadly Sins of Computer Care

18 May 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

If you’re like most people in business, you require a computer to do some if not all of your daily work.  But how often do you actual consider the proper care your devices require to work optimally and keep you connected to the world around you?  

If you’re committing these 3 deadly sins of computer care, read through our suggestions to help ensure the health of your hardware.  The last thing you need is your computer crashing, losing unsaved work and ruining your productivity.  

1.       You don’t have a cooling fan.  A cooling fan for your laptop or computer will help ensure that it does not become overheated.  Sometimes the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death” will appear as a result of an overheated hard drive.  For PC users, a small desk fan will also improve the temperature control for those long work hours at the office.

2.       Is that a dust bunny in there?  A quick burst on the keyboard with your handy dandy “Can O’ Air” is not enough to keep the dust out of your computer tower.  Every couple of months you need to open the case of your tower and clean house!  Dust will slow down all of your systems and choke the processing speed right out of your computer.

3.      Snack-a-holic!  Eating in front of your keyboard is a fast way to sticky keys and stuck space bars.  Don’t let your keyboard become a garbage can due to your bad habits.  A clean work space is the key to cutting down the list of problems that can occur in and around your office.

If your computer could use some TLC, 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.

New ad blocker technology means faster page loads—but what about us?

06 Apr 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

If you’re doing business online, then you probably know about ad blockers and have accepted the fact that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And, as if there aren’t enough obstacles to selling online, there’s a new beast on the horizon that takes ad blocking to another level: It’s called Polaris and it’s a new ad blocking technology embedded in its own Opera browser.

Unlike what we’ve faced in the past with ad blocking extensions in Chrome, Firefox and other popular browsers, Opera’s new ad blocking technology is native—at the web engine level—meaning that it’s more powerful and insidious to get around. Developed by techxperts at Harvard, the technology maps out a sequence for downloading a web page’s info bits, resulting in fewer network trips for the browser, and thus, faster page load times. For businesses that advertise online, it is a little worrisome.

Why is this happening, why!? It’s about improvements to page loading speed. We all know there’s nothing more exasperating than waiting for a page to load. We will sit patiently for about 2 seconds and if it goes beyond that, we’re freaking out and writing complaint letters to the technology companies—or cussing out the computer and getting up to grab a sandwich so we don’t have to deal with watching the spinning “page loading” icon.

Even more than that, people are sick of the bloated online ads that not only suck up bandwidth to load up, but oftentimes obstruct the content you’re reading and refuse to close down when you X them out. Or the ads with the unsavory DOWNLOAD buttons that, if clicked, could send you a virus. Tracking and privacy are also concerns.

So you can’t blame the world if it wants to block ads. Remarked one spokesperson for Opera: “Ad-blocking technology is an opportunity and a wake-up call to the advertising industry to pay attention to what consumers are actually saying.” This means that it might be time for businesses to create better ads—relevant, engaging, non-annoying ads. They might be the only ads that get through if the future of ad blocking is anything like Polaris.

Opera boasts that, with its Polaris ad blocker, their browser runs, on average, 45 percent faster than Google Chrome with Ad Block Plus extension, and 21 percent speedier than Firefox. That makes it enticing enough to worry about.

You probably don’t need to worry about Opera blocking your ads yet since it is a relatively unknown and unused browser compared to Chrome and the other top names. But as it is the way things are going to increase internet speeds, one should take heed and begin to look at the types of ads you’re creating—making them sleeker and smoother and more unobtrusive. And possibly at other avenues that don’t rely so much on ads, such as inbound marketing.

PCWorld has a more detailed techy explanation on the story…

Put the Zip Back into Google Chrome

23 Mar 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

Like the old story of the frog that gradually, unwittingly gets itself boiled in a pot of water, users of the Google Chrome browser may not realize they’ve been cooking in their own accumulated data bits, suddenly finding one day that their browser is operating super slowly or crashing all the time. Because Chrome is the most widely used, popular browser on planet Earth, it’s worth mentioning these easy tips for putting the zip back into your Chrome.

Of all the techy problems you can have, slow browsing is probably one of the most annoying, in our humble opinion. You’re fast, brilliant, efficient, productive—yet you can’t get this darn page to load up so all your work comes to a screeching halt.

Don’t be the frog—don’t simmer to death in a slow Google Chrome browser. Here is a three-pronged philosophy for getting Chrome back to optimum speed:

  1. Clear Your History Often

If you’re like most people and you might be since the average person is like most people, then you don’t even think about the accumulated history gathering in your cache. For every visit you make to a website, that browser data is stored in a virtual storage bin. Over time, the bin gets stuffed with bits of information that sucks up memory and causes your software to struggle to get things done. This can be easily remedied by making a habit of clearing your data history and cache periodically. Give yourself a reminder alarm to clean it out every month; it’s simple and can make a big difference.

