How to Protect Your Business from SHTML Phishing

Email Phishing

Email Phishing

Protecting Your Data from SHTML Phishing

Data security is vital to any business. Learn how SHTML phishing works and how to minimize the risk of your data falling into the hands of attackers.

Email phishing has been in the playbook of hackers since, well, email. What’s alarming is the scope in which criminals can conduct these attacks, the amount of data potentially at risk, and how vulnerable many businesses are to phishing attempts. Here’s what you need to know to spot the hook and protect your data from being reeled in.

How Does Email Phishing Work?

A phishing email typically contains an attachment in the form of a server-parsed HTML (SHTML) file. When opened, these shady files redirect the user to a malicious website often disguised as a legitimate product or service provider. The website then requests sensitive information such as the user’s address, date of birth, social security number, bank account number, etc. in exchange for providing said product or service.

Users who comply end up giving their information to a criminal who may then sell it to various illegal organizations. Victims may end up losing money and having their identity connected to criminal activity. The attackers may even offer to sell the information back to the owner for a hefty ransom. For businesses, the damages can be irreparable. Phishing is often the launchpad for large-scale cyber attacks, and businesses that fall victim can lose not only cash and assets, but the trust of current and would-be customers.

Who Does SHTML Phishing Target?

While many individuals fall victim to phishing, the main targets are businesses in the banking and finance sector. The sender may use a seemingly legitimate email address, often posing as a trusted, reputable organization. They may goad users to open attachments by claiming to be the IRS, a wealthy businessman offering a lucrative deal, or, ironically, a security provider offering to scan the user’s computer for vulnerabilities. While many phishing attempts are obvious, some can be convincing, and all it takes is a hasty click to give the phisher what they want.

Types of SHTML Phishing

Depending on the attacker, a phishing attempt can range from simple and generic to detailed and personalized to fit the target. For businesses that conduct large quantities of transactions, a phisher may send a simple email claiming to provide a receipt for their purchase. Others may send invoices. Sophisticated attackers may gather information about the business including its suppliers, partners, and even names of individual employees. They may then create fake accounts disguised as these trusted entities, fooling the target into giving away sensitive data. While most phishing attempts fail, a convincing premise combined with a busy, distracted user can equal success – and disaster.

Potential Signs of SHTML Phishing

Being proactive and training your employees to spot phishing is the best line of defense. Here are some potential red flags that may, but not always, indicate that an email is a phishing attack:

  • Poor spelling and grammar
  • Strange characters and punctuation
  • Email addresses comprised of a seemingly random combination of letters and numbers
  • Emails claiming to offer large sums of money
  • Emails claiming that you owe a large sum of money
  • Emails claiming that your data is at risk and offering protection
  • An overly lengthy or short email body
  • Attachments with file types you don’t recognize

How to Protect Your Business from SHTML Phishing

While there’s no way to guarantee that your business will be 100% safe from phishing attacks, you can take precautions to greatly minimize your risk of becoming a victim. Many email clients have rules that automatically filter out suspicious or spam emails. Savvy IT professionals can create additional rules to identify and block phishing emails.

The greatest defense is training every employee to recognize the red flags, especially the not-so-obvious ones. Make basic data security a part of the onboarding process, and hold presentations and seminars several times a year to keep employees aware and bring to light any new threats they should look for.

Data security is more relevant than ever, and businesses need to stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity threats. Is your business taking the necessary precautions to keep phishers away?

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.

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!

5 Ways Managed IT Services Is the Right Choice for Your Business

Managed IT Services

Managed IT Services

Choosing a managed IT services firm to handle your business’s IT is the right choice for many businesses.

Here are our top 5 reasons why.

1. Focus on Your Business’s Core Competencies

Here’s the bottom line: unless you are a managed IT services firm, your core competency isn’t IT services. It’s something else. Every resource you devote in-house to IT services is a resource you’re not devoting to what makes you unique and competitive.

Even if you have a highly skilled in-house IT department, keeping all your IT services in-house can destroy your focus. Are your managers or even C-level officers regularly devoting time to IT-related concerns? Offloading your IT services to a managed IT services provider doesn’t completely eliminate the need for oversight, of course, but it does reduce the day-to-day involvement that comes with managing IT in-house.

2. Do More IT Faster and Better

If you work at or lead an SMB, offloading your IT services to a managed services firm connects you to a larger team with a wider depth of experience than you could ever hire in-house. You can only have so many in-house IT personnel, and as an SMB your company won’t reach the breadth or depth of a firm that focuses solely on providing managed IT services.

