Why Every Business Needs Cybersecurity

Business Investment in Cybersecurity

Business Investment in Cybersecurity

Why Every Business Should Invest in Cybersecurity

Cyber security is essential to businesses of all sizes. Learn how to keep your business up to date and protected from the most common digital threats.  

Cybersecurity is no longer a concern exclusive to large corporations. Since the infamous attacks on Equifax, Target, and Apple, cybercriminals have started to shift their focus towards smaller businesses. Without proper security protocols, small businesses are sitting ducks even for novice hackers.

In recent years, the cost of data theft targeting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) has risen significantly. The Ponemon Institute reports a 17% increase in the average cost of theft and damages, and a 26% increase in the average cost of disruption to operations. The threat has prompted many SMBs to invest more heavily in third-party data security services.

Cybersecurity in a Continuously Evolving Digital Space

Ever-evolving technology makes the world more connected, but also makes data more vulnerable to attackers. Gone are the days when an antivirus, firewall, and email filter were enough to earn a passing cybersecurity grade. As criminals refine and improve their methods of attack, businesses and IT professionals must step up their defenses.

The most recent trend in cyberattacks is a shift towards SMBs, many of which lack the breadth and depth of data security that larger corporations are likely to have. Illicit tactics such as email phishing, direct hacking, and installing ransomware can spell big trouble for SMBs. If your data is compromised, the results can extend to your customers and other members of your supply chain.

Consequences of a Data Breach

The fallout from a data breach depends on the scale of the attack and the value of the data stolen. Hackers may be able to seize control of accounts, drain funds, freeze assets, and access sensitive customer information. If you operate in the healthcare or financial sectors, you may be liable to pay reparations in addition to suffering the cost of stolen capital and the inability to continue operations. The cost of a large-scale data breach can devastate even the wealthiest of corporations, and will most certainly overwhelm a small business.

How to Improve Cybersecurity

A common misconception is that only large corporations can afford effective cybersecurity. In most cases, implementing cybersecurity isn’t merely a matter of money, but of proper training and awareness. A Ponemon Institute study linked 54 percent of data breaches to employee or contractor negligence. This includes email phishing, which is often the first step attackers use to conduct large scale theft of usernames, passwords, and other sensitive data.

Educating and training your employees on cybersecurity minimizes the risk of data theft at the point of contact. Your business should have protocols to identify signs of phishing, choose secure passwords, and grant or deny access to information. You can also inform your customers about how to keep their information secure. Taking this two-pronged approach shows customers how committed you are to keeping their data safe.

Being proactive and spreading the word on cybersecurity threats will help you protect your business from hackers. Whether you’re a multinational corporation or a two-person mom-and-pop shop, your customers rely on you to safeguard their data. Implementing the latest security practices lets them know that you value their trust.

5 Incredible Benefits of Effective Managed IT Services

Business Meeting Talking About Managed IT Services

Business Meeting Talking About Managed IT Services

5 Incredible Benefits of Effective Managed IT Services

Managed IT services are one of the many ways an organization can choose to handle their IT needs. With managed IT services, a third-party handles the entirety of the tasks and responsibilities regarding managing IT and keeping the company running. The difference between this and many traditional third-party services is that it’s provided for a set cost. Instead of having access to an hourly consultant rate, you’ll be paying a flat rate monthly (or annually) in exchange for total coverage.

Every arrangement is slightly different and must be outlined very clearly in the Service Level Agreement (also known as the SLA). This document will arrange not only the cost structure, but also the exact services that are included in the partnership, and the metrics that are used to define success or failure.

There are many reasons that companies elect to go with managed IT services to handle their day-to-day needs. Here are five of the most compelling reasons:

1. Provides Total Alignment Between Both Parties

In a managed services agreement, both parties are aligned for maximum efficiency and performance. Since it’s not an hourly rate, the third-party is incentivized to handle your IT in an efficient and effective manner. Otherwise, they have to spend more time and manpower resolving your issues, which brings down their effective hourly rate.

Additionally, if they don’t live up to the metrics set forth by the SLA, they may be liable for penalties or even complete termination of the contract. In this way, it’s in both companies interest to do the very best job possible.

2. Focuses on Being Proactive versus Reactive

If you’re paying by the hour, the services you’ll receive are going to be reactive. When your company notices an issue, they’ll reach out to the third-party to help fix it. Managed services provide proactive support. Since they’re working for you no matter if there’s a problem or not, much of their time is spent preventing problems in the first place. This results in much smoother daily operations and the avoidance of problems that could potentially hurt your businesses but would be unavoidable with another type of arrangement.

