Category Archives: SMB Technology

This blog covers topics on small business technologies.

Prepare Your Network for Unified Communications with Software-Defined Wide Area Networking

Over the past several years, both Unified Communications (UC) and Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) have grown more popular. Even a few years ago, IDC predicted that the SD-WAN market would grow to $8.05 billion by this year. Together, Unified Communications and SD-WAN allow your company to stay connected at all times. Read on to learn more about the connections between these two technologies, and to discover whether your company’s network is up to the task.


Software-Defined Wide Area Networks Support Unified Communications Performance


Unified Communications is technology that allows workers to work from anywhere, at any time.  Unified Communications, or UC, supports the ability to communicate by voice or email and send information back and forth. This technology brings together various modes of communication–phone, text, web conferencing and email–providing a streamlined way to keep businesses connected, using Voice-Over IP (VoIP) technology. 

Employees can hold video conferences, share data with other workers, and handle customer service tasks–even from remote offices. However, UC depends on a robust and secure network to keep traffic moving. This is where Software-Defined Wide Area Networks come in. 


SD-WAN Provides Performance at Competitive Cost


Unified Communication can test your network. Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) can provide a mix-and-match solution, using multiple carriers so that if one carrier goes offline another can keep traffic moving. A company can fall back on this robust network to keep workers communicating with each other and with customers. What’s more, SD-WAN can help a company transition from legacy systems and enjoy more flexibility.  At its best, SD-WAN can provide excellent performance at a competitive price. 


Considerations for Your Network


All of this sounds wonderful, and it is. However, your network needs to be ready. On the technology side, your network needs to have current anti-virus and anti-malware definitions. While SD-WAN can supply failover and dependable connectivity, it also needs a strong, secure network. What’s more, your workers need to be trained in cybersecurity policies and best practices. This, along with network monitoring, can help your network remain secure.


To learn more about the potential of SD-WANs to support Unified Communication, and to assess your network’s readiness, contact us today. 

Role of Your Employees in Cybersecurity

It’s sometimes thought that employees can be a “weak link” in your cybersecurity plan. This need not be so. Rather, your employees–when well-trained in cybersecurity policies and practices–can be your greatest asset. Reason to learn about training your employees in keeping your network safe.


Assess Cybersecurity Knowledge


Employees can be the most important line of defense against cyber attacks, when aware and well trained. Do your workers know your company’s cybersecurity policies? Do they know and implement best practices with passwords, like having unique credentials that are changed regularly. Also, you can make sure they are up on the most current cyber threats like malware and phishing attempts, and know what to do when faced with a possible attack. For example, do they know what to do when they get an email designed to look like it’s from their supervisor? Training sessions could be done routinely via video-conferencing on an ongoing basis for remote workers.


Security Considerations for Remote Work


For nearly a year, remote work has become the rule. According to an article from CompTIA, remote workers may not be prepared for increased responsibility for the safety of their devices. Are the devices connected to your company’s network checked and sanitized to ensure malware can’t get in? Do they have the most current antivirus and anti-malware definitions? Another issue to consider is physical security. Do your workers know to do simple things like log off when leaving the computer? Will they have a workspace where phone and video-conferencing communications can’t be overheard? These are just some of the topics to discuss with your staff to keep your network safe. The more devices connected to the network, the more chances there are for cyber attack. Having workers know what to do to prevent or mitigate an attack is essential.


Instead of employees being cybersecurity liabilities, they can be your greatest assets. For assistance in training your staff to be your best line of defense against attack, contact us today.

Examine Data Security Policies for Remote Work

Nearly a year after the pandemic closed business offices worldwide, remote work is the norm. Keeping your company’s computer network strong and secure is of great importance. Even now, businesses may want to revisit decisions made so quickly last March. Read on to learn about the most critical questions to ask in order to have a robust security plan for remote work.


Network Security Considerations for Remote Work


The usual security considerations remain important. First, how secure is your network against common viruses and malware? Ideally, definitions are as current as possible to catch the growing security threats. Is your method for access to the network still secure and efficient? Some companies can maintain a virtual private network requiring passwords; others may want to move some computing resources to the cloud. Still, varying levels of access may need to be determined, to keep data secure and bandwidth available for key business operations. For example, workers using video conferencing services need more bandwidth than employees who mostly handle email only. Another decision involves where workers will access your network; a company-owned PC connected to the company’s network is more secure than a worker’s personal computer or mobile device. 