Using managed IT services is the way to expand your capability and do more with IT, faster and better than you could on your own. You’ll have access to providers who hold the latest certifications and who are skilled enough to work for a firm with this kind of sole focus.

3. Rein In Chaotic IT Spending

There’s a reason the relationship between the CFO and the CIO is often strained. IT budgets can be unwieldy, even chaotic. The costs of planned equipment replacement can be budgeted for, but surprise failures of costly IT equipment can lead to budget headaches. The costs for any service that’s beyond your in-house IT team’s ability can be extravagant, too.

With managed IT services, you can get control of these costs. Most managed service providers offer a set monthly rate, allowing you to better plan and budget. This monthly rate covers the typical repair and maintenance needs businesses encounter. By and large, you’ll no longer have to call in those expensive specialists, because you now have access to them through your managed service provider.

A good managed IT services firm can help you normalize your IT spend in a few other ways, too. They can help you create an equipment replacement plan (if you don’t have one). They can also recommend cloud- or subscription-based software solutions that will eliminate those pesky software upgrade spikes every time a new version rolls along.

4. Protect Yourself by Staying Compliant

Whatever your business, you have some forms of IT or privacy compliance that likely keep you up at night. Some industries, such as health care, have specific, government-mandated privacy and security procedures, such as HIPAA. All companies with a web presence and users in Europe are now subject to GPDR. Financial firms have their own sets of regulations.

Here’s a blunt question: if you still have an entirely in-house IT team, how deeply do you trust them to keep you compliant? Are they keeping up on the latest developments in security and compliance? If you’re an SMB, your IT folks are probably too busy troubleshooting workstations to keep up like they need to. Unless you have the resources to devote an entire department to security and compliance, you’re better off relying on outside experts to serve this critical function.

5. Protect Yourself by Staying Secure

Along the lines of the previous point: how well do you trust your in-house IT team’s security capabilities? Do you have the resources to devote an entire team to network and data security, or are the same few people that cover everything else trying to cover this, too? It’s not uncommon for hackers to go after SMBs as the low-hanging fruit: sure, the payoff of breaching Microsoft is higher, but doing so is astronomically more difficult. Hacking a business with 50 to 100 employees that’s trying to handle its own security is likely pretty easy.

A good managed IT services firm employs professionals who stay on the cutting edge of network and data security. They can implement strategies to keep you safer.

Conclusion

For all these reasons, choosing managed IT services is the right choice for your business. If you’re ready to begin the conversation about switching, contact us today.

Plan The Perfect Microsoft Office 365 Migration

Plan The Perfect Microsoft Office 365 Migration

Plan The Perfect Microsoft Office 365 Migration

If you’re trying to figure whether Microsoft Office 365 is right for you, then migration should be one of your primary concerns.

When it comes to a cloud-based suite like this, migrating to Office 365 from your current IT environment is no small task.

That’s why you have to be sure you know what you’re doing.

Before we get to the 6 steps you should follow for a perfect Office 365 migration, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what it actually is…

What is Microsoft Office 365?

Microsoft Office 365 is a subscription-based service that enhances Microsoft applications like Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Excel with the flexibility and accessibility of the cloud.

There are two primary ways that this platform breaks down – the web-based and premium desktop versions:

Web-Based Microsoft Office 365

The web-based Microsoft Office 365 Business provides users with online (browser-based) access to all their range of favorite Microsoft Office apps:

  • Word (word processing)
  • Excel (spreadsheets)
  • PowerPoint (presentations)
  • Outlook (email)
  • OneNote (note-taking)
  • OneDrive (file hosting and synchronization with 1 TB of storage)
  • Access (database management, for PCs only)

Premium Office 365

The Premium desktop-based alternative gives users a range of enhanced and advanced features:

  • Exchange (mail server and calendaring management)
  • SharePoint (website building tool to share, organize, store and access information)
  • Teams (a tool for collaboration, meetings, chat, and communication)
  • Planner (task and teamwork management)
  • Invoicing, booking and business intelligence tools
  • Customer relationship management functions
  • Yammer, Microsoft’s social media platform that enables users to collaborate and connect with each other

However, that’s really just the beginning as to how the many tiers of Microsoft Office 365 plans break down…

What Microsoft Office 365 plans are there, and what do they cost?

As a flagship offering from Microsoft, Office 365 comes in many shapes and sizes. So many, in fact, that you might not know where to begin.