3. Contains Simple Cost Structure

The simple cost structure of managed IT services will be much appreciated by your accounting department and whoever is setting the budget. Instead of seeing costs vary wildly by the amount of support required in a particular month, the amount will be a flat fee. You’ll also likely save a great deal of money versus hiring a fully functional team in-house since you won’t need to pay for things like recruiting, onboarding, benefits, and continued training.

4. Makes Projects Easier to Manage

When you need to roll out a brand-new technology or simply update an existing one, it can take a great deal of time and resources. This is especially true if the third-party isn’t used to the way your business operates each day and has to fit the entire roll out into a small window of time. If you have continuous support, however, it’s a much more manageable process. They can work on the project when they have a spare moment in the day. Since they’re fully integrated into your day-to-day processes, they’ll have a much better idea of how to implement a new system from end-to-end, including training and providing post-launch support.

5. Offers Access to True Experts

Unless you’re a massive organization, it’s unlikely that you can afford to recruit, train, and maintain the very best in the IT field. With an agreement with a top-notch IT firm, you gain access to experience and perspectives that you would be unlikely to otherwise access. These talented professionals will be able to help you with all of your IT needs, from daily maintenance to improving upon your existing systems and processes.

Managed IT services are only one of the many ways that a company can choose to handle its IT needs. However, it offers many advantages over some of the other options, including handling IT in-house and going with an hourly consultant-based fee schedule. If you believe that your business could benefit from controlled costs, improved support, and access to an incredible variety of IT talent, managed IT services might be the best option for your business.

Intel Humiliated by Losing CPU Market Share to Eager AMD

Intel Processors losing to EMD

Intel Processors losing to AMD

Intel Humiliated by Losing CPU Market Share to Eager AMD

Intel’s continued problems with delivering CPUs are expected to go on throughout the fall and potentially 2020. Intel’s CEO Bob Swan told shareholders during their second-quarter conference call that the delays in processor deliveries would continue until September.

The fallout benefits AMD, which increased its market share from 9.8 percent in 2018 to 18 percent by the end of June 2019.

Why is Intel having trouble shipping CPUs on time?

The culprit is Ice Lake, Intel’s high volume 10nm processor. The chipmaker announced Ice Lake at CES 2019, but the processor hasn’t been forthcoming in the volumes Intel promised. The 10nm project has slowed Intel’s other chip line production. Lower-end processors have especially suffered, leading to supply chain problems for manufacturers, retailers, and customers.

What are Intel’s problems with the 10nm CPU?

The current problems continue Intel’s struggles with 10nm chips which date back to 2013. Intel’s initial goal for 10nm CPUs was 2015. Year by year, Intel has pushed back the deadline for 10nm CPUs. Intel’s second-quarter conference call gave late 2019 as the deadline — but the real date is more likely to be 2020 for most people who want to buy PCs with the new CPU.

The bottom-line culprit is engineering choices. Intel’s 10nm design selections have consistently held mass production back on its 10nm CPU project. As problems continued, Intel responded by refining its 14nm CPU performance and production process. TSMC and Samsung have 10nm CPUs, but their performance is equivalent to Intel’s 14nm CPUs.

What is so good about increasingly tiny CPUs?

Intel and its competitors, including AMD, are continuing R & D on smaller and smaller gate-size processors. Smaller gate sizes allow more CPU cores, or they enable a smaller die for the same performance as a larger CPU.

Smaller CPUs also use less power and generate less heat, a must for mobile devices and laptops. With desktop PCs, heat and power consumption aren’t as important, so processor performance can be improved in other ways.

How have Intel’s supply problems affected its business?

Intel’s stock has increased 6% since January 2019 according to Fortune, but rival AMD’s stock has gone up 83%. Nvidia’s stock has risen 25% since January.

The supply problems are mirrored by leadership problems at “Chipzilla.” Intel’s former CEO Brian Krzanich resigned in June 2018 when a relationship with a former employee was disclosed. Krzanich’s replacement Bob Swan is credited with improving company morale and redirecting the floundering 10nm CPU team.

Has AMD taken advantage of Intel’s delays?

