business continuity plan

Does Your Company Have a Business Continuity Plan?

No business owner expects their company to face a major crisis. They’re optimistic that their company can overcome any problem. But when disaster strikes, your company needs more than just optimism. You need to be ready with a business continuity plan. 

If you don’t already have a plan in place, here’s why you need one and what it should include.

What is Business Continuity Planning?

A business continuity plan is an outline detailing the procedures and instructions a company needs to follow to get up and running after a disaster. These disasters may come in many forms, such as your office building catching fire, a natural disaster (flooding, hurricane or tornado) or a cybersecurity attack. 

Business continuity plans are different from disaster recovery plans, which tend to focus solely on recovering the company’s IT system following a crisis. Business continuity plans contain outlines and contingencies for all aspects of your business, such as business processes, assets, human resources, etc. 

Why Do You Need a Business Continuity Plan?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom-and-pop business or a large corporation, you have no time for downtime. Not having a plan can be financially devastating. For example, IT downtime costs a company an average of $5,600 per minute, according to GartnerWhen you have a business continuity plan in place, the key stakeholders know what they need to do to get your company running with minimal downtime. 

What’s in a Business Continuity Plan

Now that you understand why business continuity planning is vital, where do you begin? According to Ready, developing a business continuity plan includes four steps: the business impact analysis, recovery, plan development and testing. Here’s what you need to know for each step: 

  • Business Impact Analysis — The first step is identifying the effects of a disruption of business. This is also the time to determine which business functions take priority and the resources needed to get the company running again.  FEMA provides a Business Impact Analysis Worksheet for free
  • Recovery — After completing the business impact analysis, and addressing any potential plan gaps, it’s time to develop recovery strategies. Recovery strategies are alternate means to return business operations to minimum levels. For example, this may mean developing a plan to operate out of a secondary facility, having the staff work remotely or using third-party contractors to keep production moving. 
  • Plan Development — The next step is to assemble a continuity team. This team will create the framework of the continuity plan and implement it during the crisis. 
  • Training — Once the plan is in place, the continuity team needs to test it. This means training the staff, so they know their roles during the crisis. During testing, you’ll be able to uncover any gaps and update the plan accordingly. 

How We Can Help

Now that you understand what you need in a business continuity plan, are you able to create one? If you have no idea where to begin, let us help. We understand that small to medium-sized businesses don’t have the time, manpower or experience developing plans. That’s why we work with you and your staff to make this process painless and help your team understand their roles in the event of a disaster. 

Contact us today to get started.


4 Reasons Your Business Needs an IT Disaster Recovery Plan

Let’s face it; accidents happen. If it can go wrong, it might. That is why every business, from the mom-and-pop shop around the corner to the Fortune 500 company in the downtown high-rise, needs a backup and disaster recovery plan.

According to Forbes, one in three businesses is unprepared for a disaster because their plan is outdated, or they don’t have one in place. Of those that don’t have a proper plan, 90 percent of businesses fail following a disaster, reports FEMA. With that in mind, here are four disasters that can derail your business, and how you can prevent that from happening:

Natural Disasters

Over the last year, we’ve seen companies across the U.S. receive the brunt of nasty natural disasters. Some notable natural disasters included wildfires in California, hurricanes along the Atlantic coast and flooding in the Carolinas. Businesses in those areas were devastated, with buildings and equipment damaged or destroyed.

Building & Hardware Failures

As the temperature outside rises, so do the number of building fires. Summertime is a peak time for commercial structure fires as the summer heat, overworked air conditioning units and lightning strikes increase the risk of fires.

In addition to the risk of your building going up in smoke, there is also the chance that your hardware may fail. Hardware failure is the #1 cause of data loss, contributing to 45 percent of all unplanned downtime, according to Dynamic Technologies.