The following list breaks down the many primary plan types offered for Microsoft Office 365, what they include, and how much they cost.

For each plan, these prices refer to a per-user basis, per month. To figure out what it would cost you, simply count the number of users you need to add from your business, and you’ve got your monthly cost – that’s easy to compare against your IT budget.

Exchange Plan 1 – $4.95 USD per user per month
Essentially just the email client aspect of the much larger Microsoft Office 365 platform, this plan includes:

  • Secure corporate email
  • 50 GB of inbox storage per user
  • Sent messages up to 150MB
  • All inbox management features available – sharing calendar dates and contacts, out of office messages, web-based email support.

SharePoint Online Plan 2 – $8.95 USD per user per month
Primarily designed as a file sharing and storage plan, this plan features SharePoint and OneDrive, as well as:

  • Unlimited personal cloud storage
  • Real-time co-authoring of files in the Microsoft suite of apps
  • Centralizing and indexing of the user’s content in libraries and lists with metadata records management, and retention policies
  • SharePoint mobile capability
  • In-Place Holds that allow users to preserve content from edits or deletion

ProPlus – $12.95 USD per user per month
In addition to Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access (PC only), Publisher (PC only) and OneDrive (1TB storage), this plan includes:

  • Web-based and desktop versions of the above Microsoft applications
  • Skype for Business client (service not included)
  • Licenses for an unlimited number of users

Enterprise E3 – $21.95 USD per user per month

Including all the applications, services and features of ProPlus, this plan also provides:

  • File storage and collaboration with OneDrive and SharePoint
  • Additional apps and services listed under the Premium suite above, such as Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and Stream (providing users with the ability to stream video to team members and other contacts)
  • Email hosting with 100GB of inbox storage and custom email domains
  • Unlimited personal cloud storage
  • Online video conferencing for up to 250 attendees
  • Online meetings for up to 10,000 attendees through Skype Meeting Broadcast or Microsoft Teams live

Business Essentials – $7.95 USD per user per month
An even more business-focused plan, this offering includes:

  • Mobile installation of Office apps (up to 5 devices per user)
  • Outlook email (50 GB of inbox storage per user and sent messages up to 150MB)
  • OneDrive for Business (1 TB of cloud storage per user)
  • Microsoft Teams
  • HD video conferencing
  • Yammer collaboration software
  • Office online (browser-based suite of Office apps)
  • Planner (project management platform that allows staff to plan projects, assign tasks, share files and communicate)
  • Microsoft Flow (workflow automation app that allows users to automatically configure notifications, sync files, collect data without having to code the process)
  • PowerApps (app development platform that allows users to build business-specific web and mobile apps)

Business Premium – $14.95 USD per user per month
In addition to the complete desktop and online Office 365 suite of applications (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, OneNote, Access [PC only], Publisher [PC only], Sharepoint, and OneDrive), this plan offer includes:

  • Business management and CRM tools – Outlook Customer Manager, Bookings, Invoicing and MileIQ
  • The range of online services offered in lower-tier plans like ProPlus and Business Essentials

Business – $20.00 USD per user per month

As the most commonly recommended plan for businesses, Microsoft Office 365 Business includes everything Business Premium has to offer, plus:

  • Enhanced security features such as attachment scanning and link checking for email, Information Protection Policies that add controls over how info is accessed, and data backup features that keep your information accessible
  • Device management features, fully integrated with iOS, Android and Windows, that allow for simple deployment and management of Windows on your mobile platforms

So that’s what these plans include – but obviously, that’s not all you need to know to make your decision.

There’s another key question…

What about Microsoft Office 365 migration?

Now that you know more about Microsoft Office 365, you may be interested in seeing what it can do for your business firsthand.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

If you’re not already using Microsoft Office 365, then you have to figure out how to migrate to it. Migrating from one business technology to another isn’t necessarily a simple process.

Before starting on the step by step process, make sure you have these three key aspects of prepared:

List of Users

Keeping careful track of how many users you have and what they need to do will make migration much smoother than it would be otherwise. The last thing you want to do is overlook a user here or there and find they can’t access the system after launch because there weren’t enough licenses or log-ins arranged.

Temporary Passwords

While you sort out the details of your new Microsoft Office 365 environment, it’s smart to work with temporary passwords. That way, it’s easy to test the environment without issuing official credentials and log-in info.

Domain Registrar Information

This is especially important for Microsoft Office 365 migrations – why? Because email is a central facet of Office 365. In order to ensure seamless changeover between your previous email client and Microsoft Outlook, you’ll need complete information on your domain registrar.

