Quickly Unlock Useful iTunes Store Applications that Are Blocked in Your Country

Unblocking App Store

Unblock Geo-Restricted App Store or iTunes Content in a Few Clicks

Discover how to quickly gain access to geoblocked apps via the App Store or iTunes with a few simple clicks whether you’re on on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC.

Unblocking App Store

Apple’s App Store and iTunes apps give you access to thousands of great games, utilities and social connections. But there are thousands more you can never access due to geographic restrictions.

Why Are Certain Apps Blocked?

Location-based restrictions, known as geoblocking, are actions taken by companies or government regulators. They restrict access to content, including App Store apps, based on your location. You can experience these issues on sites such as YouTube or platforms such as Netflix, where certain content is unavailable to certain users, often due to licensing issues or other legal issues.

Geoblocking is usually done by tracking the unique identifiers known as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Any request you make to a site or app includes your IP address so the pinged computer knows where to send the requested content. IP addresses are allocated to internet service providers (ISPs) to distribute to their customers and reflect the geographic location of the computer, smartphone or another connected device.

Why Unblock Geoblocked Content?

There are many valid reasons for wanting to access geoblocked content. You may be visiting or living in another country and want to connect with content and functionality unique to your country. Maybe you need to access content that is only available via an app that is restricted at your current location. You might want to compare content presented on different versions of an app.

No matter what the reason, geoblocking can cause frustration for those wanting to access something they can’t connect to. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to unlock this content.

How Do I Unlock Geoblocked Content?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to unlocking iTunes and App Store content in another country. No matter which method you use, be sure to cancel any subscriptions to Apple Music, iTunes Match and other apps associated with your Apple ID.

  • On an iPhone or iPad
    • Open Settings > [Your Username]
    • Click on iTunes & App Store
    • Tap on your Apple ID. Authenticate if asked
    • Click on View Apple ID
    • Select Country/Region
    • Select Change Country/Region
    • Choose a new country, click on Next
    • Accept the Terms and Conditions
    • Enter your payment method
  • On a Mac or PC
    • Open iTunes
    • Click on Account > View My Account
    • Sign in using your Apple ID
    • Press Enter or click on View Account
    • On the Account Information page, click on Change Country or Region
    • Click Agree to the terms and conditions
    • Enter a new payment method
    • Click Continue
  • From your Apple ID profile
    • Log on to your Apple ID account profile
    • Scroll to Account
    • Tap on Country/Region
    • Choose your new country or region. Click Continue when asked to confirm your new selection

Does Unblocking Content Allow Access to All Apps?

The method described above only works for free apps available for iOS devices. If you want to access paid apps, you’ll need to enter a payment method — and billing address – for the country

Switching from one country identity to another on iTunes or the App Store is complex, but can be done, by following these steps:

  • Open App Store > Apple ID
  • Click on Sign Out
  • Open Settings/General
  • Click on Language & Region
  • Select Region
  • Select a new country or region and create a new account by finding an app you want to download in the new country
    • Tap on the app. If a screen pops up that the item is not available, click on Change Store
    • Go to the app listing and tap Get > Install
    • Click Create New Apple ID
    • Select the new country or region and complete the Apple ID creation steps
    • Select None under Billing
  • Switching between stores is now possible by signing out of one iTunes or App Store account and signing back in via another

Accessing content in other countries can be critical for many users. With a few taps, you can open up a world of opportunities.

4 Ways IT Outsourcing Helps Your Business

IT Consultants

Do You Know the 4 Ways IT Outsourcing Improves Business Success?

Many small and mid-sized companies underestimate the drawbacks of not having top-tier IT professionals in place. These 4 benefits highlight the need for change.  

IT Consultants

Are a business decision-maker wondering about when the best time to outsource your IT needs? It was yesterday, and you are already late to enjoy the benefits of working with a third-party tech outfit that specializes in IT managed services.

It’s not uncommon for small and mid-sized companies to operate under the assumption that modest IT needs do not warrant creating a budget line-item on their behalf. Some designate an in-house person with seemingly good computer skills to run virus scans and update applications. Other outfits hire a single technology person to handle the responsibility of overseeing their entire network. Both of these policies are inherently flawed for a variety of reasons. After reviewing the following 4 ways IT outsourcing helps your business, you may gain clarity as to why working with a third-party expert is in your best interest.