Cyber Attacks & Data Breaches

Hackers and cybercriminals are starting to view small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as prime targets as many continue going digital. According to Verizon’s “2019 Data Breach Investigations Report,” 43 percent of breaches involved small businesses. Here are some of the ways cybercriminals attack:

Malware — malicious software such as spyware, viruses and ransomware. Once in your computer, the malware can block access to your computer, covertly transmit data or destroy the system from the inside.

Phishing — the act of sending fraudulent communications such as emails or attachments which grant hacker the ability to access your sensitive data.

Exploiting Outdated Software — Hackers taking advantage of weaknesses in older versions of computer programs. There was a patch available for Windows computers months before the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack, but the people affected put off downloading the update, according to CSO.

Human Error

Unfortunately, if there is going to be a data disaster, we — the user — will most likely be the cause. Roughly 90 percent of cybersecurity issues are the result of human behavior, according to Chief Executive. These behaviors can include clicking on suspicious links, not downloading software patches and updates, accidentally deleting important files, or a disgruntled employee abusing privileges.

How We Can Help

For SMBs, it’s not a matter of “if” you’ll be affected by hardware failure, a data breach or some natural disaster — it’s a matter of “when.” With on-site and off-site servers, automated cloud backups and enhanced security features, your business won’t miss a beat when the worst happens.

Let us help by designing a backup and disaster recovery plan customized for your business. Contact us to get started.


IT Compliance: The Game

A great business leader knows they have to play by the rules before they can change the game. This is why being well-versed in compliance is so imperative. Compliance has become the new house rules for how businesses conduct themselves on the board. To ensure all of your pieces stay in play, here are the compliance regulations you should know.

GDPR: Playing by the EU’s House Rules

The European Union rolled doubles on protecting the information of its citizens with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While you and your business may reside stateside, any entity that processes and stores the personal data of EU citizens must follow this compliance.

These guidelines must be followed unless otherwise consented by individual citizens. Visitors retain the right to withdraw their information at any time and companies must respect the individual’s right to be forgotten. Essentially, an EU citizen will allow some of your house rules until they want to change up the game, then you must respect their decision – no rage-flipping the board.

You can successfully conduct business in European markets with a qualified technology partner as your chance card to help you understand the transition to GDPR compliance. They ensure that you are properly meeting regulatory compliance and help you avoid fines of four percent of your global annual turnover or up to $22.4m (whichever is larger).

PCI DSS: A Safe Strategy

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance creates an additional level of protection for credit, debit and cash card transactions. It guarantees that your customers’ card information is kept safe when it’s stored, processed and transmitted.

A great technology partner can make all the difference in your regulatory status by building a secure network and maintaining crucial systems throughout the year. You’ll be able to avoid risky noncompliance fines and ensure you stay in the game.

Got any, SOX?

In the legendary and hallowed battle of wits known as Go Fish, strict penalties fall upon the deceitful when they are caught lying about not having a certain card. This is similar to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).

SOX maintains a level of transparency among entities that publicly trade within the US. It holds company officers responsible for accurate reporting and requires a number of auditing measures to show how much capital a company has, as well as where it is being spent.

With intuitive IT services, you will keep the faith of investors, remain transparent and discover the streamlining benefits that SOX can provide. Not to mention, you’ll avoid hefty fines and jailtime so you can pass go and collect your profit.

HIPAA-ration

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects the storage of an individual’s medical records. Like the Operation board holding various ailments, companies known as Business Associates (BA) hold the medical, insurance, and payment records of individuals. Your company is considered a BA if it creates, receives, maintains or transmits protected health information and compliance pertains not only to the primary data handlers, but also their subcontractors.

To safeguard this information from top to bottom, a technology partner becomes the red light and buzzer on the patient’s nose, a safeguard against anyone trying to remove the “water on the knee” of information from your client’s records. Working with tech services provide the necessary solutions so you and your partners transmit data securely.

Consider Us Your Game’s Master

Partnering with a managed services provider is the easiest way to ensure you’re meeting and exceeding compliance standards. Contact us today to be your guide in the IT business game, and we’ll help you become a seasoned player.


