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.  


cybersecurity

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.


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.


How Compliant is Your Business? 4 Questions You Need to Ask

No matter which industry you serve, odds are your business needs to comply with some kind of regulatory standards. As companies continue integrating technology into their business operations, more legislation will be created to dictate how companies manage the personal and financial data of its users and customers. 

 

Why Compliance is Important

Not being in compliance with industry regulations results in consequences for your business. Companies and high-level executives may be fined thousands or millions of dollars and face prison time, depending on the severity of the violation. 

 

How These Policies Affect Your Business

Below are some examples of industry regulations which may affect your business. Not every market will be affected by all of these regulations, but it’s critical to know which ones apply to you. Here are four compliance questions to ask yourself:

 

  1. Do You Have European Customers? 

In May 2018, a set of guidelines for how personal information from individuals living in the European Union is collected and processed went into effect. This became known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This regulation not only affects websites based in the EU, but applies to any website that offers services to EU residents.

 

Under these rules, visitors must be alerted that your website will be collecting their data and give them the option to consent or “opt-in” – allowing their data to be collected. 

 

  1. Does Your Website Allow Credit Card Payments?

If your website has the functionality to conduct credit card transactions, you need to be in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). The PCI DSS is the compliance regulation that requires all companies that accept, transmit, process or store credit card holder data during a transaction to maintain a secure digital environment.

Each major credit card company has its own set of levels and requirements based on the number of credit card transactions a business accepts annually. For example, a Level Four merchant with Visa is a business processing less than 20,000 Visa transactions a year. This level requires companies to annually complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), submit an Attestation of Compliance (AOC) Form and conduct a quarterly network scan by an Approved Scan Vendor (ASV) when needed. 

  1. Do You Handle Health Care Records? 

Patient confidentiality is one of the pillars of the health care industry — hence why there are so many compliance regulations to remember. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets compliance standards for companies that handle protected health information (PHI). 

Anyone that has access to patient records, provides or supports treatment, collects payments, or operates within the health care space must follow HIPAA compliance to keep personal patient data safe. 

  1. Does Your Company Store Financial Records?

Are your company’s financial records up to date? To stop companies from reporting false or inaccurate financial information, the U.S. government passed legislation known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) in 2002. This regulation protects shareholders and the general public from accounting errors and corrupt financial business practices by public companies.

This regulation affects how financial and IT departments maintain, store and archive their corporate records. It also sets dates for how long companies need to archive this data.

How to Simplify Compliance 

If you’re a small or medium-sized business, you may not have the manpower to focus on maintaining data compliance and meeting industry regulations. That’s where we come in. We conduct audits and assessments to see where your company stands with industry regulations. Then we create and maintain policies and procedures that will keep your company compliant in the future. 

Don’t tackle this complex topic alone — contact us today to jumpstart your compliance efforts.


3 Ways to Improve Project Management from Our PM Expert

Whether you use a project management (PM) software that doesn’t quite fit the needs of your company or you’re winging it without a solution, project management is a crucial piece to your business that can’t be overlooked. That’s why we’ve asked our project management expert to answer the most common PM questions, give us more insight into the importance of a reliable project management software, and teach us how we can improve our existing solutions.

What is project management software and how will it impact my business?

Project management software is a comprehensive solution designed to give your team more visibility, control and access to your business projects. You’re able to track time, organize tasks and projects, and identify gaps that are impacting your timeline and budget.

A study by Hive found that 77 percent of high-performing projects use PM software. By adopting a project management software or finding a solution that fits your business needs, you’ll make a stronger impact on the success of your projects. You’ll be able to quickly identify gaps and roadblocks in your processes, easily reassign tasks to alleviate hold-ups and – for some software solutions – track the time spent on a project within your task so that you can properly bill for the hours worked. This helps your business work seamlessly and effectively.

How do I find the right PM software solution for my business?

There are a lot of tools in the market for project management. From the free programs with limited features to the per-user options that give you unlimited access, finding the right project management software for your business requires more than throwing darts at a board.

First, you need to analyze your needs. If you’ve never implemented a PM software before, you’re starting with a blank slate. If you already have a solution that isn’t quite fitting your needs, where has your previous software failed? Identify what you need and what your goals for this solution are, then do extensive research finding a tool that accommodates those needs. A managed services partner can be your biggest asset when it comes to leveraging vendor relationships and identifying the most secure software option for your business.

How do I know if my project management software is working for my business?

Whether this is a question you’re asking before or after adopting a software program, the answer is still the same – is your PM solution helping you meet your goals? If your team struggles to stay on track and adhere to a strict budget, is your software doing that? No two software solutions are the same, and how you use your PM solution greatly impacts the answer to this question.

