4 Dangers of Hiring Printer Companies to Manage Your IT Services

Printer Repair Companies

4 Reasons Not to Hire Printer Companies

Thinking about saving money on your IT services with a printer company? Learn about the pitfalls and dangers of relying on support from companies without expertise.  

Printer Repair Companies

Hiring a printer company to take care of your IT services can seem like a great solution. You won’t have to consult with multiple vendors or negotiate multiple contracts. A printer company might even offer to take care of all of your IT services for less than what you’re currently spending. However, there are several reasons why you should not trust a printer company as your single vendor for all of your organization’s IT needs. Although you may pay less, that lower price comes with a higher cost – substandard service and support.

The delivery of substandard service and support from printer companies occurs due to the following:

  • A lack of experience
  • An inability to understand the true nature and components of IT services
  • Inadequate resources directed towards developing IT and IT services
  • Unstable organizations due to conflicts between printing and IT services

Insufficient Experience

By design, printer companies are specialists in troubleshooting and maintaining two items – printers and copiers. While these companies are experts at providing service on these types of devices, branching out into the world of IT services is not something these companies have done in the past. Even though the staff may have basic troubleshooting, sales, and customer service experience under their belts, they may only have limited experience with the complexities of managing networks.

Lack of Understanding

Since printer companies do not have decades of experience with IT services, there is often a skill and knowledge gap. Without an understanding of and experience with more complex computing devices, troubleshooting skills may be limited. Computing devices, servers, and network equipment are more intricate than printers or copiers. In order to configure, deploy, maintain, troubleshoot, and fix this type of equipment, advanced and interdependent knowledge is necessary. It is far easier for printer companies to overlook the source of a problem with network dependent devices and the network itself simply due to a lack of skill.

Inadequate Resources

Since these companies specialize in printers and copiers, it is more difficult to devote internal resources to IT services. This means that there may be little put into research and development, training staff on the skills they need to support IT services, and a lack of support staff designated to managing IT services for clients. In other words, printer companies tend to overpromise and underdeliver when it comes to supporting services and devices outside of printers.

Instability

When printer companies try to branch out into IT services, it can cause internal conflict. Staff that is managing printers and copiers may not be able to keep the company afloat, due to the fact that the company is not reinvesting what it should into its printer expertise. Consequently, both sides of the business begin to suffer, and animosity develops. Leaders within the company may decide to cut out IT services altogether, leaving clients without support.

Which Cloud Storage is Right For Your Business

Cloud Storage

Don’t Be Confused When It Comes to Cloud Storage Options

Cloud storage helps your employees share and collaborate like never before. Check out these three popular cloud storage solutions to find the one best for you!  

Cloud Storage

Businesses are making the switch from physical servers to cloud storage to increase productivity and streamline file-sharing capabilities. This short review looks at three of the most popular cloud storage options, OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive, comparing their storage capacity, file-sharing capabilities, and pricing.

All three of these cloud storage solutions offer various plans for both personal and business use. OneDrive and Google Drive also have options to bundle cloud storage along with access to online versions of standard office applications. In this review, we will look only at the lower-priced standalone cloud storage business solutions available from OneDrive and Dropbox and the Business and Enterprise solutions from Google Drive that do include access to GSuite applications.

OneDrive from Microsoft

OneDrive has two tiers of dedicated cloud storage. Plan 1 costs $60 a year and gives you 1 TB of cloud storage. You can opt for Plan 2 at $120 per year if your business has five or more users, and you need unlimited storage. OneDrive does not offer per month pricing. There is a 15 GB limit per individual file.

When it comes to collaboration, OneDrive shines. It is easy to access stored files directly from the Microsoft ecosystem of products, or use the built-in search and discovery tools to find the files you need. Share individual files securely with a link and set permissions to prevent unauthorized changes. Plan 2 also comes with upgraded security, including data-loss prevention, to help you to monitor and protect your confidential information.