1: Removes Peripheral Distractions from Profitable Goal Achievement

As upstart organizations begin to grow into mid-level outfits, the visionaries that propelled their success forward are increasingly beset by issues that detract from primary goals. Budget management, contract negotiations, and supply chains are top-tier items that further a company’s profit-enhancing goals. Tackling these items tends to be a good use of time and energy. If industry leaders are also tasked with maintaining and repairing the tools of the trade, essential issues cannot enjoy the laser focus they deserve.

When an organization shuffles computer and network duties to an employee or even a designated in-house tech person, network problems become part of routine oversight. An experienced third-party managed services provider takes proactive measures to maintain and repair your devices and network without you lifting a finger. Your vision drives the organization. That’s why it’s crucial to all of the key stakeholders involved that IT distractions are a non-factor.

2: Improves Network Efficiency and Productivity

Imagine traveling the road of handing off-network duties to an untrained employee or a designated tech person. Now imagine they call in sick during a critical business productivity cycle. Imagine further, they take a two-week vacation. What happens when your network starts to suffer glitches or goes dark altogether? The answer is simple: You lose revenue.

The reality of owning or operating a business in the technology age is that networks never sleep, they don’t call in sick, and they don’t go on vacation. Maximum productivity and efficiency require organizations to have 24-7 managed IT services in place. When you negotiate an ongoing services agreement with an experienced IT contractor, they can conduct remote updates, scans, and effect problem solving anytime your network runs amok. But that will happen a lot less frequently because high-level maintenance is usually part of the outsourcing package. Experienced IT experts deliver the laser focus to systems that help make your organization successful.

3: Reduces Risk of Cyber Threats and Financial Losses

According to reports, more than 317 million pieces of malware were created in 2018 alone. To put that staggering number into perspective, nearly 100 infectious threats were developed daily. Now add that business risk to the fact that companies suffered financial losses above $600 billion in 2018 and that figure upticked by $100 billion from 2014.

Compounding the genuine risk of doing business with technology is that too many small and mid-sized organizations incorrectly assume that cybersecurity breaches are almost exclusively targeted at large corporations with vast assets. The common misconception may be attributed to heavy media coverage of the massive violations suffered by household-name corporations.

While billion-dollar cybertheft makes splashy headlines, the overwhelming majority of cybersecurity thieves targets small and mid-sized outfits. Hackers, who may be sitting in an internet café halfway around the world, search for subpar network defenses and attack. In plain terms, you are the low-hanging fruit ripe for the plucking.

Outsourcing IT security to a third-party provider improves your cyber defenses from among the weakest links to the strong. Having the latest anti-virus, anti-malware, and next-generation cybersecurity protections in place quietly takes you off hacker hit lists. If these nefarious computer thieves are anything, it’s lazy. They’ll move on from your network and attack someone less secure.

4: Keeps Technology on Cutting Edge

An effective business network enhances employee engagement and productivity. If that sounds like a pie-in-the-sky idea about working on computers, consider the alternative.

When emails are slow to download, or that tedious “buffering” icon spins around, employees tend to disengage from work-related tasks. One moment they are plugging along on your company desktop, the next they are checking text messages, and social media posts on their phone. When that happens, employee engagement and productivity is not diminished — it’s non-existent. It may be even more unsettling to know that experts say that it can take more than 20 minutes to get back on track after task disruption. Sadly, that unnecessary loss of productivity could have been avoided by outsourcing your IT needs to a professional.

Building a Rock Solid Cybersecurity Plan

Cyber Security

Cybersecurity Plan

Cybercriminals may be going into a stealth mode, but that doesn’t mean that cyberattacks are slowing down — quite the opposite, in fact. According to the 2018 SiteLock Website Security Report, attacks increased by 59% and accelerated going into December. Record numbers of businesses are being infiltrated by hostile actors, with data breaches affecting hundreds of millions of users in a single attack. This all comes during a time when cybersecurity costs are accelerating as more organizations scramble to bring expensive systems and well-paid IT assets online to help protect their business from attack or assist with recovery. By the year 2021, damage to businesses is expected to exceed $6 trillion annually from cybercrime alone. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to manage the complexity required for a comprehensive cybersecurity plan alone, but these basics will give you a starting point to managing the risk to your organization.

