Top Reasons to Jumpstart Your Business’s Paperless Initiative

Paperless Society

Jumpstart Your Business’s Paperless Initiative

Want to “go paperless” with your company? See the many benefits of paperless business and learn how to jumpstart this initiative for effective results.  

Paperless Society

Many businesses toy around with the idea of “going paperless,” but what’s actually in it for the companies who decide to go through with it?

To be sure, not all businesses are cut out to go paperless. Certain documents in certain industries simply must be in paper form. Therefore, depending on your industry and unique company needs, you may end up unnecessarily complicating affairs if you try to do everything digitally.

At the same time, a great many companies will benefit significantly from making this change. Below, we’ll go over the specific reasons why it might be a good idea for your company. First, though, let’s define what going paperless actually means.

What Does It Really Mean to “Go Paperless”?

The term “going paperless” simply refers to the shift from printed documents to digital documents. For example, instead of printing invoices, order forms, and tax documents, a company would issue all of these documents digitally, sending them via email or storing them as files.

What Are the Top Reasons to “Go Paperless”?

You’ll save money.

Cloud data storage is a lot less expensive than on-premise data storage. Moreover, on-premise data storage forces you to pay for the maximum amount of storage you may need upfront. With cloud storage, you can easily scale your storage capacity up or down, depending on your needs.

In addition, the products and tools needed to print, scan, and copy your company’s documents is extremely expensive. Printers and copiers alone can cost thousands of dollars, and fixing and maintaining them is expensive as well. With a paperless system, these tools become obsolete. Of course, you’ll also save a bundle on paper and ink.

You’ll have document access from everywhere.

Most businesses who go paperless store their documents in the cloud. When you do this, access to these documents is available wherever you can find an Internet connection. This makes it easier to hire remote workers, send employees on work trips, and access important information even when you’re away from the office.

You’ll save time.

Consider the time it takes to print, scan, copy, collate, organize, and store all of your paper documents. Additionally, remember that when you have a huge number of documents to contend with, protocols and systems must be developed, instituted, and monitored. Lastly, think about how long it takes to find a specific document within your files.

All of these tasks are time-consuming, and in any business, time is money.

When you switch to a digital system of document storage, you’ll be saving an immense amount of time. Documents can be digitally created, copied, sent, edited, and stored. There’s no need to run to the printer or search through endless boxes for the paper file you need. When searching for files, you can simply pop a few keywords into the search bar of your data storage system, and voilà — it will appear!

You’ll save space.

Consider how much space you currently use to store paper documents. From old tax returns and invoices to printed data and memos, an accumulation of individual sheets of paper can actually take up quite a lot of room.

Digital documents, on the other hand, are virtually invisible. As long as you have enough data storage capacity available, you’ll gain tons of physical space when you make the switch to a paperless system.

You’ll ensure better security of your data

While it’s possible for cloud-stored data to be compromised, it’s much more likely that sensitive files will be stolen or accidentally destroyed in paper form. This may happen as the result of a crime or simply because of a flood, fire, or another natural disaster.

Online data, on the other hand, can be encrypted. With the right security team on your side, you can apply layered security systems to your cloud storage protocol in order to better protect your data.

What Are Some Tips for Jumpstarting Your Business’s Paperless Initiative?

When going paperless, use the following tips to make the transition easier and smoother.

1. Start with a plan.

All paperless initiatives should begin with a plan. Sit down with your management team, and create a day-by-day, week-by-week schedule for setting up whatever paperless system you choose.

2. Go slow.

Before springing a new system on your employees, it’s essential that you predict all possible complications. You’ll also want to anticipate how going paperless will affect your employees, clients, and customers, and warn them of the changes that will be made.

3. Get help.

Lastly, don’t forget to seek professional help with the technology aspect of your new paperless system. A managed service provider can help you set up a secure, easy-to-use cloud storage system and offer extremely useful assistance for making the overall transition.

Managed Services SLAs: What Should You Expect to See?

Managed Services SLA

Key Things to Look for in Your Managed Services SLA

When you hire an MSP, you must sign a service level agreement. Here’s how to evaluate your SLA and ensure you’re getting what you expect from this relationship.  