Train Employees to Keep Your Network Secure


As always, employee training needs to be part of a remote work security policy. Clear rules should be set in place regarding which equipment is used for work purposes. Employees need to be reminded to be on the lookout for possible security intrusions like phishing schemes to avoid ransomware. Passwords are another key to keeping the company’s data secure; part of training includes helping employees develop strong and secure passwords and to change them regularly. While employees are often considered a weak link in security, when properly trained they can be the greatest asset. According to Gartner, “Remote workers must ensure the same, if not a greater, level of security for all company networks and data access, documents or otherwise confidential information that might be displayed on a home office computer screen.” 


Since remote workers expand the company’s security perimeter, you might want to re-evaluate your policies and practices. For help in refining your company’s security plan, contact us today. 

Align Your Cloud Strategy with Your Business Strategy

Cloud computing, with its benefits, considerations and even risks, can be a way to transform your business. When considering your cloud strategy, it must aid and advance your business strategy with its mission, values and goals. Read on to learn more about developing a cloud strategy tailored to your business strategy.


Business Strategy Determines Cloud Strategy


Now might be a good time to closely review your business strategy, and what you hope to accomplish in the coming year. Do you plan to have workers continue remote work, for example? Then you might need to extend access to more people, which brings up bandwidth and security concerns. According to an article from Gartner, your cloud strategy “needs to align with and actively support [your] organization’s business strategy, regardless of whether your organization provides consumer services, business services, or other products.”  Broad categories of considerations include:


  • Risks associated with cloud computing–agility, availability, supply chain, security and compliance. Also, having a clear exit strategy (or even more than one) before committing to any project, can help you reach balanced cloud deployment strategies. Some risks may pertain more to certain industries (security risks may be the most important consideration for healthcare organizations in protecting patient data, for example).
  • Route and approach to the cloud. Will your business opt for moving all applications to the cloud, or rehosting some and completely rebuilding others? And what sort of platform is the best fit, whether Software as a Service (SaaS) for rapid access or adoption of cloud infrastructure for building new functions? What will your business do about migrating current and legacy applications? 
  • Whether your business is aiming for cost savings with the cloud. Cloud, even with its benefits of flexible subscription models, and capacity for speed and innovation may cost more in the short run, especially if taking the rebuilding route to cloud adoption. 
  • Understanding of shared responsibilities between the customer organization and cloud service provider (CSP). 
  • How adopting cloud, at whatever level, will change your IT department. New skills and certifications for staff may be needed. 


Cloud adoption–even complete digital transformation–brings with it risks and questions that must be balanced with its benefits. For help in reviewing your business strategy and developing your cloud strategy, contact us today.

Technology Planning and Budgeting for 2021

There’s no doubt, 2020 has been a period of massive change. The pandemic has forced businesses to change the way they do business–for example, more staff are working remotely than ever before. Read on to learn more about what to consider when planning your technology budget for the new year.


Consider Business Objectives First

In 2021, according to a CompTIA report, business technology spending is expected to grow by 4.2% in 2021 reaching over 5 trillion for the first time. Cloud is expected to be significant, showing up again as a trend after being out of the spotlight in 2020. Companies are expected to use the cloud as well as emerging technologies in the coming year to drive digital transformation, support work-from-anywhere requirements and improve communications and collaboration between employees, customers and the supply chain. Technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to be embedded in business applications–for example, improving inventory control or for data processing operations.


When considering your tech spending, consider how technology can help reach business goals. Are you expecting remote work to continue, or even to hire more remote workers? Perhaps consider allocating more of your budget to cybersecurity and skills training. One thing to consider is the strength of your network, and whether you need more bandwidth or to focus on network security. 


Cybersecurity Still a Constant

With remote work now common, the security perimeter has changed. Instead of being in the office, it is now wherever anyone is accessing the network. A new paradigm has emerged wherein access to networks needs to be more specific, and where threats are possible within the perimeter. More resources may need to go to keeping data secure, including training employees to do so. What’s more, regulation of the tech industry will be in the spotlight, with enforcement of regulations for handling user data. Whatever your business prioritizes, flexibility and resilience–the ability to build an adaptable architecture and to withstand disruptions from many directions–will be necessary in digital transformation.


While 2020 has brought about many changes, it has also brought opportunities to move forward in using technology for business advantage. For help in charting your company’s technology course, contact us today.

Work Anywhere Securely with the Cloud

With remote work a fixture in our economy, technology has risen to meet the challenge. From virtual desktops to unified communications, it is easy to work anywhere.  Read on to learn how technology based in the Cloud can keep your business robust in 2021 and beyond.


