The Importance of Data Protection Before a Disaster

Hurricane Dorian is just one event that can potentially affect a business’s access to its data and reemphasizes the importance of having a data protection plan in place. Other events can have the same effect—cyclones, earthquakes, and hurricanes–suspending business operations for days or weeks.  Even a brief power outage can put your company at risk, not to mention the threat of cyberattacks. Read on to learn more about keeping your business’ data safe and accessible. 

Reasons to Safeguard Your Data

Data can be considered the lifeblood of your business, enabling transactions as well as access to customer or patient records, and containing a company’s intellectual property. Loss or compromise due to corruption by malware and viruses, or even a brief outage, can result in costly downtime. Not only that, a company can suffer a loss of revenue and even reputation. If subject to industry regulations, a business can incur fines for revealing personal information. These consequences can be prevented with a solid data protection strategy. 

Assess Data Protection Needs to Develop Your Plan

A data protection strategy starts with assessing your business’ needs. Consider first which data and applications are mission-critical for keeping the business running—for example, phone communications, Internet, and email. Depending on your business type you may need to comply with certain regulations—HIPAA, for example. Consider natural hazards common to your area, and whether you want your data to reside on-premises, or in a cloud data center. With your data in the cloud, it can be accessed remotely and without interruption. If using the cloud, decide which environment is best, whether public or private.  

Test Your Plan and Involve Your Staff

Once your data protection plan is in place, test it regularly to make sure it works. An added benefit is that a test can show any gaps or potential problems, giving you a chance to correct them. It can serve as a good “dry run” for a real disaster. Educate your employees about what practices to follow to protect company data, including how to recognize and report phishing attempts. 

While data protection incorporates numerous practices and procedures, its bottom-line purpose is preserving your company’s revenue and reputation. For help developing your data-protection plan, contact your trusted technology advisor today.

Monitor Your Network to Keep it Safe and Thriving

With technology ever changing and progressing, more is demanded from your network than ever before.  Cloud computing, along with multiple applications and huge amounts of data, demand a strong and healthy network. Read on to learn more about how to monitor your network and maximize its flexibility, efficiency and security.

Network Monitoring—The What and the Why

Network monitoring is a proactive part of a managed services plan, alerting a business to hazards both within the network and attacks from outside. First, network monitoring can show where there are poorly functioning circuits leading to disconnections, or bottlenecks in the system. Network outages due to these causes, along with natural disasters and power outages, can cost a business in terms of loss of revenue, downtime, and loss of reputation from data leaks. Second, network monitoring can identify external threats such as denial of service attack and potential ransomware intrusion attempts.

The Where and How of Network Monitoring

If a hazard or intrusion is identified quickly, it can be dealt with quickly, keeping a problem from escalating. For example, it can find potential holes where data can be leaked or lost. Also, excessive bandwidth consumption can be identified, so that computing resources can be directed toward mission-critical applications. Unauthorized users can be detected, to protect the network from those who should access it. Software-defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) is a system in which multiple carriers are used, affording the business additional flexibility; if one part of the network is down, another part can pick up the traffic, allowing for uninterrupted service. Remote network monitoring can save time and money by eliminating the need for an IT professional to come to the office to diagnose a problem. The monitoring is done 24/7 and can be based on a fixed-price service agreement.

It’s never too soon to develop a plan to keep your network healthy and secure. Contact your trusted technology advisor today to get started.

Hybrid Cloud Considerations

Cloud computing, despite varying levels of adoption, has become a common way for a business to avail itself of computing resources without having to maintain expensive infrastructure. Companies can use varying levels of resources, scaling up and down as demand and usage changes. How does a company know which cloud environment is the right one? Read on to learn more about how to make this determination.

What is Hybrid Cloud?

Hybrid cloud is a combination of on premise, third party, private cloud, and public cloud. Some companies have moved all the infrastructure to the Cloud. This could include software as a service (e.g., Customer management system), or also infrastructure as a service for application hosting or Cloud backup. Other companies may choose to keep some services available on premise (at their location) for failover or easy access, while at the same time tapping in to public or private cloud services for off-site redundancy or access to new features that may not be available in legacy systems.

Benefits of Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud can offer flexibility and agility to a business, allowing you to get the best of both worlds. For example, having files locally can help you backup quickly in the case of ransomware attacks, without having to restore from the cloud. If you are in a disaster recovery scenario when you cannot access your physical location, private or public cloud can give your applications and data from most anywhere.

