Incorporating the IoT to Improve Connectivity to Your Customers  

IoT Business

Learn how the advent of the Internet of Things has improved device connectivity and enabled businesses like yours to delivery consumer-driven solutions.  

IoT Business

The Internet of Things (IoT) was first conceptualized in 1982 through the internet connection of a Coke machine at Carnegie-Mellon University which was able to report inventory levels and the temperature of vended sodas. From this beginning 37 years ago, IoT has led to greater connectivity between all types of devices for the purpose of providing and sharing data. What would have been unimaginable 50 years ago in our parent’s and grandparent’s time has been realized today as televisions, refrigerators, telephones, and other types of consumer electronics have been enabled to talk to one another.

IoT has also helped businesses like yours learn a lot about your customers. The way in which consumers interact with IoT-enabled devices provides businesses with valuable data which can be used to transform products and services and solidify customer loyalty. This leads to the development of additional products, increasing the things-to people ratio, which is the amount of consumer products owned per person. As the things-to-people ratio continues to grow, businesses have seen the development of smart homes, smart phones, autonomous vehicles, etc., as well as an increase in the generation of data which enables machine learning and greater human-to-computer interactions.

This white paper is an exploration of the advances in IoT and how it is moving greater automation of connectivity. This automated connectivity is critical as the number of IoT devices grows, warranting cost effective ways to remove the complexity of these connections. Businesses understanding the importance of managing the connectivity of their IoT devices will be best positioned to gain market share.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

A simple definition of Internet of Things is the ability of all things, people, machines, objects, etc. to transfer data between each other over a network. Each of the things interacting through the IoT network are given what is called a unique identifier (UID), which is a label or identifier assigned to the IoT things (i.e. people, machines, objects).

IoT connectivity is responsible for moving the number of connected devices from millions to billions. According to business consultancy groups McKinsey and Gartner, there are more than 26.7 billion IoT connected devices in 2019. The number of things to people in 2020 is projected to be 26 times more in 2020, while the number of connected devices will grow by three times as many or 75.4 million in 2025. The popularity of IoT can be seen in the use of smart and connected devices in the home. This includes applications such as smart thermostats, smart locks, and smart refrigerators. Smart security, one of the poplar home uses for IoT connectivity, has a market expected to grow to $22 billion by the year 2021. Additional markets expected to grow as a result of IoT are home entertainment systems and energy management technology.

How IoT Has Spawned Greater Connectivity

The global IoT market is worth $1.7 trillion in 2019. Of this amount, 35 percent or $595 billion of this value is attributed to hardware, such as smart home peripherals, smart phones, etc. Countries North America, Western Europe as well as China make up two-thirds of the installed IoT devices. It is also worthy to note that, on average, 127 new IoT devices are connected to the internet every second across the globe. Industry is also gravitating toward a greater use of IoT connected devices. Industrial IoT, which comprises 17 percent of the IoT related projects on a worldwide basis, has a market value projected to reach $110 billion in 2020.

Growth of Personal Digital Assistants

The development of new devices has advanced connectivity and has also been responsible for this growth. Over the past years, the advent of personal digital assistants (PDAs) or virtual assistants, from Apple’s Siri, to Google Voice has meant less reliance on manual typing and a greater dependence on voice assistance. The global intelligent PDA/voice assistance market was worth $2.4 billion in 2018and is expected to increase a total composite average growth rate (CAGR) of 40.4 percent for the period (2018 – 2025).

IoT Growth in the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry has been a direct beneficiary of IoT connectivity. Such innovations as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) have helped healthcare sector providers diagnose disease, manage chronic conditions, and bring the cost of care for patients and providers. The healthcare IoT market value was $60 billion in 2014 and expected to reach a value of $136 billion in 2021, a CAGR of 12.5 percent. Growth in the connected devices segment of the market is projected to be the best for the healthcare industry. Asia-Pacific countries are expected to experience a CAGR of 17 percent for the measuring period of 2015 – 2021. Why is IoT important to the Healthcare sector? It provides companies with the ability to grow therapies and processes useful in meeting needs and improving healthcare outcomes through improved:

  • Monitoring of patient health
  • The operation of healthcare clinics
  • The management of workflow
  • Imaging connectivity
  • The measurement of the effectiveness of fitness, health and wellness programs
  • The development of new drug therapies

IoT +37 Years: What Does the Future Hold for Connectivity

The future of IoT is more than bright. The explosion in the growth of IoT connected devices, over 300% between 2019 – 2025, is forcing businesses to invest in this technology to experience a cut of the nearly $500 billion in profits generated from more than 2 billion devices in use in 2019 alone. Companies are maneuvering to position themselves as leading innovators in the development of IoT devices and products. For example, Google invested $3.2 billion to purchase Nest products and paid another $2.1 billion to acquire FitBit, in a bid to compete with competitor Apple’s Apple Watch. These acquisitions are strategic moves designed to gain further control of the IoT market and offer an array of products which can capture valuable consumer data and further the development of needed products.