Managed Services SLA

As if choosing the right managed service provider wasn’t enough, it’s also crucial to make sure that the SLA (service level agreement) you develop between your company and your managed service provider is sound and satisfactory.

Below, we’ll go over what you should expect to see within your managed services contract (SLA). We’ll also discuss how you should review this document with your lawyer to ensure you’re getting the proper value out of this relationship and doing what’s best for your business.

What does an SLA set out to do?

The core goal of a service level agreement between a company and the managed service provider they are hiring is this:

To outline the payment structure and service responsibilities of both parties and to specifically define and document exactly what services the MSP will offer, including what hardware and software is covered, daily monitoring services, troubleshooting services in emergency situations, response times, and more.

Of course, all service level agreements will be slightly different. Some will offer more or less information. Certain SLAs will include information about items such as liability protection for the managed services company. Still others will go into detail about expected performance standards.

What should you look for in your managed services SLA?

Your managed service provider will draw up the service level agreement. Ostensibly, this is a service level agreement they use and have used with all of their clients. It will, of course, be modified to fit the parameters and needs of your business and the unique relationship the MSP has with your business.

However, it should follow a general format. When your MSP shows you the service level agreement they have drawn up, you should expect to see the following:

Services Provided by the MSP

This section will outline exactly what services the MSP will be providing to you on a regular basis. This will often be based on the specific level of service that you have agreed to pay for.

For example, if you own a medium-sized business and the MSP you are working with has three levels of service, you may choose the mid-level of service as you don’t need the extent of services offered to larger businesses.

How Problems Are Managed

The overall services your MSP will provide will be based on daily, monthly, quarterly, etc. services. These are systematic tasks that will be undertaken regularly (such as monitoring security or providing software updates).

On the other hand, your SLA also needs to outline how troubleshooting and problems will be handled by your managed service provider. If you have an issue, for example, you’ll need a protocol for managing:

  • Responsibility: What areas of your company’s IT are they (your MSP) managing and monitoring?
  • Emergencies: What constitutes an emergency?
  • Response Time: If and when you report an emergency, what is the minimum timeframe that your managed service provider will respond within?
  • Reporting Method: How do you report an emergency? Will this vary based on the time of day or week? What information do you need to provide?

When Your MSP Is Available

Lastly, your SLA should outline when your MSP will be available on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. What if you have problems in the evening after business hours? On the weekend? On a holiday? All availability times and any applicable extra charges should be documented.

Going over your SLA with your lawyer

Once you are satisfied with the service level agreement you have been provided with by your MSP, make sure to go over it with your lawyer. They’re on your side and will, therefore, be able to determine if any aspect of the SLA is unfair to you legally or could present potential problems.

Taking your time when reviewing your service level agreement will put your mind at ease and increase the likelihood that you and your managed service provider will enjoy a strong working relationship.

Using the Cloud to Boost Business

The Cloud Business

Boost Business with the Cloud

Using the cloud offers a variety of benefits for your business. Find out more about how you can use cloud technology to boost business.  

The Cloud Business

The cloud has grown in popularity among businesses in all industries. However, if you have not already transferred your business’s data and operations to the cloud, you may wonder if this technology is really in your best interest to expend the time and energy you will need to invest in order to implement cloud computing.

Below are some of the ways the cloud can boost business for your company, making it well worth the investment.

1. The cloud saves you money.

Implementing the cloud for your business prevents you from needed to invest in the same expensive infrastructure and programming of a company with in-house operations. This can save your company a significant amount of money over time.
The cloud can also save your company money by eliminating the need for in-house IT personnel. When you make the move to cloud computing, all of the programs and services you use will be maintained by your provider. Thus, you won’t need your own full-time IT staff.

2. The cloud boosts productivity.

The programs and processes you are able to access when you utilize the cloud are often more advanced and efficient than those you could afford on your own. In addition, if you choose the right provider, your programs will also be more reliable and kept up-to-date at all times. This leads to enhanced productivity overall.