Hybrid Cloud Considerations

If you are combining on-premise, public cloud and private cloud in your business, it is important to have a solid network infrastructure to avoid bandwidth bottlenecks and loss of employee productivity. Also ensure your applications are compatible with one another. It is common for cloud applications to integrate via an Application Program Interface (API).

Multiple models exist for cloud computing, and hybrid cloud combines the best of both worlds–on-premise, private cloud, and public cloud environment. To learn about this computing model, contact your trusted technology provider today.

Cyber Security

Train Your People to Fight Cyberattacks

With the advance of technology, many benefits have come to businesses—commerce taking place twenty-four hours a day and the ability to have meetings with workers half a world away, among others—but cybercriminals have learned to exploit technology, using practices such as phishing (planting a fraudulent link in an email) to gain access to business’s data and networks.  With social engineering, Phishing, and Spearfishing on the rise it is important for you to raise employee awareness about these threats. Read on to discover how to keep your business safe from this type of intrusion.

What Phishing is and How to Prevent It

Phishing is an increasingly popular way for attackers to access company data and plant malware in a network. A phishing attempt involves putting a fraudulent link in an email to get the recipient to click on the link and unwittingly import malware into their company’s network. Spear phishing, a related type of attack, focuses on an organization or individual. Employees can be trained to recognize an attempt by looking for clues. One is misspellings and grammatical errors in the message. Another tipoff is a strange or suspicious sender’s address; if it looks strange or suspicious, don’t open the email. Yet another practice is to point the mouse arrow over a link to look at it without clicking. All are things an individual can do, and there are additional effective practices.

Focus on the Fundamentals

The best preventive measures are simple. According to a CompTIA article, getting the basics right is one of the soundest investments a business can make. Prevention, as always, is far less costly than repair. While tools, current antimalware definitions and operating system patches are important, much of your company’s preventive power lies with employees. Developing a culture oriented toward protecting a business’s technological assets is far more effective than placing blame if a phishing attempt gets past defenses. Phishing schemes have become so clever they can catch anyone unaware. An all-day training can be a good start, but the training should be a regular part of your business’ strategy for keeping itself safe.

As technology advances, cyberattack attempts will keep pace. Companies should remember one of their most powerful assets—their people. To learn how to train your employees and develop a culture of security, contact your technology advisor today. 

The Importance of Data Protection in Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

In the last week, two earthquakes have shaken southern California, alerting us to the need to have our businesses prepared for a disaster, whether natural or manmade. Not only can fires, floods and earthquakes cause business interruptions, but so can systems failures, human error, malware and ransomware attacks. It’s never too soon to evaluate what needs to be done to prepare your business for a disaster. And a disaster doesn’t have to be large-scale; a power outage of an hour or two can be enough to stall business operations. Read on to learn about the most important things to do before an emergency

Make Data Protection a Key Part of Business Continuity

Data is the lifeblood of many businesses, its loss or compromise affecting their ability to do business. Data is needed for transactions and communications, among other functions, and even a short period of downtime can have a potentially disastrous impact on revenue and reputation. When considering the data protection aspect of your business continuity plan, focus on your mission-critical data and applications. What do you need in order to stay in business during a disaster, or recover afterward? Perhaps it’s customer records, or an in-house research database. Be sure to get mission-critical data backed up first, so your business can continue operating. Make sure there is failover—when one network backbone falters, another picks up the slack.  

Different Methods Can Achieve the Same Goal

While the ultimate goal is to remain in business without compromise of revenue or reputation, different methods exist to realize this goal. However, one common thread is the idea of storing data offsite, in the cloud or in geographically diverse data centers. Throughout the working day, “snapshots” can be taken of business activity, and copies placed in these data centers, which adds an extra layer of security. Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) are another good option, with multiple carriers providing redundancy and reliability. Finally, storing data in the cloud can help you access it in case you can’t get physical access to your office. Many tools exist for helping minimize the impact of a disaster.

Instead of waiting for a disaster to slow or stop your business operations, learn how protecting your data can keep your business running during and after a disaster. To evaluate your preparedness and make strides toward business continuity, contact your technology advisor today.

Consider Unified Communications for Your Business

Imagine being able to integrate business class phone systems, collaboration and virtual meetings and your contact call center all within a secure and reliable unified communications suite. This means you can work anywhere, get customer information instantly and route calls efficiently to communicate in real time all over the world. Increasingly, Unified Communications can integrate your office communications and help you help customers.