IoT has not reached its zenith in terms of depth or breadth of market. What was thought to be the limit when smartphone technology was first introduced to the market more than 25 years ago on August 16, 1994 (IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator), the world and consumers have seen an astronomical amount of growth in the number of devices (“things”) with the capability to interact with us and each other to provide important data and operate free of human-to-computer interaction. Automated homes equipped with functions which can clean your floors, issue notifications when you are running low on milk, provide real time video and alerts when an intruder approaches your home are more than the dreams of 1960s science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick.

Bottom Line

Businesses that learn to involve themselves in IoT connectivity will find themselves at the leading edge of this technological advancement. IoT means a greater opportunity for profitability through the mining of data and predictive analysis provide by data scientists to determine consumer interests, wants, and needs. The application of IoT in a business setting helps businesses leverage knowledge gained from their customers in ways unforeseen when the internet was first made available to the general population. IoT connectivity leads to higher profits and better consumer loyalty, as seen in the rapid growth of IoT’s market value.

Businesses will also come to understand that improvements in their IoT offerings will lead to improved employee morale. IoT connectivity provides businesses with valuable consumer data which in turn leads to the creation of products designed to improve quality of life. The data gleaned from IoT devices can be synthesized efficiently and seamlessly, creating a data-driven environment which reduces employee stress and leads to greater creativity. This is another benefit IoT connectivity provides your business and its bid for greater profitability.

It is important to recognize that any limits on IoT connectivity are those which consumers set. A greater reliance and dependence on digital devices to provide us with the comforts of daily living will be tempered by attempts by hackers and other nefarious actors to compromise these machines for their personal gains. Proper monitoring and safeguards must be put in place; businesses must constantly gauge consumer interest for the next best thing and balance that desire against the ability of that “thing” to provide a solution and not be another gadget that is a potential hazard. A proper read of the data IoT devices provide will help guide business toward smart development in keeping with the dramatic increase in value in the IoT market, leading to better products, happy consumers, engaged employees, and a better envisioned world.

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.

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.

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.

Microsoft Office 365 and Your Business: Boost Productivity with the Right Tech Tools

Modern Workplace

Office Workers In A Modern Workplace

Microsoft Office 365 and Your Business: Boost Productivity with the Right Tech Tools

The workplace is becoming more and more digital every day. New tech tools are developed regularly, and most have the same goal—to make your life easier. While some new developments end up making life harder because they are hard to learn, cumbersome, or have glitches or bugs, most are specifically designed to be easy to understand and use. Getting things done faster and more efficiently is a huge driver for technology generally, but that is especially true today.

Defining the Modern Digital Workplace

The “Modern Digital Workplace” is a phrase used today that describes utilizing the technology that is most useful for your team. It helps your team by:

  • Making collaboration easier
  • Training and educating faster and more efficiently
  • Compiling documents and information in an easy-to-use and access way
  • Automating processes, to the extent possible, in a way that make sense for your industry and your team
  • Improving digital processes not only internally, but also with partners, suppliers, and other third parties

Technology, when used properly, can make the entire workplace run in a much smoother, more efficient way. New tools allow your team to meet the needs of customers, and the business as a whole, better. When goals are easier to accomplish, productivity gets a huge boost.

The Obvious Connection: Technology and Productivity

In general, the new digital workplace focuses on improving three key areas of a company. These include the following:

  • Employee Collaboration. When employees can team up and get work done easier, it makes projects faster and more efficient. Sometimes talking to one another is the best way to come up with new ideas and simply ensure that everyone is getting their job done effectively and promptly. Making sure that information and the ability to connect with one another is all on one platform is one of the best ways to encourage and foster this type of collaboration.
  • Content Collaboration. Many teams work on the same content at similar times. Being able to share documents, files, and even external information at the same time can be a huge time saver within a company.
  • Business Application. Administrative processes, such as workflow, forms, and rules, can often be automated in a way that cuts down significantly on processing time and time spent requesting or obtaining status updates. Even something as simple as creating digital versions of forms and allowing employees or third parties to input the information themselves can be a huge time saver in many industries.

Transparency regarding work product and processes is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your team is getting their work done and creating a final product that is the best version that you can provide.

Certain technologies often focus on a different area of these three overarching ideas. Some attempt to address all of them, while others target just one or two sections of particular concern. When all three can be addressed, you have a powerful system that encourages accountability, efficiency, and, in turn, productivity.

Office 365’s Role in the Modern Digital Workplace

Office 365 has been created with the Modern Digital Workplace in mind. It is specifically designed to address these three major concerns in an easy-to-use way.

While Office is commonly associated with their most popular programs, like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, they have a whole host of programs that can significantly boost your team’s productivity because they make collaboration and transparency ridiculously easy.

Outlook

Microsoft’s email program, Outlook, has been a staple for many businesses for years. Outlook is more than just email, however. Users can use the calendar to schedule meetings and create task lists. They can also create contact lists and share documents through OneDrive. Outlook’s key focus is employee collaboration.