Understanding “Current State” Security Practices

Many organizations begin crafting their cybersecurity plan by reviewing and documenting the current state of their risk-reduction efforts. This could include everything from data structures and storage locations, physical and cloud-based infrastructure models, third-party vendors and other connections. This “current state” report gives you a comprehensive view of the organization and allows you to capture potential risk centers that will need to be addressed in the future.

Balancing Security Needs with Business Requirements

It’s a fact of life that IT professionals are often in top demand, making it difficult to implement the full range of cybersecurity protections that proactive leaders feel are necessary. This balancing act may take place as ongoing negotiations between business and technology teams as the risks of not taking specific steps to tighten security are weighed against the potential benefits of new functionality. IT teams need to have a full understanding of how data and applications are utilized throughout the organization, including how remote partners or staff members are connecting into business applications and databases. Going through this process prompts conversation around the replacement value of particular platforms. Where an IT team may feel that an older platform could be deprecated without undue business impact, one particular unit may be utilizing that data in an unexpected way. In this instance, business and IT leaders will have to negotiate whether it makes sense to enhance the security or simply move to a newer alternative.

Crafting Your Plan and Training Your Staff

Understanding all of the various assets that your business has available allows you to gain a more holistic view of the business, a crucial element of any successful cybersecurity plan. Define replacement or bypass recommendations for each of your core business assets, and then fully document any changes that need to be made to reduce the risk of a breach or the effect of any malware or ransomware attacks. Having the plan in place also requires determining the training level that your staff will need. According to Cisco, the majority of malicious file extensions are made up of popular files such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, making ongoing training an important part of any cybersecurity strategy.

Small and mid-size businesses are the organizations least likely to have a formal cybersecurity plan in place, but these businesses are a high-risk target that is extremely attractive to hackers. Managing the complexity associated with the various platforms and data sources is often cited as a significant challenge for over-taxed IT personnel. Making regular cybersecurity reviews a priority can help your organization not only stay safe online but also identify processes challenges that need to be addressed to improve operational efficiency. Even with a rock-solid cybersecurity plan in place, that doesn’t mean your organization is completely safe. Instead, it means that you’re ready for an attack and are able to respond appropriately and in a timely manner — which can save your company hundreds of thousands of dollars in the event of a breach.

Why Is Wi-Fi So Slow on My Phone?

Wifi slow

Wifi slow

Just about nothing is more frustrating when using a smartphone than connecting to a sluggish or broken Wi-Fi network. In most places, mobile data is so effective and speedy these days that we just can’t accept a Wi-Fi network performing worse than our mobile networks can.

If you’re dealing with obnoxiously slow speeds on your mobile phone, here are some tips to try.

1. Isolate the Problem

Your first step is to isolate the problem. First, toggle off Wi-Fi altogether. Does your phone respond quickly with Wi-Fi turned off? If so, you’ve determined that Wi-Fi is the problem. You can skip to step 2.

If your phone is still sluggish with Wi-Fi turned off, it’s time to check whether the problem is your connection or the device itself. Use a speed tester, like the app from speedtest.net, to see how fast or slow your cellular connection is. If you get a bad result, you’re likely in a bad coverage area. If you get a good result, though, then your phone’s sluggishness isn’t related to your internet speed. Chances are there is something wrong with the device itself, or perhaps it’s just too old and needs to be replaced.

2. Check Your Router Location

Next, check your router location. Wireless routers have range limits, too. If you’re far away from your router or if there are thick walls or furniture between you and your router, your speed will be diminished. Try operating right next to the router and see if your speeds improve.

The best location for your wireless router is the center of your home or office, away from any walls or furniture. Of course, this is rarely practical. Get creative and find an inventive way to place your router in a good location.

3. Check Router Strength

All routers have limits, and some have a stronger broadcast strength than others. If improving your router’s location doesn’t do enough, you may need to upgrade to a model with a greater range.

4. Watch Out for Noise and Competing Networks

Certain electronic devices create noise that can weaken your Wi-Fi network’s performance. Anything that emits wireless signals or even electromagnetic radiation can interfere. Cordless landline phones, walkie-talkies, and even microwaves can interfere. Position your router away from devices like these.