3. The cloud improves collaboration.

With the cloud, it is easier to connect with colleagues, share information and work on projects with others. These improvements lead to more collaboration within your company, which in turn improves outcomes.

4. The cloud grows with your company.

One of the best things about cloud computing is its scalability. You pay only for the services you need, making it much more cost-effective. These services can also be scaled up or scaled down easily when your needs change, allowing for easier growth.
Moving your company to the cloud may seem overwhelming at first, but the potential benefits are clear. If you are not already using the cloud, it is time to start exploring this option and considering how it can improve your business. Before making the switch, be sure to investigate different providers so you can find the one that offers the best services at a fair price.

To Lease or Buy a Copier?

Copier Sales and Lease

Should You Buy a Copier or Lease It?

Trying to decide whether to lease a copier or buy a copier? Find out the pros and cons. See when buying or leasing may be the best option for your business.  

Copier Sales and Lease

No single piece of equipment in the office takes more of a beating than the floor-standing copier.

Day in and day out it endures transitions between high heat and frigid office temps, paper jam tug-of-war, lid slamming and endless pieces of paper traveling at lightning speed across its rollers. All of this demanding work takes a toll on the device, giving it an average lifespan of just five years in a busy office.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself needing to find a replacement and the question arises: should you lease or buy a copier? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. These pros and cons will help you make the right choice for you and your business.

Why Buy a Copier?

When you’re playing the long game, buying a copier is usually the less expensive option–when it comes to the cost of the copier. You’ll avoid finance charges and other fees. You’ll also avoid a hard credit check, which may impact your credit score. If you’re a smaller or growing business, you like to keep your credit as clean as possible.

And even if you did have to put it on credit, the printer is yours after you finish paying for it. Some high-quality floor copiers can last up to 10 years, especially if you’re not a high-volume office. So that may be a very good deal.

Okay. So it sounds like buying is the way to go. But wait! There are some cons to consider.

When Buying a Copier Isn’t Your Best Option

Since the dawn of time, technology has never stood still. And the rate of change is only getting faster. A bought printer may have everything you need today. But no one really knows what businesses may need in 10 years. That could put you at a competitive disadvantage against newer companies in the future with the latest technology.

If you needed to resell that printer because you weren’t using it like you thought or needed to free up cash, you might recoup 50% if you sold it immediately, but in 5 years, it would probably cost more for someone to move it than they’d pay for the copier.

Not unlike a car, it’s not going to hold its value.

If your rainy day fund is tapped out and you’d have to put buying a copier on credit, interest charges may make the copier cost a lot more than you think you’re saving by buying over leasing a copier.

Finally, an aging printer will also begin to require more maintenance to keep it running smoothly. And you might find yourself feeling like you have to keep it past its prime to get your money’s worth. That may cost you in employee productivity and lost wages.

Why Lease a Copier?

Leasing a copier does make sense if you need to have clear terms from month-to-month. You know upfront how much you pay each month and for how long. That’s often easier on the budget. If cash flow is tight and you’d have to finance a bought printer anyway, leasing may actually end up saving you money.

When your term ends, you’re not stuck with a printer that may now be outdated or breaking down. You can upgrade when you renew your lease. Or, depending on the lease terms, you may be able to buy the copier at the end of the lease for a minimal cost if it’s still working for you.

A newer copier needs less maintenance and functions more efficiently, increasing workplace productivity and reducing worker frustration around inadequate technology. If the leased copier needs maintenance or stops working entirely, that’s likely the responsibility of the leasing company.

That’s not an emergency expense you have to worry about.

When Leasing a Copier Isn’t Your Best Option

You will pay more for the leased copier than you otherwise would. Those pros of leasing listed above come at a price. It’s important to realize that those are what you’re paying for, not just the copier. In a way leasing is another way to manage risk. Not unlike buying insurance, you’re paying the leasing company to take on what would otherwise be your risk.

Every business has a certain amount of risk they’re comfortable managing and planning for. Leasing a copier may not make sense for you if you’re in a position where you can effectively manage more risk. That copier may last you 15 years or five. You just don’t know because lifespan is so strongly affected by how your office uses it.