The 6 Step Process To Microsoft Office 365 Migration

Planning makes all the difference between a successful migration and a disastrous one.

Follow these steps and take your time to execute an effective migration:

Plan ahead.
When preparing for your migration to Microsoft Office 365, it’s important to plan efficiently and thoroughly.

The best way to achieve this is with an actual meeting with those who are involved in the process. You should talk through a number of key factors both in the migration, such as:

  • Why are we choosing to migrate?
  • What benefits do we expect to gain from migrating?
  • How will our infrastructure change during migration?
  • How will the user experience change after migration?
  • How will we train staff members on using Microsoft Office 365?

This is an especially vital step because, if you don’t have answers to these questions, then you probably aren’t ready to migrate.

Knowing how to answer these questions means that you can avoid common pitfalls and hit the ground running with your new IT environment.

Furthermore, you’ll want to make sure your entire staff understands what migration means for their work. What kind of downtime will they encounter, what are the benefits they will have access to once it’s complete, etc.

Plan for your infrastructure.

The new Microsoft Office 365 environment will be built on the foundation that is your infrastructure, so you better make sure it is up to the task before you start.

Infrastructure-based considerations should include:

  • Bandwidth: You should assess your bandwidth to zero in on exactly how many concurrent client machines are connected to the network at any one point in time.  In theory, your bandwidth should be able to support at least that many concurrent machines running Microsoft Office 365, which dictates that necessary network segments and connections you’ll need.
  • Hardware: Migration is a great opportunity to take stock of your hardware. For example, in your new environment, will you need a server dedicated for Skype for Business? That depends on how heavily you plan to make use of it. This is the type of question you need to answer (and do something about) before you migrate, and not after.
  • Software: As Microsoft Office 365 provides virtually all the software you could possibly use, there isn’t too much to take stock of in your old environment.
  • However, if you and your staff currently use mail-enabled applications that you’re fond of, or that are so specific to your business and industry that you’ll need them post-migration anyway, then you need to make sure they are compatible with Exchange Web Services.

Equip yourself with a deployment tool.

The good news is that you won’t have to handle much of the migration process all on your own. Microsoft offers a Deployment Readiness Tool to help users plan out the many aspects of a successful migration – primarily, environment discovery.

This tool can analyze and gather info on your IT system’s Active Directory and domain settings, helping to take stock of your Exchange, SharePoint, End User environment and Skye for Business settings. In addition to the app-based features, the Deployment Readiness Tool will also log your network configurations and settings so that they are carried over in migration as well.

Furthermore, Microsoft also has an Assessment and Planning Toolkit. While it is not designed specifically for Office 365, it is useful for discovery and inventory of cloud services and applications. If you’re migrating from a cloud-based or hybrid environment, the Assessment and Planning Toolkit will likely be a useful aid in determining what you need to keep track of.

App-specific planning.

While much of Office 365 will migrate seamlessly from one version of Microsoft Word or Excel to the next, there are a couple of Microsoft apps and service that will require further attention when you migrate:

  • Sharepoint: Prior to connecting to Sharepoint, there are a few steps you’ll need to take through the Administration Center. Primarily, you’ll want to double check global site collection settings, Internet, Intranet, and Extranet settings, user profiles, and MySite.  In each of these cases, you’ll want to be sure that their settings match those of your current environment. The default settings in Sharepoint may not match your current ones, so take the time to verify before you start sharing business data.
  • Skype For Business: If you and your staff intend to use Skype For Business, particularly public Instant Messaging, then you’ll need to make sure your staff knows how.  Specifically, Windows Live is supported for public IM in Skype for Business, but Yahoo is not. Furthermore, this is separate from on-premises IM. In both cases, your staff will need to know how it works in order to get the most out of it. If you intend to use public IM, you may need to migrate from Yahoo entirely.

Lay out the end-user experience.

Once you’re done migrating, you’ll want your staff to be able to hit the ground running, right?

Then make sure they can actually do so before you start the migration. This means making sure the browsers they use are supported for web-based office 365, and the operating systems they use are supported for the suite:

  • Supported browsers: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome
  • Operating systems: Microsoft Office 2010, 2007 SP2, 2008 for Mac, Office Web Apps

It’s time to migrate.

Now that all the groundwork has been done, you’re ready to migrate.

Remember, there’s no rushing this process. If you want it to be effective, and if you want your new Microsoft Office 365 environment to work as planned, then be patient and follow the steps carefully.

Is Microsoft Office 365 right for you?