Dropbox

Businesses with three or more users can choose either the Standard or Advanced business plan from Dropbox. The Standard plan comes with 3 TB of cloud storage and costs $150 a year or $15 monthly. The Advanced plan is $240 a year, or $25 monthly. With a file transfer limit of only 2 GB per file, Dropbox’s Standard plan may not fit your needs, but its Advanced plan does allow up to 100 GB transfers.

Many, but not all, popular business applications are already configured to connect with Dropbox. Users have the option to share files through a secure link or to use Dropbox Spaces to allow other employees access. Administrators can create private groups for members to share their work.

Google Drive

Google Drive offers a Business plan for $12 a month and an Enterprise Plan for $25 a month. Both come with only 1 TB of storage unless you maintain five licenses. Then you receive unlimited storage. The maximum size of an individual file is 5 TB.

Both plans let you share files with links, and admins can set security controls to manage file permissions. The Enterprise plan offers data loss protection and improved security options.

For most businesses, OneDrive makes the most sense. It is already optimized to work with the Microsoft applications you probably already use. The only major drawback is the 15 TB limitation on file transfers, but this restriction won’t affect most businesses.

5 Ridiculous Ways Technology Transforms Your Industry

Technology Transformation

Incredible Ways Technology Has Changed How We Do Business

How has technology transformed your industry? Explore 5 important ways technology has recently changed how we do business, delight customers and grow businesses  

Technology Transformation

It doesn’t matter which industry we’re in. Technology is a must. It makes things faster, safer and better when used right. It can propel our businesses and leave competitors in the dust. But many businesses are simply unaware of what’s out there and just how accessible it is to any size business. Here are five incredible types of technology that are completely reshaping how we do business.

1. Big Data Revolutionizes Data-Driven Decisions

As business leaders, we’ve always made decisions based upon the available data. But more recent advancements in data collection and analysis have made it easier and more cost-effective to gather data and put it to work. We can make smarter decisions about the direction of our companies where we once had to rely solely on gut instinct.

We can enhance customer experiences to not only increase sales but to raise that net promoter score, building trust, loyalty and powerful word-of-mouth.

2. We Reach Customers in More-Effective Ways

87% of purchases now begin online. This doesn’t mean they buy online, just that they found the product or service online.

Digital marketing technology is a business technology that has transformed how we connect with customers. We can now more precisely target audiences to enhance the relevance of our ads to specific customer bases.

Thanks to the pay-per-click model, we don’t pay for advertising that doesn’t work. And thanks to optimization tools we continually improve strategies to find what does work.

Digital marketing allows us to reach customers where they find new products and services through:

  • Search engines
  • Social Media
  • Review Websites
  • Influencers

3. Virtual Reality Gives Employees Real-World Training

From healthcare to aviation to manufacturing, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are helping schools and businesses train employees in very lifelike situations. Employers can help employees become more comfortable in likely scenarios by allowing them to experience it in an artificial environment first. They can learn how candidates may perform at their jobs before sending that job offer to get the best people into important roles.

4. Enhanced Business Continuity Tools Reduce Down-time

From more effective ways to keep business and customer data safe to data backup to re-routing of important functions to remote locations, advancements in technology are making it easier for businesses to both avoid disasters (physical and virtual) and keep moving when disaster strikes.

Developing a strategy, deploying tools effectively and putting a plan into action, of course, take know-how, but those involved in business continuity planning now have a wider range of tools for the business continuity tool belt.

5. Better Technology for Less Cost

It’s not news to anyone that technology gets cheaper the longer it’s in use. And by now many amazing technologies have been around long enough that they’re getting very affordable, even for small business. Yet, many businesses still aren’t taking advantage of them because they don’t know what’s out there.

That’s why it’s important to work with technology experts who can introduce you to technology you’ll find useful to cut costs, enhance productivity, delight customers and more. To learn more about how technology is disrupting every industry, follow our blog.

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.

Everything You Need to Know About the Dark Web

The Dark Web

The Dark Web

What Is the Dark Web and How Can You Stay Off It?

Ever heard of the dark web? It’s definitely not a place you want your company’s information to be. Learn everything you need to know about the dark web here.  