AMD is gaining market share with scaled-up production of 12nm circuits. The Santa Clara-based chipmaker is gaining market share from Intel with its Ryzen 14nm and 12nm CPUs. It has announced 7nm Ryzen and Rome CPUs. AMD’s year-to-year market share in desktop computers grew from 12.2% in the first quarter of 2018 to 17.1% by the first quarter of 2019. In notebooks, AMD’s share grew from 8% to 13.1 %.

AMD also expects the number of Ryzen CPU notebooks to grow significantly in 2019, with desktop units growing by 30% and notebooks by 50%. Lenovo, the world’s #2 PC manufacturer, will be using Ryzen 7 Pro 3700U chips in its upcoming ThinkPads.

Which Intel and AMD news should industry pros and investors watch in upcoming quarters?

Intel has delayed shipments of all of its CPUs, not just the promised 10nm Ice Lake and variant chips. Rivals AMD and Nvidia have taken advantage of ongoing delays to ink new deals with major companies including Lenovo.

Investors and industry pros should keep an eye on CPU market shares for the rest of 2019 and into 2020. This will indicate if the agile upstarts are going to continue to take on “Chipzilla” and change the landscape of computing power in 2020 and beyond.

Your MacOS Is Under Attack: 2019’s Biggest Malware Threats

MacOS and Malware

Your MacOS Is Under Attack: 2019’s Biggest Malware Threats

MacOS and Malware

The Mac operating system (MacOs) has frequently been hailed as one of the best systems for its resiliency to malware and typical viruses. But the days of MacOs standing strong and tall with no worries have really always been a misconception. Mac systems are just as vulnerable to the beefed-up, intelligent malware threats that are out there today.

SentinelOne published a lengthy review of the MacOs malware at the end of 2018, but in a new release, SentinelOne also stated that there has actually been an uptick in the numbers of new types out there attacking users. Here is a look at some of 2019’s biggest MacOs malware threats that every Mac-reliant business owner should know.

1. OSX.Siggen: A Malware Download from a Malicious Domain

Masquerading as a helpful app called WhatsApp, OSX.Siggen is actually a latched-on malware that slips in during a regular app download. WhatsApp is a fake social media platform, and the download looks super enticing when users come across it. However, once added to MacOs, the app runs with a backdoor designed to take administrative control over the system.

2. KeyStealDaemon: Password Hijacker

This dirty malware showed up in February of 2019, but by June it was still running strong. Apple allowed a patch several years ago designed for another purpose, but KeyStealDaemon can create administrative privileges for itself by slipping through. Unfortunately, this malware allows the person behind the scenes to get into the system and steal pretty much any password you have stored. The good news is, if you have properly updated your system, KeyStealDaemon can be booted out because it cannot break through.

3. CookieMiner Slips In and Steals Credentials

Toward the end of January 2019, a cryptominer showed up with its own installed backdoor to induce a threatening combination of technologies to steal cryptocurrency exchange cookies and passwords for Google Chrome. The worrisome thing about CookieMiner is this: experts believe that the malware could potentially have the rare ability to bypass things like authentication processes that involve multiple factors. If CookieMiner is capable of gathering enough cookies and credentials, cryptocurrency wallets can be virtually pickpocketed right in plain sight.

4. Mokes.B Puts On a Good Act

Persistence agents running amuck on your MacOs with familiar names may never be spotted, especially if they are calling themselves things like Firefox, Skype, or Chrome. This is precisely how Mokes.B avoids suspicion when it latches onto the operating system in application support folders and tracking files. Mokes.B is super-scary because it can gain the ability to take actual screenshots whole you are on pertinent screens, but it can also record keystrokes to steal date you are keying in.

5. A Variant of OSX.Pirrit Has Shown Up

OSX.Pirrit caused a lot of problems a few years ago, but this malware never really disappeared altogether. Instead, new family members under the old parent app are still being found on MacOs, and they are not being detected as they would otherwise be when acting as OSX.Pirrit. The aim of this malware is to make money from redirect actions that occur as a result of a browser infection, but there are rumors that PIRRIT is potentially capable of stealing data as well.

6. OSX.Dok Reroutes User Traffic

OSX.Dok gets into a system and installs a securely tucked-away Tor version location on a Mac system. User traffic hitting a site gets sent to an onion server instead of where it should be, which is a major problem for business owners needing to protect sensitive customer actions when they think they are on an e-commerce website. One of the scariest things about OSX.Dok is the fact that it can steal even SSL encrypted internet traffic maneuvers. Older versions of this software were thought to be banished, but new versions continually pop up.