  1. The Fewer Plugins, the Better

Again, the average user probably isn’t even aware of how many plugins they’ve downloaded over time. If your Chrome browser is running slowly, it might be time to check this. Just type “Chrome:plugins” into your browser bar and it will reveal all your plugins currently in use. Even if you are not actively using them, each plugin will load and remain operational, thusly clogging up your browser with unnecessary software data bits. Simply uninstall or disable those you do not use. Feeling lighter? Good—there’s one more tip.

  1. Clean Up Your Extensions

Here’s another one you’ve probably been collecting each time you see a cool new thing to add to your Chrome experience. Pinterest, Hola, Pockets, WOT, Last Pass—the list goes on. You may have extension overload. Just type “chrome://extensions” into the browser to see your collection. Now which ones are you still actually using? Get rid of the rest, and this—combined with steps one and two above—will start to free up memory and create a leaner, faster cheetahlike Chrome. And that means a less annoyed, more productive, more efficient you.

Contact Techno Advantage for additional IT advantages to learn better smarter ways to get things done.

Is it Time to Go to the Cloud?

26 Jan 16
lverbik
, , , , , , , ,
No Comments

It’s a commonly asked question: Should we get a new server or go to the cloud? The answer differs, depending on who’s trying to sell you their services. So what’s the answer? Is there just one answer?

If you’ve maxxed out your old server and it’s coming to its life’s useful end, you have an important decision to make. Buying a new server and staying with a private cloud may be beneficial for a majority of businesses, but sometimes a public cloud may work best.

There’s one story, the word-on-the-street benefits of the cloud:

  • increased business efficiency and agility
  • save on IT costs
  • employees can access your company data easily wherever they are
  • easy file sharing, collaboration and conferencing
  • eliminate file backup worries
  • free storage
  • works from any device
  • cloud users enjoy higher revenues* according to a survey by accounting software provider MYOB

All true, the above benefits of the cloud may be best suited for:

  • startups
  • very small companies
  • virtual company
  • company with global locations
  • businesses with high internal IT costs
  • businesses who require mega computing power

But wait—here’s another story to consider. Most small and medium-sized businesses who make up the core of our country’s free enterprise system-the manufacturers, the service companies, the product distributors—these types with existing application housed on their old servers–are smart, savvy, and not switching to the cloud. They instead choose to buy new servers.

Why would they NOT choose the cloud? Didn’t the media world determine it was all-around cheaper and better for companies? The answer for a large segment of the business population—and possibly you—is no.

It’s a cost and ROI story. Established companies running their own applications are finding that migrating them to the cloud and operating them using cloud based applications is in fact too costly when all is said and done—oft times more expensive than the current situation. Companies who were surveyed and did so found that it came in at roughly the same price to switch over—about $100 per month per user. That was the 2013 price for a business to switch over its current infrastructure to one that is cloud based.

So what is the answer for you? Do your cost comparisons, start small and try some free and low cost cloud tools to get your feet wet, and use some free trials to see what may be to your benefit. And let TechnoAdvantage give you a cloud analysis to see if it’s right for you. You may find that the cloud is just too high in the sky so you’ll want to keep yourself grounded with good internal server and outside support from a company like us. Either way we’re here to help you make the wise choice for you.

Getting Your Tweet On: What Businesses Need To Know

28 Oct 15
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

Part of using technology to your advantage includes having a social media presence where your customers are. And that may mean Twitter is a part of your mix. Even if you’re uncomfortable with (or fearful of) this environment, you need to push past that if you want to be a player.

So the primary question now isn’t really Should my business be tweeting? But rather How often? And to follow up on that: What do I tweet?

There are no perfect answers to these questions. The best approach is to just go for it—develop some sort of plan and implement it and see what feels right for your business and your audience. Then keep tweaking it.

The plan might include:

  • Set days you will tweet. Example: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • A balanced mix of tweet types: stories, news, case studies, offers, “asks”
  • Relevant posts—not posting just to post. Don’t blast the universe every day with meaningless tweets. Think about whether you’d engage with it. Is it interesting? Are you helping someone? Are you offering something?
  • Engage with what is happening. If you tweet but never keep an eye on the responses, you won’t know if your audience is being engaged in our message. You should check Facebook and Twitter every day, and respond to your customers in real time.
  • Be flexible. Try posting tweets at different times of the day to determine when your customers are most active. Test different types of tweets to see what gets attention. Keep refining your strategy.
  • Research your audiences’ tweeting habits. While Facebook offers analytical tools to determine customer activity, Twitter does not, unfortunately.

There are many third-party resources out there to help you, including:

  • Tweriod: This free Twitter tool will tell you when the best times are to tweet as well as analyze your tweets and your customers’ tweets.
  • SocialBro: Helps you optimize your Twitter strategy by analyzing your top 100 twitter followers and producing a report to help you engage specifically with that audience. It also has expanded Social Marketing and Listening and Insight services available at reasonable cost.
  • HootSuite Auto-schedule: Use this tool to schedule tweets to post automatically for you at the prime times when past tweets have performed well.