You also want to watch out for competing networks. The more wireless networks are competing for the same spectrum space, the worse the performance. In a high-density situation like an apartment complex, you may encounter this kind of network crowding. Your wireless router has the ability to change which portion of the wireless spectrum it uses. Review the documentation that came with your router to learn how to do this. You may want to download a Wi-Fi analyzer app to help determine the best spectrum space for you.

5. Consider Network Congestion

Another reason for slow Wi-Fi is network congestion. Your home or business internet bandwidth has its limits. So does public Wi-Fi.

On a lower speed home network, consider who else is using your connection and what they are doing with it. Gaming and streaming can eat up a lot of bandwidth. Perhaps your Wi-Fi is slow because others are using up all your bandwidth. The same principle is in play with public Wi-Fi networks.

If you’ve tried all these steps and still aren’t getting the performance you need, give us a call. We can help you solve your connection issues!

Which Office 365 Plan Works Best for Your Organization?

Microsoft Office 365 Plans

Microsoft Office products have become ubiquitous throughout a range of industries, and there are more choices than ever before to find the suite of professional office software tools you need to run your business effectively.

While you can still find Office products available for a single licensing fee (Office 2019, for example), most businesses are turning to Office 365 as a subscription software solution that offers a range of powerful tools, including cloud storage and seamless sharing integration across devices.

Microsoft Office 365 Plans

But if you’re ready to move forward with a subscription-based Office 365 solution, you’ve still got to narrow it down for the right product. Will your business benefit from the Business or Enterprise option? If you choose Enterprise, which level makes the most sense for your organization? Read on for a breakdown on how to choose the best Office 365 product for your team [OPTIONAL CTA] and feel free to reach out to us at any time for support or guidance in making the transition to Office 365.

Choosing Between Office 2019 and Office 365

The key distinction between Office 2019 and Office 365 is connectivity. Office 2019 is different in the way you purchase and use it, but more importantly, it does not offer any of the cloud-connected features of Office 365. For businesses wishing to utilize the power of cloud storage as well as greater choice in terms of features and connectivity, the subscription-based Office 365 is the way to go.

Business vs. Enterprise

If you operate a small business, you can find several Office 365 Business options that provide licenses at a set rate per user for up to 300 users. Select either basic plans that focus on cloud storage solutions to more advanced options that also include desktop access to products like Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as cloud collaboration system, SharePoint. Opting for Office 365 Business is a good move if you’re keeping an eye on your budget, but still want to access many of the staple features that Office has developed over several decades. To take full advantage of the cloud tools, larger businesses will want to opt for Office 365 Enterprise options, which offer unlimited data storage, including archive and mail storage. Enterprise plans also allow for greater interaction and collaboration across platforms like SharePoint, which is another bonus for larger companies with employees in multiple sites.

Which Enterprise Level is Right for Your Business?

If you run a larger business, or have a small business with high data storage needs, then choosing Office 365 Enterprise is probably the right choice. Microsoft currently offers 3 levels of service: E1, E3 and E5.

The first level, E1, offers basic office tools, including Word, Excel, and SharePoint, at a reasonable monthly rate. E3 includes these tools as well as additional connectivity–and the protection to go with it. Data loss prevention and encryption are among several tools that Office 365 customers at the E3 level will be able to take advantage of. To consolidate your entire suite of digital solutions into one overarching tool, the E5 level of Office 365 Enterprise includes advanced protection for your company’s data, plus communication tools and video conferencing platform options to best accommodate larger business and keep them in compliance.

As you find the right next move for your organization, feel free to reach out to {company} today to assess your needs and the potential solutions that today’s Office products can provide.

Ransomware’s Cruel Greed: Proven Security Protects Your Business

Ransomware

Ransomware

Cybercriminals lock victims out of computer and network files – sometimes destroying data – and extort cash to get that data back. That’s a ransomware attack, costing businesses billions worldwide.

Ransomware can spread by the simplest of user actions. Email phishing, or Business Email Compromise (BEC) – fraudulent and deceptive emails posing as legitimate messages – is perhaps the most common propagation method. Social media clickbait, particularly using fake accounts masquerading as friends or colleagues, is common also. Simply visiting an infected website can corrupt your system, even if the user doesn’t click anything on the web page.