Even though there are so many Mac users who think they are covered by some unseen immunity from malicious software, these risks are there and the growing list of 2019 proves that fact. Attackers deploying these software programs are targeting those easy-to-break barriers, so something like an improperly updated computer or even an unsuspecting employee can leave a business computer wide-open for an attack.

Habits You Want From Your Technology Partner

IT support partnership

Habits You Want From Your Technology Partner

When you are running a business, you want your technology to integrate well with the other tech you use in your business and with your overall IT platform. When you run into situations where your tech fails to integrate well, it can cause serious problems—leading to lost productivity, lost data, and general inefficiency that is not desirable for any business.

IT support partnership

Choosing technology partners requires looking carefully at how those partners play with others. You want to know that your tech will integrate and operate well, which means you want a tech partner that is interested in ensuring cross-compatibility and integration. Many tech partners will be interested in such cooperation, but not all will. It is important to know what to look for in such a partner to ensure that you team up with a business that you can rely on.

Tech Partner Habits—Must-Haves from a Tech Partner

1. Interest in improving the overall experience, not just the bottom line

There are plenty of tech partnerships that develop to increase profits. After all, money drives business and it only makes sense for companies to seek arrangements that will improve their profitability. But creating the best customer experience requires more than just a focus on profitability—it also requires a real and sustained interest in ongoing improvement, which necessitates cross-pollination.

You want a partner who wants to ensure that everything works and strives to avoid tech silos that inhibit customers and companies alike. However, you also want a partner who will offer ideas for improvement and accept constructive feedback for their own improvement. The sharing of knowledge and insight and interest in such sharing makes a great tech partner.

2. Willingness to be part of a team

It may seem like asking too much for a tech partner to treat your business and the other tech vendors you work with as a team—but the fact is, you need a team player to achieve your goals. Sure, it can take some serious self-reflection on the part of one business to decide to team up with another business and actively engage in such teamwork, especially if there is a fear of missing out on extra earnings. But the long-term benefit of teamwork will yield future rewards that are otherwise unachievable. The tech partner that is willing to forgo a little extra profit today for benefits for the entire team, later on, is one worth keeping.

3. Interest in a long-term partnership

Many of the best results are only achievable through long-term planning and implementation. Some tech partners may see the option of a partnership as more of a short-term advantage that is not worth maintaining for the long-term. These potential tech partners fail to realize that whatever short-term benefits they can get now will pale in comparison to the benefits they could realize through long-term engagement and partnership. Of course, the challenge of long-term relationships is that they typically require some sacrifice on the front-end. Tech partners that are wise enough to see the value in such early sacrifice are more likely to benefit your business in the future.

4. Desire to contribute to the partnership

One of the best ways to facilitate a successful partnership in technology is to give as much access to your technology base as possible. There are many reasons for this need. For example, by giving as much open access to their technology base and IT stack as they can—within reason—a tech partner can make it much easier and faster to develop integration between their tech and the tech of other partners. The harder partners have to push to gain access to the information they need, the longer it will take to achieve true integration. It is possible that with enough pushback on access, a partner could just give up on the idea of achieving integration and go somewhere else.

5. Seek regular and open communication

The need for communication in business is significant when partnering with tech vendors and service providers. You want a company that will keep you up to date about everything that is going on—at least all the things that are relevant to you and your business—and you want a company that will take your need to communicate seriously. When you want to communicate, your partner should be available or make themselves available at a reasonable time. You also need to know what your partner wants and expects out of the business relationship, just as your partner should know what you want and need out of the partnership.

Your Windows 7 Checklist

Windows 7 Checklist

Windows 7 Checklist

When you’re working hard to grow your business, you can get caught up in things that take your attention away from your technology. Before you know it, your IT system isn’t up to speed because you failed to update an operating system. We don’t want this to happen. This is why we’ve provided a checklist about Windows 7, its approaching End of Life (EOL), and what you should do.

It’s Time To Upgrade From Windows 7

Extended support for Windows 7 will end on January 14, 2020. This means that Microsoft won’t provide security updates for PCs running Windows 7. This could put your IT system at risk for security and reliability issues.

We recommend that you plan your upgrade now. And, if you run a business, we advise that you skip Windows 8 and upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Skip Windows 8 and Migrate To Windows 10 Pro

Windows 8 product enhancements (mainstream support) ended back on January 9, 2018. And reliability and security patches will end on January 10, 2023 (the end of extended support). This may seem like a long time from now, but if you’re upgrading anyway, shouldn’t you use the most current Windows program? Windows 10 Pro offers the very latest technology, and it’s built for business use.