We give a tweet about your business and keeping it lively and engaging for your customers, using technology to your advantage. For more ideas, contact Techno Advantage today!

 

Is Cryptovirus back as a worm?

03 Sep 15
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

19798163_s (2)Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does—it seems likely there is a new variant to the Cryptolocker virus—that insidious virus known to encrypt all your files and hold them ransom for $300. This new strain may or may not be Crypt, but it was reported recently to have been able to replicate to other workstations and begin encrypting user folders, though many IT peers do not believe that capability exists as yet.

Whether it is possible or not, it’s something to watch out for. The affected business not only was infected across multiple workstations, but also its server by way of mapped drives. The victim in this case saw a web page open at the workstation with a threatening hijack message and links to download the solution that unlocks the user’s data.

Its evil authors no doubt immediately began working on this new poison once researchers from FireEye and Fox-IT were able to reverse-engineer the virus and provide a solution to Cryptolocker’s victims in May of this year. Of course, half a million people had already been affected and 1.3 percent had paid cash to free their files from the criminals—to the tune of $3 million.

Following the forum discussion about this new case reveals that the most likely source of this virus may actually be a flash-based ad on a compromised site that many people in the office could have accessed. It is possible that someone shared a link containing the virus, or perhaps everyone had a program installed already that popped up an embedded ad that was clicked on.

No matter whether the new strain is able to actually replicate to other stations or not, this is a good reminder to take every measure available to safeguard your files. Number one, add this virus’s file names to your file screens: *.aaa and restore_. Two, backup always! Three, get legit anti-virus and monitoring software. Four, patch your workstations. Five, contact the team at Techno Advantage for help selecting the right cloud-based or on-premise backup and storage solutions.

Need more help deciding how to protect your business from a malware attack? Contact a Techno Pro today! And watch this blog for updates on any new malware. We want to keep you informed.

Top 4 Data Backup Devices for Small Business

13 Jan 15
lverbik
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments

You already know you need good, regular backups of all of your business data, but you may get stuck figuring out the best way to manage them. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend a scary amount of money to buy and set up a reliable backup system.  Let’s look at a selection of reliable and affordable backup devices to use in your small business.

We’ll look at both locally-attached and network-attached backup devices. USB sticks and external USB hard drives are wonderful for making backups on a single computer, and network backup servers simplify data protection for your whole business.

USB Sticks

USB sticks are small in size and price, but mighty in capacity; you can get as much as 128 gigabytes storage capacity on a USB stick. You have a choice of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices, so which one should you buy? USB 3.0 is the current standard, and it is backwards-compatible so it works with computers that have only USB 2.0.

It only costs a little bit more, so you might as well go with 3.0 drives. USB 3.0 promises a transfer rate of 5 Gbits per second, compared to 480 Mbits for USB 2.0.  Not all USB sticks are created equal, and you want to stick with the best brands: SanDisk, Verbatim, Kingston, Lexar, and Corsair are all reliable and sturdy.

USB Hard Drives

When a USB stick isn’t big enough, USB hard drives offer the most storage for the buck. You can get a portable drive with a built-in USB port.  This type of drive offers capacity ranges from 500MB-2TB, has USB 3.0, and usually comes with a nice backup and recovery software.  Many models come with encryption, easy automatic backups, and a cloud backup option.  Pricing ranges from $60 to $120.

Solid-state Drives

A solid-state drive (also known as a solid-state disk or electronic disk, though it contains no actual disk, nor a drive motor to spin a disk) is a data storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently.  Solid-state drives (SSDs) are expensive in comparison to hard drives, but they’re durable, small, fast, and have low power requirements. SSDs are wonderful for workloads where it’s worth paying more for a speed boost, like for system files and multimedia production.

Network Storage Servers

A network-attached storage (NAS) server is a type of dedicated file storage device that provides local-area network (LAN) users with centralized, consolidated disk storage through a standard Ethernet connection. Each NAS device is connected to the LAN as an independent network device and assigned an IP address.  NAS allows more hard disk storage space to be added to a network that already utilizes servers without shutting them down for maintenance and upgrades.  You can use it exclusively for backups, or for file-sharing and multimedia streaming.  It will set you back $1,295 for 4TB of storage, and up to $1,895 for 16TB.  These extra-rugged drives run cooler, and they’re optimized for network storage.

Now that we’ve explored the different options, you should know that Techno Advantage offers a backup software option.  We have found that the pre-installed software on these types of devices is usually a watered down or freebie version that will not deliver the results you hope for in the event that a recovery is needed.  Need help deciding which devices and software are right for your business?  Contact a Techno Pro today!