Ultimately, deciding whether to lease or buy a copier is a very company-specific decision. So weigh these pros and cons and you’ll make the right choice for your business.

The Evolution of MSPs and the Benefits of Using Them

Managed Service Provider

MSPs and How They Developed Over Time

MSPs provide specialized services to small businesses who may not be able to hire a full staff of professionals.  

Managed Service Provider

Small business owners with limited resources can’t always afford to hire the professionals they need to help manage their business. They have the same basic needs as larger companies, just on a smaller scale. The problem is that, unlike their larger counterparts, they don’t have the budget or the resources to allow for such extravagances. In an attempt to fill these needs, MSPs were formed.

What Is an MSP?

An MSP, or managed service provider, is a company or team of professionals that offers specialized services to small business. They can be hired on contract or to perform specific jobs. MSPs are made up of professionals who have the advanced training needed to provide a variety of services that fall within their industry. There are MSPs in almost every industry. Professional service providers from each MSP can be hired one at a time or as a team to ensure the right people are selected for each job.

Different Types of MSPs

There are several different types of MSPs. IT and security management are two of the most common. There are also MSPs that deal with digital marketing and data analytics that help small companies reach larger audiences with strategically targeted marketing plans. IT companies help small businesses by setting up their digital network and making sure it runs efficiently. While the IT professionals work to protect the company’s information, security management MSPs help to protect the outside. They can install security systems and provide video surveillance cameras that allow the owners to see their property day or night.

The Reason Behind Their Growth

The main reason behind the explosion of growth that MSPs are experiencing has to do with filling a niche. MSPs provide specialized services for an affordable price. The owner of the small business only has to pay for the amount of time used or the services that are provided. With little money in the budget for hiring someone full time, using an MSP allows for the business owner to get the services they need at a manageable cost.

Why They Are Needed

One of the main benefits of hiring an MSP to perform specific tasks is that allows the owner to do what they do best. Manage their business. By focusing all of their attention on their business, they are able to maintain continued growth. Many small business owners don’t have the knowledge or experience to handle certain parts of their business. Hiring an MSP team of professionals allows them to hire someone with the knowledge and experience they need only for as long as they need them. This means better control of their business and not worrying about going over their already tight budget.

MSPs have grown considerably over the last few decades. Small business owners no longer have to worry about their lack of experience costing them money. Now they can turn to the professionals they need to take care of the tasks that sometimes went overlooked in the past.

Can Outsourced Managed IT Services Improve Profitability?

Managed IT Services

Outsourcing Managed IT Services Improves Business Goal Achievement

Industry leaders require a laser-focus on profit-driving initiatives. Outsourcing an organization’s IT oversight saves time, money, and keeps everyone on task.  

Managed IT Services

Whether you are a decision-maker for an upstart, mid-sized, or large corporation, outsourcing IT support, maintenance, and cybersecurity oversight can improve your operation. Managed services conducted by a third-party outfit with experience and expertise, brings high-level knowledge to the table that most business team members lack.

That’s generally because industry leaders staff their organizations with people who deliver profit-driving benefits. Managing an in-house IT team tends to distract from the goal-achievement tasks that keep an operation competitive and successful. Owners, CEOs, and other captains of industry with heightened IT needs would be wise to consider these five benefits of outsourcing.

1: Risk Reduction

Every business operates with a certain degree of risk. Those risks include fines for not meeting changing government regulations or falling behind competitors in cost-effective technology applications, among others. But perhaps the greatest threat that businesses of all sizes and every sector face are data theft and hacks. Without a doubt, less-than-adequate cybersecurity applications, protocols, and employee preventative training present the greatest threat to your organization.

2: Cost Consistent Budgeting

Entrepreneurs working hard to grow fledgling operations often have thin budgets. Every dollar counts and financial constraints generally do not allow for overspending. People in the private sector are fully aware they cannot manage a thriving enterprise using the faulty methods of the federal government. Either you have the revenue, or you don’t.