Most people have heard about the dark web in one form or another. It’s a place where criminal activity happens — from the purchase of illegal drugs to the hiring of assassins.

Of course, there is a legal side to the dark web as well; though, most people don’t know about. In fact, the origin story of the dark web is entirely legitimate and is even linked to the government.

Still, as a business owner or CEO, your relationship with the dark web (should you unfortunately have one) will not likely be good. It’s a bad sign if any of your information is found there. That’s why it’s important to know about what exactly the dark web is: Where it came from, what’s on it, and what you should do to stay as far away from it as possible.

What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web is essentially one “section” of the Internet. Specifically, it’s a section that isn’t included in mainstream search engines like Google. So, when you search a normal search inquiry, such as, “Where’s the best hamburger joint in downtown Pittsburgh?” you don’t get results from the dark web.

Instead, this section includes all sorts of illicit goings-on. Mostly, it’s a marketplace for things you shouldn’t be buying because they’re illegal to sell and/or buy. For instance, you can buy lifelong access to Netflix for a small price (six bucks). You can hire someone to hack into someone else’s computer for you and download their data or track their keystrokes. You can purchase credit card credentials. You can obtain prepaid debit card numbers and security codes.

How Does One Access the Dark Web?

We’ll reiterate again that the dark web is not a place you want to find yourself (or your information). However, for the sake of knowledge, we’ll explain that in order to access the dark web, you must download what’s called the Tor browser.

Tor stands for The Onion Router. This is basically the software that makes the dark web operate in the dark.

Where Did the Dark Web Originate?

The dark web began in the late 1990s as a way for the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to better hide their online communications. At this time, The Onion Router or Tor was brand-new.

Soon after its initial creation in 2004, the dark web’s Tor software was released for public use. Since that time, it has ceased to be solely a government resource and has turned into the “back alley” of the Internet.

How Can the Dark Web Affect Business Owners?

The dark web is a potential danger to all businesses of all sizes and in all industries. In fact, it can be a potential danger to individuals as well. But let’s talk about your business and the dark web.

Basically, it has been found that 60% of the web listings on the dark web could harm a business. That’s because, these listings offer individuals searching the dark web ways to obtain things like the following:

  • Customer data
  • Tips for hacking computers
  • Tips for hacking networks
  • Malware
  • Financial data
  • Phishing advice
  • Operational data
  • Intellectual trade secrets
  • Tutorials for cyber crime
  • Remote access Trojans (RATs)
  • Espionage services
  • Credentials access

How Can You Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web?

The best way to keep your business safe from the dark web is to have the proper cybersecurity measures in place. This means hiring a cybersecurity team or a managed service provider (MSP) to handle your company’s cybersecurity. Even if you’re a small business, hiring an MSP to have on retainer is a good idea.

They will make sure that you have firewalls and other detectors of malware in place for adequate security. It’s also essential to back up your data and to make everyone who works for or with your company aware of how to avoid phishing attempts.

Lastly, your cybersecurity team should be monitoring the dark web to make sure that none of your information lands there. This goes for personal information for you and your employees, as well as overall company information. Taking these measures is the only surefire way to ensure that your company does not end up on the wrong end of the dark web.

How to Know When to Outsource IT

Group of people discussing Outsourcing IT

Nearly every company must now rely on technology on a daily basis. For most companies, the role of technology will only grow in the future, making it even more important for all companies to have the tech support they need at all times. Depending on the situation, companies may hire employees to handle IT in-house, or they may outsource IT to a third-party provider.

Group of people discussing Outsourcing IT

The information below will help you determine whether it is time for your business to consider IT outsourcing.

Benefits of Outsourcing IT

Before you can decide whether outsourcing is right for you, you must first understand the reasons you might choose this path. Below are some of the potential benefits of outsourcing IT:

  • Fewer headaches – When you outsource IT, you no longer have to worry about maintenance, upgrades, repairs or any other technological problems.
  • Fewer expenses – Outsourcing IT is cost-effective, as you won’t have to pay for full-time employees to handle IT.
  • Scalability – Outsourced IT services can be scaled up or down to meet your needs as your company evolves.
  • No interruptions – When IT is outsourced, you won’t need to deal with downtime or other workflow interruptions related to IT issues.
  • Better use of in-house resources – Many businesses delegate IT responsibilities to existing employees when they can’t afford to hire full time IT personnel. With outsourcing, you will no longer need to split your employees’ focus in this way.