Some solutions don’t include time tracking. While there are other applications that you can use for this purpose, if your main goal is to have a solution that helps you send out appropriate billing, then you would be disappointed with a software solution that doesn’t offer time tracking capabilities.

Improving your existing software or finding a project management software on your own can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. To get help in finding the right solution for your business and for more advice on how you can improve your existing software, contact us today.


Checklist: Do You Need a Virtual CIO?

Amid your daily responsibilities, are you making time to strengthen your cybersecurity, create a disaster recovery strategy and plan other value-added IT initiatives? Like most small and medium-sized companies, you probably don’t have enough time in the day to devote to protecting and advancing your business technology. A virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) serves as an executive-level member of your team, helping you maintain a competitive advantage by successfully leveraging the right technology for your business.

Do you need a vCIO? Answer these questions to find out:

 

Do you know where your data is stored and how to access it in case of a disaster?

Your primary systems can fail without warning when you face a natural disaster, malicious cyberattack, power outage or employee error. Do you have a process in place to quickly retrieve your mission-critical data? Do you know how long your business can be down before it dramatically impacts your bottom line? Knowing the answers to these questions is imperative – The US Bureau of Labor found 93 percent of companies without a disaster recovery plan are out of business within one year of suffering a major data disaster.

 

Do your employees know how to safely use their mobile devices for work?

With the rise of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, organizations are using mobile devices more than ever. Mobile devices can improve your team’s flexibility and productivity – in fact, a study by Cisco found that companies with BYOD processes save an average of $350 per year, per user. However, they also open your business up to additional cyberthreats. Companies that are serious about implementing BYOD must deploy end-to-end security software and institute company-wide training to minimize incidents.

 

Do you have a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy in place?

When enterprise companies like Macy’s, Apple and Facebook get hacked, you hear about it on the news – but you probably don’t hear about the thousands of small and medium-sized businesses that suffer cyberattacks each year. The worst part is that, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 83 percent of small businesses have no formal cybersecurity plan and 69 percent have no plan at all. This isn’t a job that can be left to a single person, and even if you have an internal IT team, these tasks will take up the majority of their time.

 

Are you aware of new technology that could improve your operations?

Technology is constantly evolving and providing new opportunities for businesses, but the latest technology isn’t always the greatest and what works for others might not work for you. If you’re not entirely confident that a new solution or product will actually provide a strong ROI, you could be wasting thousands of dollars. Most business owners don’t have time to thoroughly research every new product or determine whether it will be a good long-term fit for their company, so they make the wrong investments or opt not to invest at all.

 

If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, you need the assistance of a virtual CIO. For a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house CIO, you get access to a team of IT experts who help you develop sound business continuity, BYOD and cybersecurity policies – all while keeping your technology costs down and leveraging new technology to keep you competitive. To learn what a vCIO can do for you, contact us now.


4 Must-Have Tools for Your Team

You’re always searching for the latest and greatest tools to improve your team’s collaboration and productivity, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that the solutions you wanted to implement would actually do what you need them to? Often, applications are implemented as an end-all-be-all solution, but they don’t integrate with existing apps or cost more over time than your budget can accommodate.

What could the right tool mean for your business? A study by the McKinsey Institute found that teams improved productivity up to 25 percent through increased collaboration. That’s why finding the right tool for your specific needs is critical to improving the efficiency of your business. To get started, check out these four must-have tools and applications:

 

Cisco Webex

With crystal-clear video quality, Webex keeps your clients and team connected. Call in to a meeting over an Internet connection from anywhere in the world and discuss projects and tasks, share documents and presentations, and eliminate conversation barriers. Cisco protects your video conversation with data encryption and a multi-layered security solution to keep your connection safe.

 

Slack

Slack is a messenger application that offers nearly instantaneous responses from peers and clients. With an unlimited number of channels to share tasks, get feedback from clients and adjust expectations for project deliveries, Slack keeps your entire team on the same page. Include plugins like Jira or Dropbox and seamlessly send documents using a secured channel.

 

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint have played a critical role in the way businesses perform – now, Office 365 provides the same powerful software in a digital format. Access and edit your documents from anywhere with an Internet connection. Collaborate with your team and make changes to the same file in nearly real-time to streamline your deliverables while eliminating the risk of losing progress.

 

Yammer

Similar to Facebook, Yammer provides an internal communication platform for professionals. Set up groups and post status updates to the group’s news feed, tagging all necessary parties. Whether your client needs to share files and photos with your entire team, or you’re looking to update your peers on the status of a project, Yammer gives your team full visibility on what’s happening and when.

 

Cloud-based collaboration tools provide the applications you need to improve productivity and efficiency without the costly hardware and software deployments. For more information or to get help implementing the right cloud-based solution for your business, contact us today.