Depending on what you do for business, how large your organization is, what your budget will allow, Microsoft Office 365 may or may not be the right choice. Only you can decide for sure.

If you do believe that Microsoft Office 365 will have a positive effect for you, then make sure to carefully plan your migration. Regardless of whatever benefits it may bring you, a poorly planned migration is not worth the trouble it causes.

A Whopping 94% Of Businesses Don’t Leverage The Software They Purchase

Computer Software

Computer Software

Businesses spend a significant amount on their software solutions, but 94 percent of them don’t get the expected value out of them. Many roadblocks stand in the way of bringing new solutions into the office, from a lack of consideration for the end user to choosing platforms that can’t scale with the company’s growth.

Problems During Procurement

The issues start during the procurement process. End-user feedback is essential for choosing software that will boost productivity and provide an adequate return on investment. If you lack end-user buy-in, then they’re not going to be enthusiastic about a system that’s not making their work life better. Make it easy for employees to send in feedback about the new software options throughout the procurement process. Emphasize the benefits of the new platform to workers.

Insufficient Training

Once the software is in place, workers may have a hard time with its functionality if they lack sufficient training. A change management plan should include multiple training resources and sufficient time for the end users to learn about the new solution and what they can do with it. The training should begin once you make a decision on the solution you’re deploying.

Clashes With Current Workflows

The software may require people to deviate too far from well-established workflows. Consider the current workflows and manual processes that are in place. The solution should replace time-consuming manual tasks and those that are prone to human error. Streamline current workflows without completely doing away with their structure. Employees will appreciate the familiar workflows and improvements in speed and efficiency.

Using Off the Shelf Software for Complex Problems

Off the shelf software is attractive for the speed of deployment and lower cost than custom development. However, specialized industries may require functionality that is not available with a standard solution. Workarounds may take too much time and effort. The opportunity cost can be far greater than the custom development price.

Lack of Centralized Data

Siloed data can lead to many problems, including repeated work, time wasted trying to find files, and lost data. Bringing data together in a central database is an important feature for any system that you’re deploying in your organization.

Difficulty with Content Sharing and Collaboration

Documents get shared and teams work together on a regular basis. The solution that you choose should support these activities. If you use the centralized data suggestion above, then streamlining content sharing is not difficult. Many modern solutions also include collaboration features to allow teams to easily work together.

Grow with Company

You might not know what your growth rate will look like in five years, but you do need software that can adapt to your changing needs over the years. If you purchase a solution that is built for your current capacity and nothing more, then it’s going to fail as your organization grows. It’s common for cloud-based solutions to allow you to scale up and down seamlessly as demand changes.

It’s important to diagnose why employees refuse to use the software offered to them. Once you understand why they aren’t enthusiastic, you can address the underlying issues and present new options.

What Makes An Awesome IT Services Provider?

Awesome IT Service Provider

Awesome IT Service Provider

 

Technology is continually changing, and keeping up with the updates to your crucial infrastructure and software can feel like an overwhelming task. Many organizations begin to look for an IT managed services provider as they start to scale, but how can you know who to trust? You’re placing your mission-critical systems and devices in the hands of a technology partner. Here are some key questions that you should ask any new IT services provider to determine if they will offer you the impressive level of service that your business deserves.

1. Your IT Services Provider Should Listen

While there are similarities between businesses in the same vertical, no company is exactly the same as any others. Your IT managed services professional should take the time to listen to your concerns instead of immediately offering cookie-cutter responses to the problem that they assume you have in your organization. A true partner will listen to your needs and then slot in their proficiencies to make your organization stronger and more resilient.

2. Have Availability That Meets Your Business Needs

Are all of your problems going to occur during working hours? Probably not — and your IT managed services provider (MSP) should have qualified resources available around the clock so your customers and staff aren’t left waiting in the event of a service outage. Carefully read through any offering contracts or service agreements to be sure that the response times meet the needs of your business before you make your final vendor selection.

3. Provide Recommendations for Key Strategies

Whether that means budgeting or disaster recovery planning, a true technology partner will always be on the lookout for ways that they could save you money or help improve the efficiency of your business. This could come during the budgeting cycle, when they let you know that some of your hardware could be replaced in the coming year. Another time that your IT managed services partner should help your business is by leveraging their knowledge of various industries to share best practices in backup and disaster recovery.