Downsides of Outsourcing

Although outsourcing IT offers several benefits, there are downsides as well. For example, you won’t have as much control over your operations as you would have if you kept IT in-house. In addition, if your provider is in a different time zone or has a heavy workload, communication can be problematic. Finally, if your business is small, outsourcing may be too expensive.

Should You Outsource?

Deciding whether to outsource IT to a third-party provider can be a challenge for any company, and there are many factors to consider. If you aren’t sure whether outsourcing IT is right for your company, simply compare your options and weigh the pros and cons. Remember to evaluate the potential for cost savings, as well as the impact on your day-to-day operations. It’s also a good idea to learn about the services available to you so you will know what you should expect if you choose to outsource.
If you decide to proceed with outsourcing, it is important to consider multiple providers before making a selection. Choosing the right IT provider can make all the difference in the success of your company. Remember that the cost of outsourced services is not the most important factor. Making sure that you are receiving reliable, high-quality services is essential. Interview each of the providers you are considering and ask them about the services they provide, the fees they charge and the customer support they offer. You should also read reviews from past customers to find out how others have felt about the services they received from the provider in question.

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

No matter what your company or organization specializes in, it’s sure that you have some form or forms of data that needs to be stored, well, somewhere.

Before the invention of cloud computing, most company data was always stored on-site — that is, in the hard drives at a place of business. Additionally, some businesses may have had data stored on remotely-located hard drives or discs; but the majority of data was “in the building.”

Naturally, you can see how this would be dangerous — both for you as a business owner and your clients, customers, and investors. Sensitive data such as customer specs or financial information could be easily stolen, corrupted, lost because of a computer glitch, or even destroyed in a fire.

Today, with the advent of cloud computing. The bulk of these worries are gone. Nearly all major companies, organizations, governments, and many individuals use the cloud.

What is the cloud and what is “cloud computing”?

The first thing to know about “the cloud” is that it’s not a physical thing like a computer or a hard drive. Instead, this term refers to a virtual space or a select part of the Internet — the part that stores data.

Just as you can surf the web from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection, you can also access the cloud from anywhere in the world — plus whatever you store there. Again, you simply need an Internet connection. In this way, many people simply define the “cloud” as a metaphor for the Internet.

“Cloud computing” is the generally recognized term for all computing actions done in or via the cloud. Therefore, cloud computing refers to cloud-based data storage, but it also means cloud-based:

  • Data management
  • Content delivery
  • Access to applications and software
  • Delivery of services

Should your business be using cloud computing?

Before we dive into how to choose a cloud computing method, let’s talk about why you should be using cloud computing — and you absolutely should be.

Cloud computing provides numerous benefits that old-fashioned computing methods just can’t live up to. Specifically, cloud computing provides:

  • Mobility and Efficiency: You can work on the cloud from anywhere. Allow your employees, customers, clients, and investors to access the best that your company has to offer, without worrying about weighing down the system or collapsing your infrastructure.
  • Ultimate Security: The cloud provides the best security available when it comes to storing your sensitive data. Even when hardware and equipment fails, you know your data will be stored safely and backed up.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: With non-cloud computing solutions, you must anticipate the extent to which you’ll use your storage space and other computing needs beforehand. Cloud computing allows you to scale your cloud services up or down, based on your unique needs.
  • Strategic Value: Cloud computing methods are always updated with the latest software and the newest tech. This gives your company a competitive edge. Plus, there’s no need to toss outdated technology or revamp your entire network, which would otherwise set your company timeline back significantly.

What method of cloud computing should my business use?

This depends on the organization’s specifications, needs, and goals. There are three basic methods of cloud computing to choose from.