Stay Connected with Unified Communications

Unified Communications as a Service (UcaaS) provides phone, chat, text, email, web conferencing and more as an integrated solution available in the Cloud. Voice over IP (VoIP) and other Cloud technologies remove the dependency of on-premise hardware and the need for expensive phone and conferencing equipment. This lets you route calls efficiently to communicate in real time all over the world. 


Work Securely with DeskTop as a Service

Adopting Desktop as a Service (DaaS) means you can work anywhere, get customer information instantly and securely from home or all over the world. With Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), your access is more secure because all systems and applications are managed virtually with a defined level of security that can be centrally managed from a remote location. Since the data is in the Cloud, it doesn’t reside on individual devices, thereby increasing security. Individual users still need to practice effective password management as well as best practices in security policy. With Desktop as a Service (DaaS), the Cloud provider manages and operates the infrastructure, including security. 


Work Anywhere with Software as a Service

Software as a Service (SaaS), also based in the Cloud, supports a wide variety of applications, including business applications like CRM, accounting, human resources and more. With the ability to access your applications anywhere from any device (including desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile) you always have information and applications at your fingertips whether you are at home or abroad.


Benefits of the Cloud

What all these technologies have in common is the Cloud; expandable computing power available as service. Cloud computing makes it possible to access applications and data with just an Internet connection. The infrastructure resides with the Cloud service provider instead of on-premises, converting a capital expense to an operating expense and saving money. Cloud’s flexibility and scalability allows a company to provision more or less computing resources, according to demand. Private and public Cloud environments are available for differing business needs.   


Technologies used in on-site and remote work will continue to be in high demand. To learn how you can take advantage of the benefits of the Cloud and its applications, contact us today.

Position Your Company for Growth in 2021 and Beyond

What a year it’s been! With the pandemic pushing rapid changes in how businesses operate (e.g., more remote workers), a company’s IT infrastructure and applications need to be nimble, responsive and secure in the face of increasing demand for digital transformation. Read on to learn more about trends associated with this shift.


How the Pandemic Impacts Your Technology Investment


Companies  have been forced to move quickly this year. The ongoing pandemic  has both required a shift to increasing digitalization, and shown the companies that have shifted that it’s possible to be resilient in a crisis. This event has shown the need for agility and responsiveness, and has helped companies refine approaches to doing business digitally. According to an IDC report, 65% of global GDP is expected to become digitized in the next few years, with $6.8 billion of IT spending allocated to the endeavor. The pandemic has not kept digital growth from happening, but rather has accelerated it. Many companies are expected to put in place a mechanism for shifting their infrastructure to the cloud by late next year. Edge computing, wherein the data is processed close to the people who need to use it, is driven by changes that the pandemic has brought, including a growing remote work force. Moving to the Cloud and digitizing operations will give businesses the security, responsiveness and agility they need to remain competitive. 


Resilient and Adaptable Technology is  Key to Success


Let’s face it, the pandemic has ushered us into a new world. Though there may be growing pains, not all changes are adverse. Companies that have adapted to changes–more remote work, for instance–are in a position to use this flexibility to adjust to an increasingly digital economy. According to the report, IDC predicts that “In 2022, companies focused on digital resiliency will adapt to disruption and extend services to respond to new conditions 50% faster than ones fixated on restoring existing business/IT resiliency levels.” One trend predicted companies will put a mechanism in place to shift to cloud-centric infrastructure and applications twice as fast as before the pandemic.


This year and the coming ones have brought, and will continue to bring, great change. Those companies that have adapted stand ready to be resilient in the new year and beyond. To ensure your company is one of them, contact us today.

Trends in Cybersecurity in 2020

This extraordinary year, with its rapid shift toward remote work force, has brought about changes in the cybersecurity landscape. With the security perimeter widened by use of devices outside the office, businesses are using the cloud more than before. According to a recent CompTIA research report on the state of cybersecurity, 60% of respondents were taking a more formal approach to risk management and threat intelligence; however, there’s always room for growth. Read on to learn how 2020 events have changed approaches toward cybersecurity. 


Acceleration of Cloud Computing


One trend in the report is the acceleration of the use of cloud computing. With so many employees working remotely, companies have, at the very least, sent their employees home to work and hurrying to secure day-to-day operations. With this increased use of cloud computing, keeping an eye on the threat landscape is still vital. Cyber attacks have increased, including “phishing,” and are now considered inevitable. The question is how companies will respond. 