Managed IT service contracts allow decision-makers to allot a specific sum toward computer network oversight. There are no excessive payroll taxes, or unexpected overtime hours to strain the company’s resources. You write one monthly check and renegotiate when your managed services agreement expires.

3: Heightened Expertise

Perhaps the greatest difference between hiring an in-house IT team and outsourcing is the improved access to specialized knowledge. Some small and mid-sized operations think it’s savvy to hire a recent technical school graduate who has been immersed in the latest trends and technologies. That thinking seems reasonable on its face.

But the inherent flaw is that your outfit often requires that person, or team, to focus exclusively on your system and operations. What you lose over time is their immersion in trends, new applications, heightened cybersecurity threats, and other pertinent issues. A third-party managed service provider invests its time, resources, and people into cutting-edge training. When a managed services expert reviews your system, they bring the latest knowledge to every task. It’s simply not cost-effective to pay an IT team and then have them attend far-away seminars for weeks at a time.

4: Avoid Potential Downtime

After cyber-theft and hacks, downtime ranks among the most costly setback a company can experience. Imagine for a moment, you are looking out over your offices and employees are unable to work because the system is down. Now imagine you are paying them to not perform the necessary tasks to meet the business’ financial necessities.

When you outsource your IT needs to a third-party provider, it’s not uncommon for them to conduct due diligence, and preventive maintenance while your profit-driving staff is not on the clock. Smooth functioning networks are a type of hidden benefit that companies gain by having 24-7 IT services.

5: Improved Business Focus

Goal-oriented thought leaders enjoy improved success when they are able to focus on the things that make a company successful. Unless you are running a managed services outfit, computer issues, cybersecurity, and managing an IT team is not the best use of your time and brainpower.

Business visionaries achieve goals and enjoy the fruits of their innovation and labor by maintaining a laser-focus on industry trends, cost reduction, improved production, services, and staying ahead of their sector’s learning curve. It’s essential not to get bogged down in seemingly peripheral issues such as IT. Maximizing your skillset and outsourcing IT maintenance and oversight to a professional is the smart play.

Maximizing budgetary resources in a way that delivers the cutting-edge IT needs of today’s business community may be best left to professionals. When industry leaders take the time to do the math on best practices and profitable outcomes, third-party managed IT services remain a tried-and-true practice.

Ask Smart Questions about Solutions and Technology Expertise to Find a Superior IT Service Provider

IT Budget

Here Are Top Questions to Ask Potential IT Service Providers

Discover the most important questions to ask about products, quality, expertise, competency, security and breadth when selecting an IT service provider.

IT Budget

Business leaders who want to cut operating expenses, improve efficiency and leverage the newest technologies turn to IT service providers. With the right technology partner, a business can see considerable gains in productivity, communication and data security.

Choosing the right IT service provider is an important decision. Here are a few of the questions to ask to help you make the right choice.

How Do We Know If an IT service provider is a Quality Business?

Determining if a business is run well and according to best practices is often a difficult assessment. Here are some things to look for:

  • Staff Size. If you have extensive needs, a large staff with specialized areas is usually better equipped to handle complex clients. However, a smaller company may get lost in the shuffle of a large organization only focused on the largest clients.
  • Technology Partners. IT service providers cannot do everything by themselves. That’s why the best rely on partnership agreements with high-quality tech companies to deliver specialized products and services. Ask for a list of their partners; strong connections to top companies is a good sign.
  • References. If you encounter an IT service provider that refuses to provide references, walk away. Ask for references from clients that are the same size, in the same industry or facing similar challenges as yours.

What Do We Ask to Determine if an IT service provider is Technically Competent?