3 Steps to Improving Your Project Management

When it comes to deploying new products and services or implementing a new process, your project management (PM) team becomes a critical piece of the puzzle. Your PM team determines how effectively and efficiently a project deploys, yet a survey by PMI found that only 58 percent of organizations fully understand the value of project management.

That misunderstanding is inadvertently causing roadblocks in your implementations and tying an anchor to your productivity. But, it’s not too late to make a change. You can support a simpler, more effective project management process.

Get started with these three steps:

  1. Analyze & Identify

Start by analyzing your business. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your roadblocks and what have you tried in the past? If this isn’t the first time you’ve attempted to roll out a new product or service, think about what succeeded the first time and what you learned throughout the process.

Then, identify what would help this time go more smoothly. Did you attempt to deploy the new product without informing the entire company, and it resulted in confusion and chaos? Consider sending out company-wide emails explaining the new product and exactly when it will be deployed – followed up by another email reminder the day before the deployment date.

  1. Create a Strategy

Whether this is the first time you’ve attempted to change a process or deploy a new product, or you’ve already identified your areas of improvement from previous experiences, you should begin by creating a strategic plan of action. Creating a strategy keeps your entire team on the same page and gives them checkpoints to determine how well the deployment is going.

A strategic plan gives your team clarity and a common goal to work toward. You can include the technology you need to leverage during your deployment and determine which teams you’ll need to ensure the implementation goes smoothly. By using a project management software solution (like Jira or Basecamp), you can digitize your strategy and easily share it amongst your team to improve communications and productivity.

  1. Monitor Progress

Start monitoring your progress and adjust your deployment strategy as your team completes tasks or changes direction. If your project management software doesn’t quite fit your needs, see if there is one that does, and assess whether it’s viable to adopt the new software. If your deployment is taking longer than you were expecting, decide how you can streamline later tasks to make up for the delays.

Monitoring the status of your deployments gives you better visibility into what is and isn’t working and what you may need to change for future deployments and process implementations. After deployment, you can generate reports using real-time data to demonstrate how much ROI you’ve received and give your sales team valuable information to leverage.

Don’t let project management be the last piece of the puzzle you put into place. By analyzing and identifying your needs, creating a strategic plan and monitoring your progress, you can ensure a simpler, more effective project management solution that promotes a seamless deployment.

For more information on project management tools and how we can help you improve your deployments, contact us today.


Preparing Your Technology for the Future

When it comes to technology, are you planning for the future or just trying to fix the issues you face today? If you chose the latter, you’re setting yourself up to fall behind the competition. Creating a technology roadmap helps you make smart technology investments, upgrade equipment at the right time and increase productivity while reducing long-term costs.

If that seems like a lot for your internal IT team to manage, consider a virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO). For a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house CIO, you can access an expert who learns the ins and outs of your business and recommends the best solutions to help you grow. Here are four ways a vCIO can help you prepare your technology for the future:

1. Strengthening Your Cyber Defenses

It’s not just large companies that are suffering devastating cyberattacks – according to the security software company Symantec, 36 percent of all recently targeted attacks have been made against businesses with fewer than 250 employees. A vCIO implements strong security practices and policies, performs continuous diagnostic monitoring and stays up-to-date with emerging cyber threats to keep your business protected from every angle.

2. Helping You Recover from a Disaster

Did you know that 93 percent of companies without a disaster recovery plan are out of business within a year of suffering a major data disaster? When your IT services are shut down or compromised, you need to know where your mission-critical data is stored and how to retrieve it quickly. Your vCIO can design a recovery strategy that helps you maintain business continuity after a natural catastrophe, cyberattack, employee error or other disaster.

3. Mobilizing Your Workforce

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is stronger than ever – according to Cisco, companies that implement BYOD processes save $350 per year, per user. However, more devices mean more endpoints that are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Virtual CIOs protect your data and employees by choosing secure applications and implementing airtight communication issues and policies, allowing employees to access corporate resources safely from any location.