How common is ransomware? There’s bad news and good news. The bad news: attacks are extremely common, with thousands of organizations being probed every day. The good news: savvy IT professionals are fending off attacks, so infections are still comparatively rare. However, attacks are on the rise and cybercriminals are growing more sophisticated.

Ransomware attacks are hitting businesses of all sizes, from a few employees to enterprise corporations. Individuals get infected also, especially those without good antivirus protection. Government agencies and health care organizations have become prime targets.

Data Loss and Financial Risk

Ransomware encrypts computer files and network drives, then demands a ransom in exchange for a decryption key. Most victims end up paying the ransom. Ransomware can be difficult, if not impossible, to crack, and paying the ransom can be the only way to get data back.

Costs of recovery can be enormous. The ransom itself can run from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, even approaching $1 million dollars. The real cost of recovery runs easily into the millions. FedEx reported losses of more than $300 million before operations were fully restored. The total cost to US business is estimated at $75 billion or more per year, with downtime costing around $8,500 per hour.

Cybercriminals typically demand payment in Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency affords substantial anonymity, making it nearly impossible to track perpetrators. Even if they could be identified, cybercriminals often work over international borders. Jurisdiction issues makes prosecution almost impossible.

Preventing Ransomware

Ransomware protection is a complex endeavor involving technology, education and best practices. You need the right tools – the right information – and the right business processes.

Key steps to protect your data include:

  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus/malware protection, especially on email. Do your research for best programs, including buyer reviews on popular online retail sites.
  • Perform regular external backups, and quarantine them from your network as soon as they’re completed. Keep archival history as much as possible.
  • Train employees. Malware is most often spread by human behavior, e.g. clicking an email phishing link or social media clickbait. Proper training can minimize risk by educating staff about the risk of suspicious links.
  • Maintain strong firewall protection to minimize the risk of a single infected machine spreading malware into your network.
  • Keep all enterprise software updated with the latest releases and patches. Software firms are constantly improving security, and outdated software is riskier.
  • Administer IT user permission security so employees have access only to the software and functionality required for their job roles.
  • Disable macro scripts on files shared via email – an important component of training.

Along with preventative measures, create a contingency plan. If you are hit with ransomware, you’ll be better prepared to cope if you have plans in place to continue operations and speed up recovery.

Setting up a cryptocurrency wallet should be part of the contingency plan. If your business is hit – and you decide to pay the ransom – you’ll be able to pay much sooner if you already have this in place.

See these resources for more detail on what you can do to protect your business.

What to Do If Infected

More than half of targets don’t report ransomware attacks, according to FBI estimates. This is likely driven by concerns over bad publicity. Financial and business process recovery is bad enough without adding in a PR nightmare.

However, it’s critical to notify the FBI if your systems are infected. The FBI is the lead federal agency for cybercrime. Their investigative and technology capabilities are state-of-the-art, and no one is better equipped to help you understand your options and recover your data.

The FBI suggests that you do not pay the ransom. The decision is up to your company leadership, and it’s true that most victims do pay. In many cases, the cost of paying the ransom is far less than the potential losses from operational downtime.

Ransomware removal often involves wiping systems clean and restoring uninfected files from backups. It’s a delicate business best left to a professional cybersecurity company.

It Can Happen to Your Business

Ransomware and cybercrime are on the rise. Costs to businesses are going up.

Education and preparation are the best defenses against cybercrime. Responsible management needs to be proactive. Threats are real, cybercriminals are serious, and today’s IT professionals are armed with the tools and the knowledge to keep their companies safe.

Which Application Rules Supreme: Outlook or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Currently, 30% of email addresses change every year. The majority of these changes are business related. No one wants to deal with the problems that come with changing personal contact information. Quite often, personal emails are attached to personal bills and subscriptions as well.

When the big change happens and it is time to make a move, is usually away from a smaller email platform into one of the two behemoths – Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail. These two email providers have become the blue chip operators in what is now an essential part of everyone’s life.

What is so good about Outlook in Gmail? Are there aspects of one that makes it better than the other? We are here to look at the subtle differences between the two so that you can make an informed decision about which is better for you.