You rely on your IT service provider to have the technical expertise to address your needs. How can you assess their technical abilities? Ask about the following:

  • Competencies. Certifications and preferred partner status are good indicators of technical quality and where the IT service provider’s strengths are. Especially in small shops, an emphasis and expertise in Linux may mean they’re not as strong at Windows. Use this space to ask about professional development for their staff and their training commitment.
  • Out of Scope. If you are paying a flat rate for managed services, you need to know what’s included and what isn’t. There are plenty of services that could be included in a package, including network security monitoring, ISP troubleshooting, software and firmware upgrades and patching, hardware installation and server upgrades. Be sure to shop around and know what’s covered by your plan and what is either an extra charge or not available.
  • Disaster Recovery. If a natural disaster or hacker attack hits your company, you need a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place to reduce the damage and impact. It’s a common service for an IT service provider to offer. But you need to know what your IT service provider’s own disaster recovery plan is. If your IT service provider can’t be up and running quickly after a disaster, they are unlikely to be able to help you.
  • Compliance Coverage. More and more businesses face compliance challenges at the federal, state local and industrial level. Foreign entities are also demanding compliance with mandates, often concerning securing and using personal data. Ask your IT service provider about their experience with the compliance requirements, such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI or FSMA, that your company has. Inquire about a service level agreement (SLA) that guarantees compliance with the mandates you are required to fulfill.
  • Automation. Advances in automation have taken the place of lots of manual tasks. Your IT service provider should be committed to using automation and AI solutions wherever possible, freeing their staff to work on higher-level projects. If they are not using the most cutting-edge technology, how will they advise you on how to leverage new solutions?

Can We Measure the Service Quality of an IT service provider?

Service is critical when choosing an IT service provider. You want a partner that’s attentive, responsive and effective when you have a critical need. Ask the following:

  • Internal vs. Outsourced. Your IT service provider will promise to deliver an extraordinary range of products and solutions. However, it’s important to know who will be doing the work on your account. Ask your potential IT service provider what work is done internally by their employees and what is outsourced (and why).
  • Strategy and Advising. Some IT service providers focus exclusively on selling you technology solutions. Others take a comprehensive approach. You want an IT service provider that can act as a virtual chief information officer, providing help with technology strategy, budgeting and growth that aligns with your present and future business priorities.
  • Scalability. As your company grows, you need solutions that can scale rapidly as new customers, data and technologies emerge. Be sure to ask how scalable an IT service provider’s solutions are, how they will help improve efficiency, how they will reduce costs and how they will reduce workload.

Thoughtful questions asked consistently of each potential IT service provider puts your business in the best position to select the right technology partner.

Why is Effective Business Continuity Management Important?

Business Continuity Management

Why is Effective Business Continuity Management Important?

Business continuity management (BCM) denotes how organizations plan for and respond to risks. Mission-critical functions must continue to run after disruptions such as bad weather or hackers.

Business Continuity Management

A business continuity plan documents how your organization will continue to operate after a natural or man-made disaster, severe market conditions or sudden changes in leadership. This could be anything from a stock market crash to a hurricane to the death or dire illness of a key leader. BCPs are hot topics thanks to growing legislation and increased risks related to data security and other events. Every organization would benefit from adopting some kind of BCP framework, however modest.

What is Business Continuity Management?

Business continuity management (BCM) denotes how organizations plan for and respond to risks. Mission-critical functions must continue to run after disruptions such as bad weather or hackers. Smart planning also makes it possible for employees to return to business as usual quickly.

How Does Business Continuity Work?

The most effective way to achieve transparent, seamless risk management and disaster recovery is via a business continuity management system. This may require some outside assistance since any BCMS adopted should follow international standard ISO 22301 requirements. All businesses can begin the first phase themselves, however, by building a continuity plan that identifies and minimizes risks.

What’s the Big Deal With ISO 22301?

ISO 22301 lays out a road map for an effective BCMS and is the most credible resource for successful business continuity management. Becoming ISO 22301-certified signals to clients that your company has a game plan in case disaster strikes — certification helps clients decide that your firm is a solid investment for their business.

This certification proves to prospective clients that your organization will continue to provide the products or services they need, even if an emergency arises. It also gives you an:

  • Independent evaluation of your business continuity management, providing assurance or offering areas for improvement
  • Accredited certification with regular audits to ensure continual improvement
  • Oversight of regulatory requirements to ensure legal compliance. This could include the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or new state and federal privacy regulations impacting customer data collection and storage.

What’s is Disaster Recovery vs. BCM?