4. Overseeing Crucial Initiatives

Managing a large-scale project – like an operating system migration or major workstation upgrade – can eat into any business’s bandwidth. Instead of wasting time and resources on a directionless initiative, enlist a vCIO in a supervisory role for the duration of the project to manage details and make recommendations based on extensive experience. Virtual CIOs can also suggest initiatives that will have the biggest impact on productivity and revenue.

Do you need help preparing your technology for the future? Our vCIO team is ready to tackle your challenges. Contact us today to find out what a vCIO can do your business.

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The Pros & Cons of Leading Cloud-Based Collaboration Tools

Improving the way your team works together is one of the easiest ways to increase ROI and improve output. The McKinsey Institute found that teams improved productivity up to 25 percent through increased collaboration. That’s why the cloud provides hundreds of tools and applications designed to enhance communications and connections.

Cloud-based collaboration tools are ideal for teams that work on the go or remotely, allowing users to work on the same documents in almost real-time and stay connected through video and other chat forms. Whether you’re looking to improve the way your team communicates or need to eliminate wait times between versions of a project, there is a cloud-based solution that can help.

Not sure where to start? Here are three to consider, based on widespread adoption by businesses like yours.

Microsoft Office 365

Pros: Office 365 gives your team full access to Microsoft’s most powerful collaboration tools from any desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device – making remote teams as productive and connected as their on-premises counterparts. Error-proofing tools even allow you to revert documents to previous versions.

Cons: Because Office 365 can be accessed from any endpoint, your risk of breaches increases. Most team members use personal devices outside of work to access confidential files, and these devices aren’t always protected by the same security as your company-issued laptops or desktops. With a multi-layered solution from a reliable partner, you can ensure your endpoints are protected and eliminate any risk of breaches.

 

Slack

Pros: Slack provides an enriched environment for real-time communications. Set up channels based on teams, departments or projects. Using different Slack channels, you can discuss open tasks, create strategies, get feedback from clients and deliberate more quickly than an email conversation.

Cons: Slack is a great tool when used appropriately, but the platform becomes a security risk when abused. Anyone with admin access can create new channels and take away access from other admins. Usually, this poses no threat, but when a disgruntled employee feels provoked, they could remove admin privileges and start a channel consisting of all your clients. By keeping admin access restricted and putting in fail-safes you can keep your risks at an all-time low.

 

Cisco Webex

Pros: Cisco provides crystal-clear quality and uninterrupted streaming with their Webex video chatting service. Converse with teammates and clients around the world and leverage presentation features to keep the entire audience engaged and informed. Eliminate the majority of communication barriers with video feeds that show reactions and nonverbal cues.

Cons: While Webex has a variety of powerful features, those aspects come with a higher price than some competitors. To leverage unlimited cloud recording storage and other benefits, you’ll have to pay more than what comes out-of-the-box. If you’re on a strict budget, you’ll need to pay attention to what features you will and won’t use.

Cloud-based collaboration tools help improve productivity and increase ROI, but you have to find which solution works best for your business. Whether the right solutions for you include Office 365, Webex or something else, we keep your business safe with multi-layered security solutions and proactive support.

 

For more information on cloud-based collaboration tools and how we can help you improve your productivity and ROI, contact us today.


How should your business be using the cloud?

Checklist: How Should You Be Using the Cloud

Public… Private… Hybrid… The definitions and differences are confusing, and it’s difficult to identify which solution would best resolve your challenges. While public cloud solutions tend to cushion your wallet, they’re also severely limiting. Private cloud solutions give you more control and privacy over your operations but are expensive to maintain. Hybrid combines both ideas, but it’s difficult to implement correctly – especially on your own.