Microsoft Teams

This relatively new feature allows employees and third parties to chat, share documents, work on documents at the same time, schedule meetings, have audio and visual video calls, create notes, and more. It is also integrated with several very popular apps and services, including OneDrive, SharePoint, Yammer, Dynamics 365, and Skype.

Delve

Microsoft Delve shows what your team is working on, popular documents, and provides insightful information to workers who might be interested in them. Employees develop profiles, and they can find and organize information based on interests. It also allows workers to search for documents that are connected through SharePoint and OneDrive.

Yammer

Yammer is similar to a social networking site, but it is limited to your employees and other workers. It is designed to encourage communication throughout your organization. Its focus is on ensuring that information is accessible and shared at virtually every level.

Microsoft Planner

This tool allows your team to create new plans, assign tasks, share files, and organize projects. You can easily see what people are working on and get updates on progress for various tasks. This type of open communication makes assigning projects and getting status updates easy and more efficient.

SharePoint and OneDrive

OneDrive is a straight-forward means to share files, both internally and externally. SharePoint uses sites and files, team news, lists, libraries, and more to encourage collaboration on documents and files. Both are based on sharing information in the cloud.

Microsoft Flow

This tool is focused on making internal processes easier and more efficient. It helps automate and exchange data. It has built-in alerts and notifications to help address organizational processes like approvals, multi-stage processes, and more.

Using Office 365 to Help Your Business

Every company is different. Office 365 has enough unique tools focused on making your company better that you are bound to find something that fits well for your needs. Encouraging collaboration and automated processing can lead to huge productivity boosts for your business.

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.

How to Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web

Dark Web

Dark Web

Assassins for hire, drugs by mail order, and fake passports: What do all these things have in common?

You can find them all on the dark web.

“Okay …” you may be thinking, “Sounds like a blast — but how does this affect me and my business?”

Well, most likely, you’re not surfing the dark web for fake travel documents and drugs by mail. But as it turns out, the dark web can affect you and your business. Most notably, your information can end up there — and that’s exactly where you don’t to find it.

Below, we’ll learn more about what the dark web is, how it came into existence, and how you can protect your business from the trouble that lurks there.

First Thing’s First: What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web began much more innocently than one might assume. In fact, at its very beginning in the late 1990s, it was the brainchild of a government entity, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

The NRL’s main goal was to cloak their online presence, effectively protecting their clandestine communications online while also anonymously monitoring the world market and getting access to hidden data without a trace. The software development stage went by the name The Onion Routing Project and resulted in the creation of Tor (The Onion Router).

Whether you’d call these beginnings “innocent” or not, to be sure, the NRL never anticipated their creation to morph into the toxic netherworld it is today. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the software was for government use only, but in 2004, it was open-sourced and went public, effectively creating an anonymous web browser for anyone and everyone to use.

What Is Tor?

Tor or The Onion Router is the software program used by the dark web. Normally, when you surf the web, you can be traced wherever you go because you always have an IP address trailing your clicks and searches.

Tor facilitates an Internet browser that messes with your device’s IP address, effectively enabling you to travel around the Internet anonymously. It does this by bouncing your IP address to a multitude of diverse locations. As a result, if someone were to attempt to track your site visits when you were using Tor, it would be an impossible challenge to pinpoint your exact location. For Tor to work, individuals from around the world “donate” their Internet browsing devices (computers, tablets, etc.) so that the bouncing IP addresses have more places to land.

So, the Dark Web Provides Anonymity and Privacy – How Does That Put My Business at Risk?

While Tor and the dark web can be used for good (namely, identity protection, which is often beneficial to whistleblowers or journalists, for example), it can also protect criminals. And it does protect criminals — lots of them.

Cybercrime is the number one thing going on on the dark web, and unless you have good reason to require the benefits of The Onion Router, the dark web is definitely not a place you want to find your information. This is what we mean by being wary of your business getting mixed up with the dark web.

There are numerous threats that the dark web poses to businesses of various sizes, industries, and backgrounds. This is where cybercriminals can learn how to obtain information such as access codes and passwords, credit card information, gift card information, customer data, and more. It’s also where they can sell such information to third parties who can then do with it what they please.

In other words, you should want to know the moment your company name, address, or other company-related information is noticed on the dark web because what happens next is bound to be bad.

How Can Businesses Protect Themselves From the Dark Web?

Essentially, you can protect your business from the dark web by doing two things: Ensuring a strong setup of cyber privacy practices (hiring a cybersecurity-savvy IT company) and monitoring the dark web so that you’re notified the moment your information is found there.

The latter can be a part of the services you outsource to your IT company because actual dark web monitoring involves getting dark web access and knowing how to accumulate, parse, normalize, validate, refine, and enrich what you acquire. If you don’t know how to do that yourself, professionals can come to your aid.

While the dark web may be a place that helps good journalists and few others stay hidden and anonymous, it’s predominantly a place of crime and misdeeds. Keep your business safe from the dark web by knowing the risks and taking the appropriate precautions.

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.