Windows 10 Pro Will Benefit Your Business

  • Increased Security is incorporated with ongoing protections like Windows Defender Antivirus, BitLocker, a Firewall and more (at no extra cost to you).
  • Windows Remote Desktop ensures that you can access your files from any PC or tablet with an internet connection.
  • Automatic Cloud Storage will store and protect your Word, PowerPoint and Excel files from system crashes.
  • Sign In 3 Times Faster by using Windows Hello with Facial and Fingerprint Recognition.

Take Advantage of New Features In Windows 10 Pro

  • Windows Ink with Touch Screen & Digital Pen Capabilities
  • Windows 10 Pro pairs with Office Documents and Other Apps
  • Microsoft Edge with faster and safer web browsing, automatic form filling, type or write on webpage capabilities, and much more
  • Cortana voice-activated digital assistant integrates with your calendar and other Windows apps.

You Have Two Choices For Upgrading

1. Migrate your existing machines to Windows 10 Pro.

2. Replace your old computers with new Windows 10 devices.

Consider This Before You Migrate To Windows 10 Pro

Are your current apps compatible with Windows 10? (Check Microsoft’s App Directory to be sure.)

Do your existing computers meet these system requirements?

  • 1GHz processor or faster
  • 1GB RAM for 32-bit; 2GB for 64-bit
  • Up to 20GB available hard disk space
  • 800 x 600 screen resolution or higher
  • DirectX 9 graphics processor with WDDM driver

There are 2 Migration Tool Options

1. Windows Easy Transfer

  • For a small number of computers or a single customized deployment.
  • Transfer files and settings via a network share, USB flash drive, or Easy Transfer cable.
  • Can’t use a regular USB cable to transfer files and settings

2. User State Migration Tool (USMT) 10.0

  • Best for large-scale automated deployments.
  • Uses .xml files to control which user.
  • Accounts, files, and settings are migrated.
  • Use for side-by-side migrations for hardware replacements, and wipe-and-load migrations.

Test The Quality & Performance of Your New System

Use the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ABK) to test the quality and performance of your system, and to customize Windows images for large-scale deployments.

Need Help Upgrading To Windows 10 Pro?

We’re always here to help and answer your questions

Managed IT Helps Your Bottom Line: 6 Ways How

Managed IT Services

Managed IT Services

Here’s an honest truth: managed IT services cost money. With any business expenditure, it’s a good idea to understand the value that the expenditure will bring to the organization. We believe businesses can improve on many fronts by implementing managed IT services. One of the biggest areas of benefit is financial. Here are 6 ways that implementing managed IT services helps your bottom line.

Increase Productivity

Equipment downtime can be a huge detriment in any business setting. In the “break it fix it” model, businesses operate normally until something breaks, then work stops. If it’s IT equipment, the in-house IT team descends and attempts to fix. If, after some amount of time has passed, IT decides the problem is beyond them, they call in outside help. Then they wait. And wait. And wait some more. Work isn’t getting done while that piece of equipment is down. Waiting for an outside specialist can cost your company in a big way.

With managed IT, your managed service provider (MSP) is the outside specialist. As soon as something goes down, the MSP is on it, bringing their skills and specialties to bear on the problem. Use managed IT to get your business back up and running faster than the traditional model can.

Stabilize Monthly Spending

With the “break it fix it” model, your IT spend can spike wildly from time to time. When a high-value piece of your IT infrastructure goes down or even just needs replacing due to age, your costs soar. Companies self-managing their IT services also face sudden spikes in software upgrade costs.

Managed IT can stabilize your monthly IT spend. In this model, you pay a stable monthly rate for service regardless of how much or how little help you need in a given month. Software upgrades (or, more likely, subscription and licenses) are rolled into this monthly fee as well, removing those software spikes from your budget. Your finance team will appreciate this predictable expense.

Lower Your Initial Investment

Along the same lines, you can lower your initial IT infrastructure investment through managed IT. Depending on the terms of your agreement, some amount of your equipment may be owned by the MSP. The less equipment you have to purchase yourself, the lower your initial IT infrastructure investment.

Every MSP agreement is different, customized to the needs of the client business. If up-front costs are an obstacle for your business, be sure to craft a service agreement that lowers these costs.