Cybersecurity the Responsibility of the Entire Organization

Cybersecurity is no longer merely the responsibility of the IT department. From the newest employee to the board of directors, everyone has a responsibility to help protect data and systems. The executives and board can map out the plan for cybersecurity, beginning with assessing current risks to data and systems. Every employee can be trained in how to handle cyber attacks, and how to prevent them from occurring. Upper management can set the tone, creating a culture of cybersecurity.


Formalization of Cybersecurity Practices


Along with the increased momentum of cybersecurity adoption, the approach is becoming formalized. According to the CompTIA survey, the majority of companies have taken a more formal approach toward cybersecurity, adopting metrics to measure how well they’re doing. The process starts with risk assessment and management by directors and executives. What security pitfalls might come with remote work? How secure are a company’s data and systems? Formalization of practices also includes measuring and monitoring security efforts that are tied to business objectives. Such metrics might include how many systems have current operating systems, or what percent of employees have been trained in avoiding phishing schemes. 


While some aspects of cybersecurity (like an ever-evolving threat landscape) are the same, many businesses are changing their approach to cybersecurity. For help in evaluating your company’s approach, contact us today.

Become Aware, Get Prepared. October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October brings to mind cool days and crisp leaves. Another hallmark of this month is cybersecurity awareness. Government and industry have collaborated to “raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to ensure all businesses have the resources to be safer and more secure online.” Read on to learn how to make your business more aware of and proactive in protecting its network, data and systems from cyberattack. 


Take Stock of Your Network’s Health


Cybersecurity awareness is always vital, not just at a particular time of year. One way to move beyond simple awareness is to take stock of your network’s health. A company’s network is only as strong as its weakest point. Do you have a map of your network, with all devices connected to it? Are there holes in your operating system where cyber criminals can get in and steal or compromise data? Do you have the most current operating system patches to prevent this? Also consider whether antivirus and antimalware definitions are current or if they need to be updated. Is your network being monitored? Remote monitoring helps you stay aware of the health of your network, and can solve small problems before they become big issues. 


Keeping an Eye on Cyber Threats


Another aspect of cybersecurity awareness is knowing the threats to your network. From ransomware to phishing schemes, cyber criminals are keeping pace with the growth of technology, especially during these unusual times. Do your workers know what a phishing email looks like, and do they know what to do and not to do if they get one? Your workers can be a good source of information when trained to recognize attacks. In addition, password management is another way to keep your system safe. Having unique passwords that are changed on a regular basis can help to keep attackers out of your network.


Let this month of cybersecurity awareness be a wake-up call to your business, and spur you to be as well protected as possible. For assistance in developing a plan or strengthening your network’s security, contact us today. 

Plan Now to Protect Yourself from Cyber Threats

Imagine an external cyber attack occurring in your business, or an employee getting exploited by a phishing email. Will you know what you’ll do in the event of a data breach, and are you prepared to act immediately? Read on to learn more about how planning your response to a cyber attack can help you respond quickly and calmly.


What to Consider When Developing Your Cybersecurity Plan


Your business may have a plan in place already to cope with the latest cyber threats–ideally, this is the case. Or else, you have a plan that needs to be revisited and updated, reflecting the changed work environment brought about by remote workers caused by the pandemic. This is a good time to take an inventory of your IT assets and network security. Starting with the basics, look to see if there are any vulnerabilities that need to be patched with the most up-to-date operating systems patches. Are your antivirus and anti-malware definitions current? Also, can you account for all devices connected to your network, such as laptops used by remote workers? Going beyond the basics your  plan should include training your employees to remain safe while remote by knowing how to identify phishing schemes that could result in a ransomware attack. Additionally, evaluate advanced security risks related to compliance requirements, sensitive data or high cost of unplanned downtime. 


Planning Now Helps You Respond Quickly Later


You’ve probably heard the saying, “Plan your work and work your plan.” This definitely applies to your plan for keeping your network secure. What if your company experiences a cyber attack that leads to a data breach? You’ll need to know the deadlines for notifying customers and other parties of a data breach, as well as any data protection regulations to follow. If a remote worker experiences an attack, they’ll need to know what to do immediately. Ideally, they will know best practices and follow your incident response policy. Having your network security plan ready means you can act immediately to remediate damage to your network and your business.


Planning your response before an attack will position you to act quickly and calmly to an attack. For help in developing or refining your network security plan, contact us today.