4. Retain Security Experts on Staff

Cybersecurity is a constantly changing realm, and it would be very challenging for a single staff member to keep up-to-date with security advances as they’re made available. Keeping software patched and hardware updated is also a very time-consuming task, making these two ideal ways to leverage your managed services provider. You should be able to feel confident that your MSP is regularly running security tests and actively monitoring for hacks.

5. Proactively Update and Test Your Systems

The time when you could rely on reactive technology management to maintain the security of your systems and data is gone. Instead of waiting for something to break, your services provider should be actively seeking upcoming updates and creating a schedule for an application that is consistent with the needs of your business. This will help your business stay on the right track for reliable growth in the future.

6. Help Appropriately Scale Your Business Infrastructure

Making a single wrong decision early in a technology build-out can have disastrous consequences down the line. Your IT managed services provider should have the experience with businesses similar to yours that allows them to peek into the future and curtail any decisions that might cause your business to be less flexible or scalable in the future. While customizations are nearly inevitable when it comes to technology, a truly remarkable services provider will look for and recommend tools that are an exceptional fit for your business first — before they recommend expensive platform changes.

Finding the best IT managed services provider requires time and trust on both sides, but everything starts with open dialog. Your team must be able to detail your current needs as well as how your business is expected to scale in the future as well as a rough timeline. Your IT services provider should be able to tease these details from your project team so you have a shared understanding of how to move forward in lockstep. From a deep understanding of cybersecurity to a willingness to listen to your needs: an awesome IT managed services provider is not a mythical creature!

Effects of A Data Breach on Small Business

Data Breach Small Business

Data Breach Small Business

The information that no business owner or technology director wants to hear: there’s been a data breach. These chilling words can put your brain into overdrive, trying to triage the problem before you even know the full extent of the problem. What will be the impact on customers? On staff? On vendors? Is this simply a temporary bump in the road, or will your business never truly recover? How you’re able to react and your level of preparedness will be the deciding factors in the level of devastation that a data breach can wreak on your business. A recent report from TechBeacon shows that it takes an average of 191 days — over six months — for companies to even identify a breach, much less begin remediation on the road to recovery. Even more frightening, with as many as 7 in 10 of all organizations in the U.S. suffered some sort of data breach over the past several years, with the average breach costing upwards of $3.6 million.

What Are the Immediate Impacts of a Data Breach?

Once you find that your organization has been the target of a cyber attack, your technology team and external vendor partners immediately create a plan of attack. This could include everything from launching an effort to stop the vulnerability that allowed the breach to ensure that your data is restored from external backups as needed. Each of these steps can take time away from your daily operations, while also negatively impacting your overall customer service, manufacturing, eCommerce and staff productivity in general. Plus, there are the additional costs associated with external consultants who are working quickly (and expensively!) to restore your operations and data access. There are also expansive regulatory issues to handle such as technical investigations and regulatory filings about the breach and impact on the public. You can quantify these costs with a little work, but there are some hidden costs that lurk behind the scenes in an extensive data breach. Organizations are reporting thousands of hours required by forensic analysts who are attempting to put together the true nature of the breach.

Loss of Data = Loss of Reputation and Loss of Business

Your customers trust you to be a secure citadel for their sensitive personal, health and financial information. How can you explain to the public that data breaches happen every day? Customers are much less likely to be understanding of your business challenges when they’re personally affected by a data breach. You need to have a plan in place to respond to data breaches urgently, transparently and with empathy, or you could lose a significant amount of business due to lack of consumer confidence in your organization. Finally, you’ll need to put a communication plan in place that includes informing all of your stakeholders about the data breach and how it could affect them. These costs and the time required to get your business back to full operations may make it sound appealing to consider cyber insurance.

Should I Invest in Cyber Insurance?

Just as with other business risks, it makes sense to protect against known threats such as fire, flooding — and cyberattacks. Unfortunately, cyber insurance can be incredibly confusing and there are no guarantees that the expensive investment you make in insurance will cover the specific incidents that could occur at your organization. Even comparing different benefits and offerings can be extremely complex and off-putting for business owners. Instead of buying this questionable insurance, many small to mid-size businesses are instead investing in cybersecurity solutions and comprehensive backup and data recovery strategies.

How Can I Protect My Business From a Cyberattack?