Private Cloud Computing

This model of cloud computing provides dedicated use to your company’s data and systems over a private IT infrastructure. This is a good model to choose if you are particularly concerned about confidentiality and security. Only a trusted third-party or your company’s internal resources team should manage a private model of cloud computing, and you should only give access to those within your company.

Public Cloud Computing

This method of cloud computing allows your business’s resources (software, platforms, infrastructure) to be available to the general public. In some cases, these types of cloud computing models are offered to the public for free, but they may also be sold by a pay-per-usage model.

Hybrid Cloud Computing

As the name suggests, the hybrid cloud computing model blends a public cloud and a private cloud. The hybrid model is mostly by companies who need to operate both models, and thus, the two are integrated into one overarching system.

Resources in the cloud are easier to access, manage, and recover after an equipment malfunction. By switching your business to one of the cloud computing models outlined above, you’ll have a competitive edge and complete control of your company’s data and systems.

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing the Best IT Company?

Two IT Company Professionals Working

Two IT Company Professionals Working

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing the Best IT Company?

Website outages, cybersecurity attacks, and any number of other IT incidents can cost your company hundreds or even thousands of dollars — every minute. For this reason alone, you need an outsourced IT company who is competent and highly qualified to handle your IT needs.

But how do you choose the best IT company?

Naturally, the IT needs of each individual business will vary. A medical practice will need IT assistance that specializes in privacy as well as cybersecurity because they’ll have a tremendous amount of sensitive data in their systems. On the other hand, your industry may require less focus on privacy and more focus on the particular type of software that you use.

Finding an IT company who specializes in your industry is the first step to locating optimal IT support.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when choosing an IT support company for your business.

1. Look for experience.

As is always the case when you contract out services, you need to look for experience. It may be tempting to work with a brand-new, up and coming IT company in your area, but something as important as IT support warrants hiring a company who’s been in the business for at least a few years.

To establish that the IT companies you are considering have enough experience to get the job done right, ask to speak with their current or past clients. Also, ask for the list of credentials that their support staff possesses. These are the individuals you’ll be working with regularly, and you want to look for certifications and schooling in IT-related fields.

Lastly, make sure the experience that these companies have is related to your industry, specifically. We’ve already touched on this a bit, but it’s important to reiterate that it’s better to find an IT company who specializes in your industry than to find night one who claims they can “do it all.” Many IT companies specialize in healthcare IT, transport IT, or other specific industries, which means they know and understand these industries inside and out. That wants you want.

2. Choose a local company.

Some IT companies will claim they can take on your business from across the state or the nation. While this is possible, it’s unlikely you’ll get the level of quality service you actually deserve. It’s much better to go with a local IT company who you can work with directly.

In many situations, you’ll actually need IT support staff from your MSP (managed service provider) to come to your business for installations, troubleshooting, or network setups. This shouldn’t have to be a huge production. Having a local IT company available for quick service calls is a huge advantage.

3. Look for forward-thinking companies.

Not only do you want your IT company to focus on maintaining your current network and system structure, but you also want them to propel your business forward. Whether fast or slow, growing should be a primary concern for any business.

Some IT companies are more capable at scaling their services than others. Essentially, you want to find a company who will propel your business forward with their own IT ideas. They also need to have the employee-power and IT resources to scale your business up with ease and efficiency. As you expand, you don’t want to have to switch IT companies.

4. Make sure you can choose your level of service.

Again, needs vary where IT is concerned. You certainly do not want to pay for services you don’t need and won’t use. For this reason, look for an IT company who offers a range of service levels.

Most IT companies offer at least two or three levels of service. For example, they may offer an entry-level fee for simply monitoring your systems and alerting you as soon as possible if there’s a breach. If you require network setups, software installations, and other management services, you‘ll naturally want a higher level of service. Having options is the main concern here.

No matter what IT company you choose, it’s important to take your time, and do your research. Your IT company will be one of your business’s most important assets. Hire well, and you’ll reap the benefits of easier daily operations, higher returns on investment, and ultimately, more business opportunities.

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.

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.