The Basics

The Outlook and Gmail user interfaces couldn’t be more different from each other. Outlook seems more business oriented on the surface, while Gmail’s UI maintains a feel that you might get from last year’s tech startup. In short, Outlook is Baby Boomer; Gmail is Generation Z.

Outlook is all about add on features while Gmail brings a “what you see is what you get” mentality to the forefront. Both services come as part of a larger suite that make a lot of money for their respective companies. If you go Pro with Outlook or Gmail, you will actually be purchasing Microsoft Office 365 or Google G suite. The first requires an annual commitment, and the second is based on a monthly subscription plan.

The Tools

So the cat out of the bag – Outlook and Gmail are actually loss leaders for the business suites that Microsoft and Google hope to sell to you eventually. Microsoft Office 365 has all of the industry standard programs that we are used to – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and all of the newer injuries that have become business staples such as OneDrive, OneNote and Microsoft Teams.

Believe it or not, Google is actually the challenger brand in this arena. Its Calendar and Hangouts tools are definitely name brands, but other aspects of its business suites such as Keep, Sites, Forms, Drive and Currents have not quite hit mainstream acceptance.

The result is the difference between a set of features that you know and love (Outlook) or a possibly wider and more robust feature set with a learning curve (Google).

Organization

If you are actually doing good business, your email is going to be a place of constantly changing activity. This is your mission-critical location, and some of the emails that you receive are essential in making mission-critical decisions. Keeping your emails organized is one of the most important things that you can do for your business. Outlook and Gmail have two entirely different philosophies for this.

Outlook works on a method of organization that predates the Internet. Its traditional system of folders looks and feels like a file cabinet. Anyone who makes use of Gmail can tell you this is definitely not the way that Google organizes things. Gmail uses labels and tags and allows you to customize your experience much more. If you know what you’re doing, you can quickly tier your email system and get to your most important emails more quickly. If not, then your email will probably look like a jumbled mess every time you open it.

The Company

With such powerful companies underwriting the programs, it is difficult to look past the influence of the brand. When you use Outlook, you have the advantages of Microsoft behind you. One of the most important features that Microsoft offers is the ability to completely delete unread emails from existence. This is simply not possible with Google, although Gmail offers many other advantages that are difficult to overlook. Gmail offers extended power of Google search and all of the associated features that Alphabet has now monopolized, meaning that you have an extremely powerful suite of tools behind you every time you open your Gmail.

So who wins the battle of emails between Outlook and Gmail? This is actually a question of your business philosophy. If you like more traditional, old-school methods of thinking and organizing yourself, the outlook is probably the brand for you. If you are a New Age thinker who wants a personalized digital experience, then Gmail will probably suit you better. There is no right and wrong; only good and bad for you.

3 Reasons to Regularly Test Business Systems

Business Computer Systems

Business Computer Systems

Protecting your business requires more time, effort and energy from your technology team than ever before. Business systems are increasingly complex, requiring staff members to continually learn and adapt to changing conditions and new threats as they emerge. It’s not unusual for a single ransomware incident to wreak havoc on carefully balanced systems, and this type of attack can be particularly damaging if you do not have the backup and disaster recovery procedures in place to regain critical operations quickly. From checking for system vulnerabilities to identifying weak points in your processes, here are some reasons why it is so important to regularly test your business systems.

1. Business System Testing Helps Find Vulnerabilities

The seismic shift in the way business systems work is still settling, making it especially challenging to find the ever-changing vulnerabilities in your systems. Cloud-based applications connect in a variety of different ways, causing additional steps for infrastructure teams as they review the data connectors and storage locations. Each of these connections is a potential point of failure and could represent a weakness where a cybercriminal could take advantage of to infiltrate your sensitive business and financial data. Regular business system testing allows your technology teams to determine where your defenses may need to be shored up. As the business continues to evolve through digital transformation, this regular testing and documentation of the results allow your teams to grow their comfort level with the interconnected nature of today’s systems — which is extremely valuable knowledge to share within the organization in the event of a system outage or failure. Experts note that system testing is being “shifted left”, or pushed earlier in the development cycle. This helps ensure that vulnerabilities are addressed before systems are fully launched, helping to protect business systems and data.