If you don’t have a plan in place to handle data breaches or other cyberattacks, it is never too late to get started! With an average cost per record of $148, according to the 2018 Cost of Data Breach Study, a little prevention against a cyberattack can pay major dividends in the future. Are you confident that your organization has all the safeguards and protective mechanisms in place to maintain adequate security or quickly discover a breach in the event of a cyberattack? A comprehensive cybersecurity solution provides you with a high level of protection that includes:

  • Active monitoring and reporting
  • Vulnerability assessments and remediation
  • Intrusion detection
  • Behavioral monitoring
  • Compliance reporting
  • Agile integration with internal platforms
  • Asset discovery
  • IT and business user training
  • Best practices and process recommendations
  • Extensive backup and disaster recovery planning

When you fail to plan for a cyberattack, you’re essentially planning to fail! In today’s world, it’s rarely a question of if your business will be targeted and more a question of when.

What Are the Benefits of Active Monitoring?

Working with a partner who offers active monitoring of your systems means you have a cybersecurity professional on your side at all times. Someone who is familiar with the footprint left behind by intrusions, and intimately knows the steps required to heal the breach and regain secure control of your systems. Your technology services partner should invest in ongoing education and recommend an aggressive security posture to protect your business. With active monitoring, you may still experience a cyberattack, but you may be able to limit the intrusion to certain systems or records — effectively saving as much of your data as possible through quick action in executing a pre-defined strategy.

As you can see, the effects of a data breach can be far-reaching and extremely expensive. It’s crucial that your business is fully prepared for any eventuality, and that includes an extensive data breach. The faster you’re able to identify the breach and heal it, the better your chances are for long-term business viability. Your technology services partner can provide you with customized recommendations to help protect your business from this pervasive problem.

How Composing Email On Multiple Devices Keeps Business Moving

Email Sync

Email is one of the primary forms of communication for today’s active businessperson, but there are certainly some challenges when you’re on the go. It’s not unusual to start an email on one device and save it as a draft to finish up later from your desktop. This productivity hack allows you to quickly jot down ideas on your mobile phone and save the email for further refinement when you’re back in the office. See some additional best practices for keeping your email synced across devices.

The Rise of Mobile Email

The share of global web pages served to mobile phones has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, from less than 3% in 2010 to over 52.2% (and climbing!) in 2018 according to Statista. This doesn’t even include tablet traffic, which accounts for approximately another 10% of traffic in the United States. The same shift can also be seen in email, with the percentage of emails being opened on mobile devices growing to 55% or greater. Return Path, an email data aggregator, shared that the converse is true for emails opened within an internet browser; this number has dropped from 37% in 2012 to 28% in 2017. These dramatic shifts are representative of the way we create emails, too.

The End of Poorly-Worded Mobile Messages?

While it would be great to note that the increased ability to work cross-platform would mean that you’re less likely to receive poorly-worded, autocorrected emails that originated on a mobile phone, but that’s probably too much to ask. However, the ease with which you can save messages for later editing and sending may reduce the possibility that it’s obvious your email was jotted down on a mobile phone. Business professionals are more likely to take the time to create a well-written message that covers the necessary points when they’re able to re-read the note on their laptop. Few people are able to flawlessly compose a thoughtful email message on a 4″ mobile screen.

Taking Control of Your Inbox

It’s all too easy to allow your inbox to control your life and make you extremely reactive, especially when your emails are close to hand at all times on your mobile devices. It’s essential to stay organized to reduce the possibility that you’ll miss replying to an important message when you’re on the go. Try using labels for “Need to Reply” or “Respond Tomorrow” that will prompt you to draft a reply the next time you’re in the office.

Don’t lose productivity when you’re out of the office — simply jot notes to yourself for later refinement! You’ll love this time-saving trick, and your email recipients will appreciate that your emails have had a few minutes of review and editing before they’re fired out of your Sent mailbox.

Email Sync

Top Advantages To Local Small Business When They Outsource IT Services

Outsourced IT Services

Outsourced IT Services

Small business growth is a challenge of keeping up with success without crumbling under commercial weight.

Many improvements needed to reach the next stage of success can be prohibitively expensive, leading to debt and risky gambles that could fail from random chance even if you’re doing everything right.

Tech growth opportunities are becoming more affordable every day. Here are a few details to help you understand how tech outsourcing can improve your business growth.

Reduce Utility Costs

How much power does it take to run a server? What about a room of desktops?

Do you think that equipping everyone with a smartphone or tablet will solve your electrical problems? Not if they still need a server to manage files or run a website.

What about your network equipment? If your business is growing and has heavy network needs, you’re still paying for routers, switches, and hubs. What is the electrical load on those devices?

The answer to those questions is different for every business, but they’re still a cost that can be observed. Every minute of every connected device means more ticks added to your company’s electrical meter, and that adds up over time.