Unified Communications Adoption Continues to Grow

According to an article by Grand View Research, the market for Unified Communications is expected to grow to $167.1 billion by 2025, with a growth rate of 16.8% in upcoming years. Unified Communications, provides businesses a tightly integrated solution consisting of VoIP, along with applications such as video, web collaboration, and mobility. Three popular components of Unified Communications are Voice Over IP (VoIP) technology, web conferencing and call center technology. Voice Over IP helps businesses move from a private-branch exchange to a methodology that uses the Internet. Web conferencing allows companies to communicate with customers and employees in other parts of the world. Call center technology can speed communication through integration with CRM, to route the call to the best person to serve the customer.

Benefits of Adopting Unified Communications

Not only is UC an efficient way to integrate a business’ operations, it can help companies save money and increase revenue. Managers in the office can communicate with employees out in the field, and with voice mail that flows to email, employees in the office can get a quick answer to a question, or more information, with minimal wait time. The speed of processes can improve, helping a business gain a competitive advantage–for example, moving a loan application quickly toward approval. Also, cloud-based Unified Communications moves capital expense associated with large deployments to a subscription-based operating expense.

What to Consider when Adopting a UC Solution

When considering Unified Communications, be sure to consider the specific needs of your business and how integrated communication can help reach business goals. Also, evaluate the health of your network, whether it can support cloud-based unified communications, and what parts need upgrading or changing.

Unified Communications will become more common in the next decade. To evaluate your readiness, and get your network in shape, contact your trusted technology advisor today.

Staying Secure and Compliant After Windows End of Life (EOL)

In less than a year, support for Windows 7 will be ended, making operation systems patches and updates unavailable, according to a 2018 article. Since this will impact cybersecurity as well as compliance.  Many companies are migrating to a new operating system. A key consideration is protecting your business from data loss and compromise, and in some cases complying with stringent regulations, such as, PCI-DDS and HIPAA. What are the risks inherent in migration, and how can a business navigate the migration? Read on to learn more about handling the coming change and keeping your data safe.

Preparing for Windows 7 End of Service

With the upcoming Windows 7 end of service, operating systems patches will no longer work on your devices, possibly leaving your network and data open to cyberattack. Not only that, if compliance to regulatory standards like HIPAA is required, a company may incur fines if data is lost or exposed to cyberattack. However, with a detailed plan and preparation, the transition can be made to the new operating system. First, as already mentioned, conduct an audit of all devices still using Windows 7. Determine which mission-critical data and systems need to remain accessible during the migration. Streamlining data and applications—removing old data and obsolete applications—can help alleviate the burden of moving unneeded assets. Once the audit has been conducted and a plan developed with the help of your IT advisor, testing can begin.

Test Before Going Live

Before going live with the new operating system, testing the plan is vital, to ensure that no data is lost or corrupted during migration. Testing should help identify all potential issues before rollout, as well as identify any compromised data. Entities that need to comply with specific regulatory standards (e.g., HIPAA) can identify any holes in compliance and prevent loss of personal data. Multiple tests can help fine-tune a company’s preparation for the new software.

While new operating systems are a fact of life, testing and preparation can ease the transition. Contact your trusted technology advisor today to learn about how to successfully navigate this upcoming change.

Cybersecurity Risks and Preventive Action

Even with so much information available about how to protect your network and business from data breaches and cyber attacks, a surprising number of businesses aren’t prepared. Read on to learn about how to make your company an exception.

Know and Understand the Risk          

A recent Forbes article reports on a new survey of 600 IT security and IT Operations decision-makers. The results reveal the level of risk to networks and the level of business’s preparation—and how much education and preparation are still needed. According to survey results, 60% of respondents had a data breach within the last two years, and more than 30% had experienced more than one breach. Vulnerabilities can occur anywhere—in a company’s on-premise systems, or through an employee’s mobile device accessed in an unsecured area. All it takes is one weak spot in the network, to compromise the entire system. Common causes of breaches include lack of security protocols to begin with (52% of respondents), unpatched software (51%), and lack of automation in patch application.

Steps to Protect Your Network’s Security

Instead of simply lamenting the lack of security, these statistics serve to point the way to achieving network security.  Knowing problems common to businesses can guide your business in what aspects of network security to focus on first. Businesses can start by performing a network audit to find any weak spots where network security vulnerabilities may exist.