Lower Overall IT Infrastructure Costs

Even if your MSP isn’t providing all your hardware as part of your plan, you’ll still lower your overall IT infrastructure costs in many MSP arrangements. For example, if hosting, storage, and backup are part of your MSP agreement, you eliminate some of your need for on-site servers. You’ll save money on hardware, power, and even real estate — since you won’t need space to house those servers.

The same principle applies to a number of other functions, including network monitoring and security. You won’t need to devote systems and system resources to functions that you offload to a managed IT provider.

Free Your IT Staff

Partnering with a managed IT services firm frees your IT staff to do what matters most. Contrary to what many assume, the goal of implementing managed IT isn’t necessarily reducing staffing levels. Sure, some larger businesses may benefit from reducing a bloated, inefficient in-house team, but the real value in managed IT service is freeing up your in-house team.

Your existing IT staff adds value to your company by wholeheartedly pursuing whatever high-value IT interests your business has—or, at least, it should. Many times, though, IT employees are too busy troubleshooting PCs and malfunctioning equipment to focus on the IT elements that are truly core to your business. Enlist a good MSP to handle the day-to-day IT troubles (among other things), and you’ll enable your IT staff to focus in and add value in the areas that are truly critical to your business.

Scale Your Business

It’s great to be a part of a growing business, but the growing pains are real. Scaling your business can cause IT headaches: new equipment is needed for each new employee, not to mention all the behind-the-scenes tech infrastructure, like server space, bandwidth, and software licensing.

Managed IT is the solution here, too. Your MSP has far more capacity than you need, so they can handle scaling issues during periods of growth or reduction.

Conclusion

By now it’s clear: that managed IT can help your bottom line. If you’re ready to begin the conversation about how we can help you, contact us today.

What Are the Benefits of SD-WAN for Today’s Businesses?

SDWAN Technology

SDWAN Technology

Ensuring that you have a high-speed, highly reliable digital connection to the world is crucial for today’s technology leaders. Business professionals are now accustomed to near-instant access to the information and platforms that they need and are increasingly unwilling to accept less than perfection when it comes to infrastructure. Unfortunately, infrastructure can be extremely expensive to rework and often needs to be modified over time or as funds allow. When you make an upfront investment in technology such as SD-WAN (Software-Driven WAN) you can make significant gains in terms of deployment time as well as the appreciation of your business peers. These benefits will help describe why SD-WAN is increasingly the choice of organizations of all sizes who need to quickly, securely and reliably connect to the internet — and each other.

SD-WAN is Scalable and Flexible

Traditional networking infrastructure is considered extremely stable, but that stability could also be considered a downside when it is time to move or scale your organization. The high upfront cost of implementing MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) networking is primarily due to the hardware that is involved in creating an efficient flow of information between two or more locations. Data forwarding decisions with MPLS are made according to more rigid rules that drive packet-forwarding technology. Sure, MPLS is quite reliable with exceptionally low packet loss, but that efficiency is balanced with a relatively high bandwidth cost — a big problem considering today’s multimedia content, massive downloads and telecommunications needs.

By contrast, SD-WAN offers the potential of dramatically decreasing your ongoing operating costs in terms of bandwidth while also blurring the hard edges of your networking to allow for more flexible applications. Software-driven networking allows you to quickly and easily add new links without expensive changes to your hardware. Lower-priority traffic can be assigned to broadband internet to reduce the load on any legacy (and more expensive!) MPLS connections.

SD-WAN Offers Cloud-Level Security

Connecting remote offices securely with a fast connection has been difficult in the past, but SD-WAN is challenging that paradigm. Since the connections are cloud-based, this protocol easily supports SaaS applications — which are in increasing use in business today. Temporary work locations are more easily configured with added security that would have been quite challenging with aging, hardwired technology. Providing this type of unified communications platform provides for increased efficiency across the organization while providing employees with the geographic flexibility that they need to be successful. Users demand access to applications that network administrators would prefer to keep within their walled gardens, especially with the recent rise in cybercrime. Security spending is expected to top $113 billion by 2020, showing the ongoing commitment of technology teams to creating a secure and accessible infrastructure for the modern organization. SD-WAN has security baked right in, providing end-to-end encryption that requires all endpoints and devices to be fully authenticated before they are able to access the secure network.