The cloud continues to grow, and businesses continue to misuse it and underappreciate the value provided. Whether you’re a small business just beginning, or a seasoned corporation, there is an innovative cloud solution that not only fits your business needs now but will evolve as your business grows. How do you know which solution is right for you?

Use this checklist to see if public or private cloud (or a combination of both) is better suited for your business.

Think about your top three needs. Are they security, reliability and customization? Consider a private cloud solution. Or, are you prioritizing scalability and flexibility, hands-free solutions and cost-efficiency? Public cloud might be the better choice. Wish you could choose a mixture of both? Maybe a hybrid solution is best for your business. By leveraging innovative cloud technology, you can improve your business operations without rebuilding your entire IT infrastructure.

As your partner, we’ll help you identify the best innovative cloud solution for your unique needs and challenges. We’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each cloud type and help you create a personalized growth plan – so you can worry less about the cloud and focus more on meeting your goals. Leave your IT to us, regardless of what plan you choose. We’ll proactively monitor and maintain your cloud environment, so you know you’re always covered.

For more information on public, private and hybrid cloud solutions, and how we can help you implement the right one for your business, contact us today.


Understanding Digital Ethics & Privacy

From Facebook to Google, large companies are beginning to find the middle ground when it comes to protecting their users’ privacy and online data. But, where do you draw the line in the sand?

In response to ever-growing cyberthreats, the EU created the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to ensure websites are getting permission and protecting the information they gain from users. This new compliance regulation requires any company with EU users to update their policies and enact greater privacy strategies.

While GDPR is one step toward a more secure future, it also opens up the discussion of digital ethics and how new technologies can comply despite evolving threats.

What is digital ethics?

While the exact definition of digital ethics can’t be found in any dictionary, it is defined by experts (including Rafael Capurro in his paper Digital Ethics) as, “the impact of digital Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on our societies and the environment at large.” To simplify Capurro, digital ethics involve the moral decisions that are made in regard to the virtual world.

How does it apply to my business?

You use data to create lists for your sales team, customize emails and provide better experiences for your customers, but how can you ensure the data is kept safe? Where do you draw the line on data consumption? Digital etiquette is essential to strengthening your reputation, retaining your customers and behaving ethically in the digital world.

What are the challenges?

How do you find the balance between providing an improved user experience and overstepping boundaries? If someone visits your website and views your products and services, do you have permission to email them about the products they’ve seen? If someone visits your store, can you use facial recognition to build customer profiles?

What are the solutions?

By monitoring activity and providing transparency to your customers, you can navigate the fine line between ethics and privacy. You can improve your reputation and achieve compliance by updating your privacy policy to meet GDPR regulations, requesting permission to use or sell customer data and notifying your customers of updates to your security and privacy policies.

How we can help

As your managed service provider, we’ll help you stay up to date with compliance regulations and proactively monitor your systems to help you keep your customers’ confidential data protected. We’ll work with you to ensure you never overstep when it comes to selling to your customers.

From compliance regulations to blockchain management, we’ll help you monitor, protect and secure your customers’ confidential data. For more information on how to walk the digital ethics line and how we can help your business, contact us today.


5 Tech Trends to Watch for in the New Year

This year, you’ve been refining your business practices and protecting your confidential information from falling into the wrong hands, but now what? What lessons will you be carrying into the new year?

When it comes to your technology, we’ve been tracking down new industry standards and refining our own processes to ensure you experience maximum uptime and always have the support you need to grow your business. With that in mind, we’ve determined five tech trends you need to watch:

  1. Microsoft Support
    Microsoft announced that they’re ending their support of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server 2010 by January 2020. That means over the next year, you need to migrate all of your servers to the cloud or a replacement server to keep your data safe and supported.
  2. The Dark Web
    Your confidential information being sold on the dark web is a reality you'll likely have to face – that’s why it’s the number one threat we think you should tackle in 2019. By deploying security support designed to check for vulnerabilities, you’ll know what’s at risk before your information is stolen and keep that critical data off the dark web.
  3. Phishing Attacks
    If you’ve seen a phishing email lately, you know that they’re becoming more and more complicated, with sophisticated graphics and language. It makes it increasingly difficult to tell if they’re fake. With a reliable and robust backup strategy, you can eliminate the risk of losing data and improve your business continuity.
  4. Multi-Screen Efficiency
    You don’t have to implement an entirely new system to improve your productivity. According to Fujitsu Siemens Computers, dual, triple and quadruple monitor setups can improve efficiency by up to 35 percent. Adding an extra monitor is a relatively low expense compared to other options and improves your ROI with minimal downtime issues and improved flexibility.
  5. Cloud Computing
    Over the last couple of years, cloud computing has been gaining momentum – and it’s not slowing down yet. From hosting files and applications like Office 365 to implementing virtual/hosted desktops, as-a-service solutions in the cloud are not only becoming an asset to your business, they’re becoming a requirement.

Whether you’re looking for new ways to improve productivity or you need better protection against new and varied cyber threats, this is your year for technology. For more information on how to prepare for next year’s trends, and how we can help implement and support your solutions, contact us today.


Hot Holiday Tech Gifts You Can Afford

When shopping for holiday gifts on behalf of your business, keep in mind that tech gifts are always appreciated. Finding tech gifts that recipients will appreciate that are also in your price range can be a challenge, so we’ve put together a menu of hot tech gifts for 2018 in a variety of price ranges for you.

Less than $10

NUBWO Portable Bluetooth Speakers with HD Audio and Enhanced Bass

This handy speaker is not only small (3.8x3.8x3 inches) and light (8 ounces), it also connects with most Bluetooth audio devices in three seconds and provides room-filling sound. It can be used to make hands-free calls from smartphones, tablets and more.

Less than $50

Blue Microphones

Blue is the hottest name in microphones today. Whether used for recording, streaming, Skype, Twitch, conference calls or any other way a computer microphone can be used, whoever you give a Blue microphone to will be heard loud and clear.

Less than $100

Ring WiFi Smart Video Doorbell

The Ring video doorbell is a tech gift that lets the home resident get up-close-and-personal with whoever rings their doorbell – even if they are on the other side of the country. The doorbell is connected via WiFi, which enables use of the Ring app on iOS and Android.

Less than $150

Beats by Dre Solo2 Luxe Edition Wireless Headphones

Solo2 headphones look like a sports car, feel like they were made for whoever is wearing them and sound totally awesome. Includes HD audio and enhanced bass. Plus, depending on the device you use, the RemoteTalk cable lets the user change songs, adjust volume and make calls without getting up.

Less than $300

4K UHD TV

You can spend $3,000 or more for a Smart 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV with High Dynamic Range (HDR), but you can also find a selection for less than $300. 4K UHD TV with HDR is the new standard for Smart TV because the picture has double the pixels in each direction and looks incredible.

Less than $400

Apple Watch Series 4

Perfect for the Apple enthusiast, the Apple Watch Series 4 is bigger, better and more affordable than its predecessor, and one of the hottest gifts available. Displays are 30 percent larger. Sound is 50 percent louder. There’s a built-in GPS as well as potentially life-saving electrical and optical heart sensors. It’s also a true marker of success.

 Less than $1,000

HP Spectre X360 Laptop

For the PC user who admires everything about a MacBook Pro (except that it’s a Mac), the HP Spectre X360 is the perfect gift. At 2.78 lb. with a full HD screen (or higher resolution), the Spectre X360 runs Windows 10 and is a business computing powerhouse.

Every item on this list is a business-appropriate gift the recipient will use and enjoy. Holiday gifts let people know they are appreciated and help solidify business relationships. Of course, you’ll want to remember the people who do the work in your organization.

And what about the organization itself? An IT infrastructure that works the way it’s supposed to and drives growth by maximizing productivity is about the best gift you can give your organization. Contact us today to discuss how much more your technology could be doing for your organization.