6 Trends to Watch in 2020

There’s only one constant in the world of technology — change. 

Last year, we saw the cloud reign supreme as businesses big and small migrated to it to power their technology needs. So, what can you expect heading into the new year? Stay current by keeping an eye on these six emerging tech trends in 2020. 

  1. Hacking Tactics Will Escalate 

The IT industry has spent a lot of time and resources on improving data security over the last couple of years, but that doesn’t mean progress can stop. Data will continue to be a precious commodity going forward, and hackers will keep upping their game to beat current security standards. Ransomware is a popular tool for cybercriminals. According to Statista, there were 204 million ransomware attacks around the world in 2018. That’s why it’s essential to stay current with the latest security offerings.  

  1. AI as a Service  

Companies are looking for ways to use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve customer experience and business functions. One way to bring AI to the everyman is to combine it with the software as a service model. Google, Amazon, Microsoft and other major players already offer machine-learning solutions, so it’s not much of a stretch to expect that AI tasks will be provided on a subscription model soon. 

  1. 5G Data Networks

The race to 5G has popped in and out of the news over the last year, so we will start to see more implementations in 2020. 5G will offer faster internet speeds over cell phone networks, increasing connectivity and support. Plus, this may make it easier to operate drones and autonomous vehicles.  

  1. BYOD Security Improvements 

As mobile devices continue offering comparable features to their desktop computer counterparts, the expectation to do everything from one device will rise. That means employees’ smartphones will need to have access to key company functions and have the security to protect business data. Expect to see more robust security features coming to the bring your own device (BYOD) model in 2020. 

  1. XaaS (Everything as a Service)

With the proliferation of the cloud, the tech industry is moving closer and closer to going all-in on the subscription model. Hewett Packard announced it plans to offer its entire portfolio as a service by 2022. Next year may be the start of XaaS (everything as a service) becoming the new normal in the tech industry. 

  1. Sunsetting Popular Windows 

Some of Microsoft’s older products are about to ride off into the sunset. Word spread throughout the year that the tech giant is planning to end support for many popular products starting in January 2020. Some of the most notable products and services include Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. If you or someone you know is still using programs approaching end of life, then they’re opening themselves up to threats. These services will no longer receive updates, and hackers can exploit weaknesses. You can find the full list of products that will be phased out in 2020.

How We Can Help 

As technology trends come and go, one thing is for sure — we’ll be ready for whatever comes. Our experienced staff of IT professionals is up to date on emerging tech so they can find ways to make your business more productive and efficient. Don’t lag behind the times. Contact us today, so your business is ready for the future.  


Give Your Business the Gift of Cybersecurity

The holiday season is approaching, so now is the time to start getting your shopping list ready. While it’s important to show your appreciation to your loved ones, it’s also a great time to think about what you can get your business. 

You can always treat your business by upgrading to the latest tech, but maybe you can get something a little more valuable – peace of mindTo do that, you need to think about how you can improve your cybersecurity.

Why Cybersecurity? 

The world is changing. As more of your core business functions are done with technology, this means cybersecurity should be top of mind when thinking about ways to protect your business. Cyberattacks cost U.S. businesses $654 billion in 2018, according to Tech.Co, and big corporations are not the only ones who need to be concerned. Small businesses are also prime targets for hackers, making up 43 percent of breach victims, according to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Instigations Report. 

What Threats Are Out There? 

Viruses and malicious software come in many forms, so you must stay vigilant to keep your business safe. In recent years, phishing attacks and ransomware have emerged as prominent tools hackers use against companies. Phishing attacks occur when an unsuspecting victim clicks a link or opens a suspicious attachment containing malware. Once in your system, hackers will install ransomware onto your server, blocking access to your data in exchange for money. According to Small Business Trends, one in 99 emails is a phishing attack. Even if you pay, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back as fewer than a quarter of ransomware victims get their data back, according to the Hartford Courant.

What Can I Get for My Business? 

Now that you know what you’re up against, what kind of gifts should you get for your businessHere are some ways you can protect yourself from cyber threats:

Employee Security Training – One of the easiest ways to prevent a phishing attack is to recognize the signs. Invest in employee cybersecurity training so your staff can browse the web and answer emails with confidence. 

Two-Factor Authentication – It’s a lot harder for a hacker to have access to both a business password and your employee’s smartphone. Two-factor authentication sends a security code to the correct employee’s phone when they try entering into a secure program. 

Cloud Technology  Cloud services are gaining popularity with businesses of all sizes because of its flexibility. If a company laptop or smartphone is stolen, you’ll still have access to your data because it’s stored in the cloud. 

How Can We Help

This holiday season, give yourself the greatest gift of all – protection against the unknown. Don’t go into the new year with fears about the quality of your network security. Contact us today, so our team of cybersecurity experts can run a security assessment and find the best way to protect your business. 


cybersecurity

You Can’t Afford to Ignore Security Breaches – Here’s Why

It’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and what better time to educate yourself about data breaches? There were 1,244 breaches reported in 2018 alone, and small and mid-size businesses are just as much at risk as big-name companies. Unfortunately, plenty of businesses are content to ignore security breaches – but you really can’t afford to.