People are often confused by the difference between these two terms. They aren’t synonyms. Business continuity deals with relocation and business functions while disaster recovery, which is a subset of business continuity, deals with the technical recovery of systems and resources.

Disaster recovery outlines how to recover technical functions, sites, operations and applications. A business continuity plan may contain many disaster recovery plans.

What Are the Key Components of a BCP?

A successful business continuity plan includes the following:

  • Succession plans for key employees
  • Identification of critical functions with priority identified
  • All employees’ contact information and role in the plan
  • Tested backup strategies

Ready for Disaster? Tips for Creating a Smart Business Continuity Plan

Business Planning

Mitigate Disaster with a Comprehensive Business Continuity Plan

When you create a detailed business continuity plan, you can keep disaster from disrupting your operations. See how to get started here.  

Business Planning

When disaster strikes, disruptions to your operations could negatively impact your construction projects, pushing them past the deadline and over budget. And it is not just natural disasters you have to worry about, either.

Everything from serious IT problems to the loss of important team members has the potential to wipe out your operations. That is, unless you have a smart business continuity plan in place. With this plan, you can keep your operations moving along like normal, helping ensure the success of all your construction projects.

Importance of Having a Business Continuity Plan

In optimal conditions, there’s no doubt everything runs like clockwork, as your team works hard to complete their individual tasks. If anyone fails to come through, however, everything could grind to a halt. Furthermore, without writing it out, only a few in your company may know just what everyone should be working on and how it all comes together.

Therefore, you need a business continuity plan just in case serious disruptions leave you without certain team members, equipment, or workspaces. In many ways, this plan is a big-picture overview of everything that goes on at your construction firm. It also identifies all the workarounds you can use when faced with disruptions caused by different disaster scenarios.

Above all, your plan should detail who is in charge of each department in the absence of key players and all the ways they can keep moving forward in their daily duties. With that approach, you can keep major disruptions from throwing your workforce off track or preventing them from completing their tasks.

How to Create a Continuity Plan for Your Business

Without knowing what is on the horizon, there is really no time to waste in creating your business continuity plan. Thankfully, you can easily approach this process by using the following steps.

Take a Complete Inventory of Your Company

Taking inventory of your workforce, contacts, and equipment is the very first thing you must do to create your plan. You will likely need to take a big step back from your construction company to complete this step.

To start, create a list of all your employees, noting the major players in each department. Add their contact information in full, so you can find how to reach out at a glance. Then, create similar records of your material suppliers, clients, and other important contacts.

Next, you can move onto creating a complete inventory of all the equipment used on each of your job sites. Make sure to include their make, model, and serial numbers, so you can find parts or file claims as needed to keep things moving along. In addition, note any local parts suppliers, repair techs, and equipment dealers for those brands to complete your log.

Outline Existing Processes and Highlight Critical Areas

With the completion of the inventory step, you will need to look at your operations. Go from department to department, look at the duties of each employee and how they support other departments. Along the way, busy yourself with creating flowcharts for all the distinct processes used to run your construction company.

Throughout this process, identify your key operations and the major players you depend on to get the work done. Then, see who can fill in if those individuals cannot make it work. Also, add ways employees can workaround specific disruptions and continue to fulfill their core duties.

Identify Temporary Workstations and Keep Them Updated

If your core employees cannot get to their normal workstations, everything should not grind to a halt. But it will unless you have already identified temporary workstations and made the effort to keep them updated.

The workstations should have all the equipment and software normally used by the team and be completely ready for their use. So, create an update schedule and make sure the temporary workstations are included whenever you complete a major equipment or software upgrade. Furthermore, ensure your employees know about the existence of these workstations and how to access them.

Create Your Plan for Maintaining Critical Operations

With your understanding of your core operations, you can create a plan for each of your employees, helping them mitigate the effects of the disaster. Working across all departments, you will need to indicate who is responsible for getting each system back online and up to their normal operating levels. They should have a clear direction on the steps to take and the tools they will need to complete the assigned tasks.

Your plan should cover not only the construction tasks you are responsible for in that moment, but also all the administrative ones. You need to let your payroll department know how to proceed, for example, to ensure they can continue to process payments for all your employees.