2. Business System Testing Provides Valuable Insight Into Process Improvement Needs

Business process improvement and automation are never-ending goals, as there are always new tools available that can help optimize the digital and physical operations of your business. Reviewing business systems in depth allows you to gain a higher-level understanding of the various processes that surround your business systems, allowing you to identify inefficiencies as well as processes that could leave holes in your cybersecurity net. Prioritizing these process improvements helps identify any crucial needs that can bring significant business value, too. This process of continuous improvement solidifies your business systems and hardens security over time by tightening security and allowing you to review user permissions and individual levels of authority within your business infrastructure and systems.

3. Business System Testing Allows You to Affirm Your Disaster Recovery Strategy

Your backup and disaster recovery strategy is an integral part of your business. Although you hope you never have to use it, no business is fully protected without a detailed disaster recovery plan of attack — complete with assigned accountabilities and deliverables. It’s no longer a matter of “if” your business is attacked but “when”, and your technology team must be prepared for that eventuality. Business testing allows you to review your backup and disaster recovery strategy with the parties that will be engaged to execute it, providing an opportunity for any necessary revisions or adjustments to the plans. Whether a business system outage comes from a user who is careless with a device or password, a cybercriminal manages to infiltrate your systems or your business systems are damaged in fire or flood, your IT team will be ready to bring your business back online quickly.

Regularly testing your business policies and procedures and validating your disaster recovery plan puts your organization in a safer space when it comes to overcoming an incident that impacts your ability to conduct business. The complexity of dealing with multi-cloud environments can stymie even the most hardened technology teams, and the added comfort level that is gained by regular testing helps promote ongoing learning and system familiarity for your teams. No one wants to have to rebuild your infrastructure or business systems from the ground up, but running testing procedures over time can help promote a higher level of comfort within teams and vendor partners if the unthinkable does occur.

How Much Should A Company Invest In Information Technology?

Business IT Budgets

Business IT Budgets

The rapid increase in technology use in businesses has affected every industry. Across all businesses, the need to keep up with the competition means paying attention to what technologies are available and incorporating the right tech tools as they become viable. Whatever your business, you know that you need to invest in information technology to excel in your industry. But how much should you invest, exactly? To determine your IT budget, you need to look carefully at your industry, your business goals and most importantly, what you can reasonably expect information technology to do for you on your path towards those goals.

Putting Technology Investment in Context

Depending on what stats you read, it appears that businesses spend anywhere from 3% to 6% of their budget on IT. The average spend on tech is expected to go up in the coming years, but no one is quite sure how much it will increase. It makes sense to expect an increase, of course, given the drastic increase in tech adoption across all facets of daily life and business. But the amount of increase is hard to be certain of because no one is sure exactly what the future holds.

What is clear is that an IT budget is necessary for building and maintaining a business. However, the size of that budget can vary considerably depending on the business and the industry that business is part of. In a study conducted by Deloitte, it was found that banking and securities spent 7.16% of their budget on IT—the most of any industry—while construction spent the least at 1.51%. Other industries spent somewhere in between. Such a large difference in spending is indicative of a spectrum of need for IT that differs significantly depending on the business. Those differences make it impossible to define a one-size-fits-all budget percentage for IT for all businesses. There are simply too many variables to consider.

How to Determine How Much Your Company Should Spend on IT

Guidelines on how to determine your own IT budget can be much more useful than a blanket statement about how much you should spend. By knowing what questions to ask, you can get the answers you need to form your own ideas about what your company needs as far as IT goes.

Some questions you can ask include:

Do we need an IT budget?

The answer to this is an obvious “YES”, but it is worth coming up with your own reasons for having a budget to begin with. The closer you look at your circumstances, the more apparent it will be that IT is simply a part of doing business and an area that you will always have to navigate as a company. And it is not enough to put off IT decisions until you make a split-second purchasing decision financed by extra cash you have lying around—not if you want IT to generate reliable results. For long-term success, you need a specific budget.

What is the budget for?

IT investments should serve to further your business objectives. Pulling a random number out of the air is not going to achieve optimal outcomes. The budget should be set to ensure that you can use the technology you need to achieve the outcomes you desire. Of course, to answer this question, you may need to clarify your business objectives and your IT needs. The CIO, CMO and other business leaders can work together to set guidelines for what needs to be accomplished and the budget can be built from there.