Be sure to check that OS patches are up-to-date, and that antivirus and anti-malware definitions are current. Monitor endpoints including mobile devices and devices used by remote workers and perform periodic network scans to detect any data bottlenecks or weak spots. Depending on the nature of data your company gathers, and whether the company is subject to special industry regulations, public or private cloud environments can be used to protect and back up data. Just as important as these technical measures is educating your employees about how to recognize malware intrusions that can occur via “phishing” emails and how to identify and report breaches.

While the chance of a cyberattack will always exist, the risk to your business can be minimized. To evaluate and start improving the security of your network, contact your technology advisor today to get started.

Consider Software as a Service (SaaS) as Part of Your Business Model

Imagine if your business had a cost-effective and flexible way of accessing data, applications, and unified communications, without the maintenance and management of on-premise equipment. Read on to learn more about benefits and considerations of this service delivery model.

Benefits of Using Software as a Service

Software as a service, or SaaS, is becoming increasingly more common, with an average expenditure increasing at 78% between 2017 and 2018, according to Forbes magazine. This cloud-based delivery model is one in which companies can  adopt an economical, ready-to-go approach to accessing the latest technology. The software is managed and maintained by a provider, reducing a company’s need to buy, implement and maintain on-premise infrastructure. With SaaS, rapid deployment of applications–Unified Communications, call center, chat, and more–is possible, all using a unified web-based interface. All that a business needs to have is Internet access and a web browser.

From a cost standpoint, a business can pay a provider a monthly or annual subscription, rather than investing a large sum up front. Not only that, the capital expense of on-premise infrastructure is converted to an operating expense that can be spread out over a longer period of time. This allows businesses to focus on innovation and long-term company strategy.

What to Consider before SaaS Adoption

Even with the benefits of SaaS, individual companies need to assess whether it is the right option. Often, small companies with straightforward operations and which are looking to cut costs, benefit the most from a SaaS model. For those businesses that do opt for SaaS, further considerations exist. For instance, is the network robust enough to handle additional traffic? Are there any weak links that would allow cyber attacks? Is your company subject to industry regulations like HIPAA or PCI-DSS? If your company is responsible to protect customer or patient information, on-premise systems or a private cloud environment might better suit your needs.

Software as a Service can be a flexible, cost-effective option, allowing your business the freedom to work toward bigger goals. If you need assistance in determining whether you can benefit from SaaS, and need a diagnostic check of your network, contact your technology advisor today.

How Much Downtime Can You Survive Without a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan?

With disasters–natural and manmade–in the news, preparedness in the form of a business continuity plan is vital. Disaster recovery, or the ability of a business to continue running during and after a disaster, is a key part of business continuity. Read on to learn more about developing a plan to keep your business operating even when things go wrong.

The Importance of Being Prepared During a Disaster Recovery Scenario

According to an article by CompTIA, 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. A quarter (25%) of unprepared businesses fail within one year. A disaster recovery (DR) plan enables businesses to respond, not just react, in the event of a disaster. It is a subset of an overall plan, and has to do with immediate access to systems and applications–and their associated data. The company can stay in business, without loss of revenue or reputation.

Creating a BC/DR Plan: Questions to Consider

The first question to consider in developing a DR plan is determining which systems are mission-critical, most crucial to conducting business. Some, such as communications, important applications and data storage, are the most essential; others can wait until the disaster is over. How much downtime can your business handle, without loss of revenue or reputation? With regard to data storage, consider whether it should be kept on-premises or be stored remotely in a data center. Is the network redundant; that is, if one section goes down, can another take up the load in its place? For data storage, the cloud can also be a good option, and using the cloud has become a trend in recent years. Of course, whether your business chooses a public or private cloud depends on whether it is subject to data protection regulations.

Testing Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Once your disaster recovery plan has been developed and implemented, be sure to test your procedures periodically. Testing’s benefit is to learn how your systems will function, and discover if any bottlenecks exist or if any data is corrupted or lost. Problems can be found and solved before a real disaster happens.

Problems come in all shapes and form; fire, weather, cyber attack, systems failure & human error to list a few. It is not a matter of if a problem will occur, but when. It’s never too early to develop a plan to help your business recover from a disaster, whether natural or man-made. Contact your technology advisor today to get started.