SD-WAN Improves Branch Uptime

Network infrastructure has traditionally been more structured and mechanical, often requiring expert technicians to schedule downtime for the organization in order to make necessary updates. That means that unscheduled downtime is much more prevalent than with a software-based solution for packet routing. Human error is easily the top cause due to manual configuration errors according to a study from Avaya, often resulting in revenue loss and even the loss of jobs. SD-WAN implementations are considered less brittle due to the availability of zero-touch provisioning that reduces the costly manual touchpoints. The reduction in moving parts and touchpoints not only saves expensive technician time for reconfiguration but reduces the possibility of outages and the need for break-fix solutions.

SD-WAN Improves Network Automation

Technology leaders are always on the search for better-faster-cheaper: the trifecta that always seems to be out of reach. However, SD-WAN provides a much more attractive layer for network automation than the more rigid structures of the past. Creating an overlay allows IT network administrators to enhance productivity by automating tasks such as monitoring for the optimal connection for each portion of network traffic. Any changes to the network configuration can be centralized and easily distributed — adding to the overall performance of the system. This allows the network to be adaptable in the utilization of expensive resources. Through overlay networking, you’re able to create a discrete, virtualized trust overlay network by creating a virtual tunnel between two points that runs through the network. Each point in the network is tagged, allowing two trusted points to recognize each other and create that virtual connection that speeds data along the path without the need to physically create a connection.

With technology spending on security on the rise and the added need for high-speed connectivity, SD-WAN seems to step into the void left by high-end physical networks by providing a more flexible, scalable — and affordable — connection option for businesses today.

Small Business Guide to Protecting Critical Data

Small Business data protection guide

Small businesses technology and business leaders may feel as though their data is safe, but nothing could be further from the truth. According to SmallBizTrends.com, nearly 43% of phishing campaigns are targeted specifically at small businesses, a dramatic increase from 18% in 2011. Unfortunately, a 2017 report from Keeper Security also shows that the greatest cybersecurity threat to small businesses is their employees, with more than 54% of data breaches caused by employee or contractor negligence. Protecting the data within your organization is crucial, and the costs that are associated with a data breach continue to rise. Small businesses are increasingly focused on ways to mitigate the risk associated with data storage and use and that often starts with having a comprehensive backup and data recovery process in place. Here are some suggestions from industry leaders on how to protect your critical small business data from a cyber attack or other loss of access.

Importance of Immediate Data Access

Your business data is arguably your most important digital asset and one that is accessed hundreds or even thousands of times each day. Your employees utilize business data from a variety of systems to look up customer orders, create POs and track shipments while consumers are online placing orders and tracking status. Until you truly experience a major loss of data access, you may not realize the crippling effect that it would have on your organization’s operations.

Dangers of Data Loss

The first hit that you would feel with the loss of access to your data is in the productivity of your teams. Workflows grind to a halt as employees scramble to figure out how to perform their daily activities without access to the information that they take for granted. In many businesses, the data stored within your CRM or other data repository is driving your website, meaning ordering comes to a crashing halt should the secure connection to your data falter. Technology teams scramble to figure out where the problem lies, putting all other IT needs on the back burner for the foreseeable future. Plus, your team may need to call in consultants to help identify a breach and begin remediation as quickly as possible. If your team identifies that a breach has occurred, you may have to report to customers and stakeholders that sensitive data has been accessed by unauthorized parties. This can devolve into trust issues with your business, negative publicity and ongoing loss of revenue even while you’re attempting to return to operational readiness.

Data Consolidation Makes Protection Easier

Business data structures often grow organically, with additional databases and information structures added over time. While this may make sense as you’re bolting systems together, eventually it can become an unruly tangle of disparate systems that makes security and data integrity more challenging for your teams. A regular review of business systems with an eye towards data consolidation is a project well worth considering as your timeline permits. It’s often helpful to work with a trusted technology partner to ensure that you are considering all the options that are available for the security of your data both in transit and at rest.

Protecting Business-Critical Data

There are a variety of protections that you can put in place to maintain both access to your data as well as its integrity. Creating a robust backup and disaster recovery process allows your team to define the best case scenario for data backups — local only, short-term local with a regional cloud-based backup or cloud only. There are dozens of different ways you can configure your backup process, but what’s important is that it meets the needs of your business both now and in the future. When you have a documented backup and disaster recovery process in place and test it on a regular basis, you have added peace of mind that your small business data is protected and quickly accessible in the event of a cyberattack or natural disaster.