Are we spending more just because?

Knowing that business spending on IT is increasing in many industries is useful, but just because others are doing it does not mean that you need to do it. Increasing spending on IT is not enough on its own to improve your business. That increased spending needs to have a purpose. Maybe you are upgrading important infrastructure. Or, perhaps you know of a new tech tool that is virtually guaranteed to make you more competitive. Just make sure that an increased budget has a purpose.

Is the budget based on current economic conditions?

Some businesses are still stuck in a recession mindset. They try to avoid any extra spending because they think it is a necessity for survival. But if the economy has picked up, it is vital to take advantage of increased revenue to bolster your technology while you can. The better you equip your company to move into the new age now, while you have the resources, the more capable your company will be of weathering any storms to come.

The reality of IT budgets is that they need to be customized to the business using them. Fortunately, the process of determining the IT budget can greatly improve your company’s understanding of where it is, where it is going and how technology will help it get there.

How to Cyber Secure Your Company in 60 Minutes or Less

Cyber Security

Cyber Security

In today’s digital economy, cybersecurity is just as important as traditional, physical security. Many small businesses that wouldn’t dream of leaving their stores or offices unlocked and unguarded give little time or effort to a cybersecurity strategy. That’s in spite of 2018 research from Hiscox revealing that nearly half of small businesses suffered a cyber attack in the year prior to the study. Clearly, the notion that hackers won’t bother with the “little guy” is mistaken.

Other reasons that small businesses ignore cybersecurity include lack of resources and understanding. Physical security can be felt and seen. Locked doors, security cameras, and security guards are visible deterrent features.

Cybersecurity is different. It’s mostly invisible, and your average user won’t notice it. That said, cybersecurity isn’t as difficult to implement as some imagine. Here is how to cyber secure your company in 60 minutes or less.

1. Audit Your Existing Cybersecurity Measures

If your company has any cybersecurity measures in place, the first step is to review these. Look for holes or vulnerabilities in your plan. Review your internal IT policies, looking for weaknesses that a disgruntled employee or even a bad actor could exploit.

If no one in your company is in a position to perform this audit, or if you aren’t sure whether you have any cybersecurity measures in place, you need to bring in a consultant to perform this task. If you’re working with a managed service provider (MSP) already, check to see whether cybersecurity is a service they offer.

2. Train Staff on Phishing Techniques and Other Email Scams

Remember that notion that master hackers probably aren’t interested in coming after your small business because you’re the little guy? There’s actually an element of truth there. The likelihood of some shadowy group of elite European hackers employing TV-show-level hacking skills to break into your computer systems is pretty low.

That doesn’t mean you’re safe from all cybersecurity threats, though. Most of the time, hackers will get into your system by phishing.

Phishing Explained

Phishing schemes can take on a number of forms. Generally, they involve a realistic-looking email that’s made to look like it comes from a trusted organization (say, Microsoft) or from a trusted and important individual (say, your CEO or another executive).

Organization-based (or credential-based) phishing campaigns may include a link to a convincing but fake login page. Users enter their credentials, which go straight to the hackers who set up the scheme. Those hackers now have credentials necessary to log onto your company’s systems.

Personality-based phishing campaigns usually involve some social engineering. The “CEO” tries to convince a low-level user to do something that’s a breach in policy, and the user complies, hoping to impress the CEO. Instead, he or she gives away the store.

Training Is Key

Phishing schemes are not that complicated, and most users can identify them easily with even 60 minutes or less of training. Invest in this training to keep your business safer.

3. Set up Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an added layer of security that can be enabled on many types of accounts. With 2FA, users enter their username and password as normal, but there’s an additional step. Users will also need to enter a randomly generated code (usually sent via text message). 2FA should be enabled wherever possible in your organization. Taking this step alone will cripple most credential-based phishing attacks.

4. Review and Strengthen Your Password Policy

Lastly, set up a password policy that forces users to create complex passwords and change them regularly. You’ll reduce your exposure to threats of stolen credentials and thus tighten up your cybersecurity strategy.

Conclusion

These 4 steps can help you improve your organization’s cybersecurity, but they aren’t a comprehensive strategy. We can work with you to form a cybersecurity strategy that’s comprehensive and customized to your business. Are you ready? Contact us today.