Not every business can operate as a lean, agile tech dream that swipes its way through the cloud. Many businesses still need desktop computers or all-in-one solutions for heavy-duty computing tasks.

Servers are still necessary for any business, whether it’s to share bulk files through the business, host a global customer-facing website, or render complex graphics. All of these tasks generate heat, which means more electricity used in cooling from air conditioning systems.

This could be a good time to discuss the best way to cool a server room. Discussions about central air versus directed pipes, water cooling for high-performance graphic design or scientific research computer may be necessary.

You could build a data center for your growing, small business. You could also struggle through a swamp of growth, making it harder to break that plateau between a small business and a powerful enterprise.

Or you could make it someone else’s problem.

Cloud Computing Turns Tech Needs Into Simple Services

Outsourcing IT services such as web servers, file hosting servers, backup systems, or even workstations is easier than ever. There may be a lot going on in the background, but for you, it’s simple: power up, log on, and access your cloud services.

Almost anything digital can operate across cloud computing. Your business could use a standard internet connection to log into outsourced servers that hold your business files and work with virtual computers that do a lot more than the standard desktop or laptop.

Virtualization allows you to spend less money on powerful workstations. Basic, reliable workstations can be installed to log in, and as long as they can handle a few basic office tasks, they can log into a virtual server.

This server and its virtual workstations are carved from massive cloud computing resources to fit the mold of what you need. Virtual machines can be erased and rebuilt quickly, and can be configured to fit greater needs as long as you give virtualization engineers a reliable set of requirements.

It all comes together to an easier to understand, consistent, and probably lower bill for your tech assets. Your business can grow on the cloud, and you can perform estimates to figure out when—if ever—you need to split off to your own IT infrastructure.

Keep in mind that great businesses still use these services as they grow to behemoths that control global commerce. Just because they can afford to build their own systems doesn’t mean it’s efficient, and it can be more cost-effective to seek outsourced IT partnerships for specific projects.

Do you have high-security data that can’t be compromised? By all means, protect what needs protecting and outsource anything else.

That said, be sure to bring up your security requirements with a system engineer. You may discover that their security standards are higher than your own, or you could enter an agreement to modernize your security.

By working with outsourced IT professionals, you’re not just buying a single service and ignoring them for everything else. If your partnered professionals lack the skills or resources for a specific task, they know where to find someone who fits the job.

Reduce Staffing Overhead

How much does the average IT professional cost? It’s more than just their salary.

When hiring a technician or engineer for a necessary, meaningful position, they need to work at peak efficiency. Just like the hardware and software they manage, a technician needs maintenance, updates, and continued relevance in the business.

A good technician can handle the task at hand. A great technician grows into new challenges, searches for other tasks that leaders may not have noticed, and innovates.

To create a great environment for IT professionals, a business needs to provide training and encourage participation in multiple industry events. They need to have their finger on the pulse of your business ventures and know their own tech potential, which often means reaching into other industries.

While doing all of this, IT professionals need to do the job that you give them. They also need to sleep. They probably need a personal life, but the work-life balance is always a touchy subject.

The question is simple: can you afford that kind of technician?

If your business isn’t creating a bleeding-edge engineer as an incubator of industry progress, neither you nor that technician is reaching their greatest potential. You’re paying them for a specific set of tasks, and in order to grow, that technician will need to reach outside of the business for their growth.

If they reach too far, you may lose that technician and the few growth opportunities you were able to pay forward. Instead, create a partnership with a business that deals in technician growth.

Outsourced IT solutions from managed IT businesses will give you access to trained technicians who are ready to handle your challenges. You are the task, the goal, and the client. You are not, however, responsible for building an entire technician.

Education And Training A Benefit, Not A Cost

Your business is still part of that growth and still provides benefits. Like any profession, experience is a steady march forward through workplaces, job sites, and challenges. Someone else is helping that technician grow, and that’s okay.

Unless your business is centered on IT education—or if you’re an engineer who really likes taking other engineers under your wing—this is a better deal for everyone involved. Tasks can be spread out across multiple technicians who can handle the same projects, but you’re quoted for the service that you purchase.

You’re not responsible for posting job applications on Indeed or CareerBuilder. You’re not responsible for sending technicians to expensive seminars with questionable benefits.

While there’s nothing wrong with taking interest in an outsourced technician’s training or even suggesting a path, the distinction is important: your business won’t sink or swim if you’re not paying for their classroom and self-study growth.

Contact an IT support professional to discuss other ways to enhance your business growth.