Assessing and Managing Cybersecurity Risks

As your business matures, it’s imperative that you create a review schedule to assess and manage your cybersecurity risks. This includes everything from monitoring employee activity logs to protecting passwords to educating staff members and contractors against tapping, clicking or interacting with suspicious website content or email attachments. Data encryption, email and web filters and the regular application of patches to your servers and applications can also help reduce the risk of a cyberattack on your small business. Sometimes, the challenge is as simple as assuring that you have redundancies on your power supply so you don’t run the risk of losing servers during a power surge. Other remediation issues can be much more intensive, but putting together a full list of options helps you understand and ultimately reduce the risk to your organization.

Your data is being bombarded with threats on all sides, and it’s up to your technology team to help protect your organization. Creating a robust backup and disaster recovery plan with a trusted technology partner can help you walk through an audit of all pertinent systems and quickly identify problems that can be resolved quickly and define a strategy for ongoing review and support. Without access to your data and business information systems, you can quickly find that your organization is grinding to a slow and painful halt.

Managed IT Improves Processes, Adds Value

Benefits of Managed IT Services

Benefits of Managed IT Services

If you’re running a small to medium business (SMB), you’ve probably come across the term “managed IT” or “managed IT service.” What is managed IT, and what can it do for your small to medium business? Today we’ll answer these questions and more. Read on to learn about managed IT and how it helps your business win.

What Is Managed IT?

Managed IT is a specific type of managed service. To explain managed IT, we first need to talk about managed services in general. Managed services are those services that a business outsources completely to another more specialized organization. These exist all over the business world for a wide variety of reasons. Usually, a company invests in managed services in areas that aren’t core competencies. Managed services are a way for companies to focus on their core business, outsourcing peripheral functions to other more specialized businesses.

Some businesses enlist the help of managed services firms to handle their HR needs, while others may outsource elements of their customer service. One of the most common examples of managed services, though, is managed IT.

Managed IT, then, is the intentional outsourcing of a company’s IT needs to another firm that specializes in IT support. The company using managed IT services pays the managed service provider (MSP) to meet their technology needs, reducing or even eliminating the need for in-house IT support.

What’s the Alternative to Managed IT?

The main alternative to managed IT services is to develop a robust in-house IT department. When they reach the end of their abilities, you’ll call in pricey contractors who usually can’t guarantee that quick of turnaround time. (Brutal honesty: they can’t, because they’re prioritizing their managed IT clients over you!) This is sometimes described as the “break-fix” model. Do what you can in-house, and then when something breaks that your team can’t fix, you call in the big guns.

The break-fix model worked when businesses weren’t so dependent on their IT infrastructure, but it doesn’t work well today. Think of a piece of crucial tech in your office. Maybe that’s your online sales platform, or it’s a server or database of some kind. If that one thing suddenly stopped working, how long could you survive waiting for a specialist to show up and start fixing it? You don’t want to wait until a specialist has an opening to come fix it. You need dedicated support.

Why Use Managed IT?

We’ve already alluded to a few benefits to using managed IT, like dedicated support. Here are a few more reasons you should use managed IT to win.

Massively Expand IT Capability

If you’re running an SMB, you have real, concrete limits to the number of IT professionals you can afford to hire in-house. A 50-employee company can’t have a 25-person IT department and stay in business for long. Take a long, hard look at your current IT capability. Can your staff really do everything? Chances are you have a few folks that are specialized in a few areas. Additionally, they’re all adequate in basic IT functions.

When you bring in a managed IT service, you’re hiring a company that specializes in just one thing: managed IT. If they’re a 50-employee company, well over 25 of those people are IT specialists. They bring a wide variety of specializations to the table, too.

You massively expand your company’s IT capability by bringing on a dedicated support team. A managed IT service can typically do far more than you can currently do yourself.

Allow Existing IT Staff to Specialize

Bringing on a managed IT service may allow you to reduce your own IT staff, but another option is to let them specialize. Right now, they’re probably overworked, running from problem to problem. They solve problems outside their expertise, but they do so inefficiently. Bringing on a managed IT firm to handle most functions allows your IT staff to focus and specialize on proprietary or value-added IT processes specific to your company.

Focus on Your Core Business

If you currently run all your IT in house, how much of your time as a leader is spent dealing with your IT team? Every hour you spend on IT is an hour you aren’t spending growing and improving your core business. Offloading 80, 90, or even 100% of your IT needs to a managed service provider frees you up to focus on what you do best.

How Can We Help?

If you’re ready to see what managed IT can do for you, we’re here to answer your questions. Contact us today to start winning with managed IT.