Here’s what you need to know about data breaches, and how to protect yourself:

The Numbers on Data Breaches

Are data breaches really that big of a threat? The numbers speak for themselves. The average data breach costs US companies $7.91 million. Part of the reason for the huge cost is that data breaches can be difficult to detect if you’re not looking for them; in fact, companies take an average of 190 days or more to identify a data breach. Think about the amount of damage hackers can inflict on your business in that time. 

Think this is just a mega-corporation issue? Small and mid-size companies aren’t immune. Small businesses account for 58 percent of data breach victims, and they often lack the resources of an enterprise company to combat an attack. Every company, no matter how big or small, needs to take the danger of data breaches seriously.  

Why Are You a Target?

You may think you have nothing of value, but think about the data you store every day:

  • Employees’ birthdates, Social Security numbers and other personal information
  • Client names, email addresses and phone numbers
  • Banking information, including account and routing numbers
  • Credit card numbers

All of this data is valuable to cybercriminals, and you need to store it to conduct your business. But with that data comes the responsibility to protect it properly. 

Why Businesses Ignore Breaches

If breaches are so common and have such significant consequences, why do so many businesses completely ignore them? There are a couple of reasons for this. 

One is the lack of an immediate financial impact. Even when a business owner realizes that data is missing, money hasn’t always been directly stolen from the company. Businesses without a defined response strategy may not think they have the time or resources to react, so the problem falls below other priorities and is ultimately overlooked. Some companies may even ignore a data breach due to fear of backlash or confusion about their responsibility to notify customers.

The Danger of Ignoring Breaches

Of course, ignoring issues doesn’t make them go away. In fact, the dangers of ignoring a data breach are immense. Some of the consequences of a breach are:

Lost business. By giving you their personal information, consumers are implicitly expressing trust in your business. If you betray that trust by failing to take every precaution, it can be extremely hard to win back.

Stolen or lost records. A data breach can result in lost or stolen data, or your employees could be completely blocked from accessing data, as in the case of a ransomware attack. Any of these outcomes means major costs, both in downtime and recovering or replacing any lost data.

Noncompliance and legal action. Failing to meet the data privacy standards in your industry can result in steep noncompliance fines. Customers whose data was exposed in a breach may also pursue legal action against your company, especially if you failed to notify them in a timely manner.

How We Can Help

Data breaches can be scary, but they don’t have to be inevitable. We protect your business with a comprehensive suite of security solutions to block or contain even sophisticated cyberattacks. Plus, we educate you and your employees on ways to minimize the chances of a breach. Contact us today to start defending your data.


microsoft ending support

Are You Ready for Microsoft’s 2020 End of Support?

Microsoft® support might not be something you think about every day. The list of Microsoft products you rely on is likely longer than you realize, but they’re just a part of your work and not something you – hopefully – spend much time worrying about.

In fact, it has probably been a while since you purchased those Office and Windows solutions, and you might not have realized that the established support lifecycle for Microsoft software has been steadily making the switch to an as-a-service model.

And now you’re hearing that 2020 is bringing with it an End of Support for a long list of Microsoft products and solutions. Maybe you’ve even been ignoring some consistent nagging from Microsoft about it. As much as you might like to, these changes aren’t something you – or your business – can afford to ignore. Let’s take a look at what 2020’s End of Support will mean for anyone in your company who is using a Microsoft solution on the list.

  • No More Support: You’ve probably gathered this from “End of Support,” but what this means for you is that calling the Microsoft help desk after the 2020 cutoff date won’t yield the results you might hope. You’ll be told these solutions are no longer supported and sent on your way.
  • Security Risks: Considering just keeping those outdated solutions running? Be aware that it’s more than just the help desk you’ll be losing out on. As Microsoft support ends, so will the regular patching, upgrades and compliance assistance you get when Microsoft rolls out fixes.
  • Buggy User Experiences: Offices that continue running these outdated solutions can expect to see ongoing issues with the user experience as patches and updates are no longer applied, which will lead to a seriously frustrating workday for your team.

What do you need to do to avoid the headaches? To state a complex problem simply, make sure your office is ready to update to newer versions of these Microsoft solutions prior to their End-of-Support date, and have a dedicated resource who can track current and future lifecycle dates to make sure you aren’t caught off-guard.

Running a business means you’re conservative about upgrades, and the old model of extended lifecycles has let you maintain that conservative approach. But change is coming, and your business shouldn’t have to suffer for it.

How We Can Help

Sound daunting? It can be, but the Microsoft 2020 End of Support doesn’t have to mean a crisis for your business. Whether you need to update your software, keep your operating systems on schedule or make sure your patching and security are proactively handled, we can help. Contact us today to talk through what we can do to support your business.

 

 


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.


disaster recovery services

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

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.


IT support

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.