Once you are finished creating your business continuity plan, store the main copy in a secure location and provide each department with their own copies.

Don’t Wait — Create Your Business Continuity Plan Today

So, now that you know what to do, there’s really no reason to wait. Start building your business continuity plan today to protect your operations from disaster. Otherwise, your employees could be left without the knowledge needed to keep your business afloat until everything returns to normal.

Newly Discovered Security Flaws Put Windows Users at Serious Risk

Is Windows Secure

Microsoft Vulnerability Affects Most Recent Operating Systems

Learn about two recently discovered vulnerabilities that could put your company’s computers and operations at risk and what Microsoft is doing to fix the issue.

Is Windows Secure

Two newly discovered security vulnerabilities could put Windows users at risk of attack if they do not download and install security patches Microsoft recently issued.

What Are the New Microsoft Security Flaws?

Nicknamed DejaBlue, the two security flaws are designated CVE-2019-1181 and CVE-2019-1182. They are similar to the BlueKeep vulnerabilities Microsoft issued patches for in May 2019. The newest flaws, like Bluekeep, could allow hackers to create so-called “wormable” attacks that easily can be spread from one computer to another without any interaction from a user.

The main difference is that the newer security vulnerabilities are potential threats to newer versions of Windows products.

What Systems Does DejaBlue Affect?

There are potentially hundreds of thousands of computers that could be affected by the Windows worm. They sit within the Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS) package. According to Microsoft, the vulnerabilities could affect the following systems:

  • Windows 7 SP1
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows 10 (all supported versions, including server versions)

That’s a massive number of potential targets that could be infected if the patches are not deployed and active monitoring tools are not in place.

Windows XP, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003 are not affected.

How Does DejaBlue Work?

Like with BlueKeep, the vulnerabilities can be used to exploit RDP, a tool that administrators use to connect to other computers on a network. Hackers could then use that exploit to code and load a worm that is automated. It would “jump” from one computer to another, potentially affecting millions of computers quickly.

What makes the DejaBlue and Bluekeep vulnerabilities so dangerous is that they can propagate without any user interaction.

What’s more dangerous is that the new vulnerabilities differ from BlueKeep, which targeted Windows 7 operating systems. The new exposures could affect Windows 7 and all recent versions of Microsoft’s operating systems. That amplifies both the risk and the potential impact.

“At this point, nearly every contemporary Windows computer needs to patch, before hackers can reverse engineer those fixes for clues that might help create exploits,” notes Wired magazine.

While a British intelligence agency, GCHQ, is credited with identifying BlueKeep, Microsoft notes that it identified the new threats itself. To date, no evidence that exists that indicates the vulnerabilities were known to third parties, the company said.

“These vulnerabilities were discovered by Microsoft during hardening of Remote Desktop Services as part of our continual focus on strengthening the security of our products,” Microsoft said in a release.

The scale of the potential damage is extraordinary. As of July 2019, there were as many as 800,000 computers worldwide that were still vulnerable to BlueKeep, with a much larger potential threat from DejaBlue.

What Can We Do to Protect Against Cybersecurity Threats?

The key to maintaining a secure network is developing a comprehensive, multilayered security strategy. A managed services provider can partner with you to develop a cybersecurity plan that includes:

  • Comprehensive network perimeter monitoring using next-generation firewalls to detect, contain, disable and destroy threats
  • Continuous monitoring of systems, endpoints and users
  • Automated downloading and installation of software and firmware updates, upgrades and patches that respond to emerging threats
  • Anti-malware, anti-spam and anti-virus software installed on each user’s machine or device, updated automatically, and analyzed to determine potential threats
  • Email and data encryption
  • Password security, including multifactor authorization
  • Mobile device management, including remote location finding, disabling and wiping functions
  • Cloud solutions for secure hosting of data, apps and operating systems
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery planning
  • Employee training

Having the right security in place greatly reduces your risk of being affected by a cyberattack that can debilitate your business, ruin its reputation and cost thousands to repair.