Every business needs to have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place, or else risk losing everything in the event of an unexpected crisis. [Read more…]
Every business needs to have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place, or else risk losing everything in the event of an unexpected crisis. [Read more…]
Business communications have completely evolved over the last decade or so. Landlines are now becoming obsolete and communicating has gone beyond just phone and email. [Read more…]
Technology is the lifeblood of business today, and you likely have a lot of it. But you may have accumulated software and hardware as you grew. Now, you have a hodgepodge of technologies never designed to work together. Consolidation can help.
Large corporations can afford an in-house IT team to keep track of all the hardware and software, but small- to medium-sized businesses often need help. Managing computers and mobile devices, and telephony print and fax systems can be overwhelming. Then, there’s all the software you need to secure, not to mention setting up data recovery in case of a disaster or emergency.
Consolidating your technology offers several benefits to companies of all sizes. A managed service provider can help.
#1 Increased Efficiency
If there’s a problem with your printers, phones, or Internet connection, you call your provider. When many vendors offer each of these services, you make several calls, which means waiting on the phone with a printer tech, phone company, or internet service provider (ISP).
When you connect with customer support, they can address only issues in one area of concern. The ISP isn’t going to know anything about your phone service, and the phone company knows zilch about printers. This disjointedness can waste a lot of time.
With an MSP, you need to make one call only. The support person will know and understand your entire system. They offer input based on how different technology interacts.
#2 Cost Savings
Lacking a holistic view of your technology and its interactions, you can end up wasting money. You might invest in a new feature for voice over IP, duplicating a capability you already have online.
Consolidating your technology with a single provider can also streamline costs. The first thing an MSP will do is to map out how your technology works together. Armed with an understanding of business needs and goals, they’ll make recommendations. You may be able to cut back on services in one area with a simple upgrade in another. Perhaps you’re paying for software licenses you no longer need. Plus, the MSP identifies opportunities for cost savings gained from bundling services.
The MSP typically charges a monthly, consolidated fee. Instead of managing several bills for every technology, you pay a single, consistent fee, which also makes budgeting much easier.
#3 Business Agility
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that business needs to be nimble. Yet your ability to react can be slower working with many different vendors. Simplifying your processes can streamline your response times.
An MSP will take a proactive approach to oversee your technology needs. They want you to avoid disruptions in the first place. Partner with an MSP to keep technology current, security up to date, and systems upgraded. This frees up what IT staff you have on-site to do more business- and revenue-generating work.
#4 Supportive Partner
Individual vendors focus on selling you their particular services or systems. The overall interplay of your technology isn’t their primary concern. Yet ensuring all your technology interacts effectively and efficiently is what the MSP does best.
Working with an MSP you gain a business partner that cares about your success. The MSP’s job is to determine whether:
An MSP offers a single point of contact. That contact will understand your entire setup and how it works together. The MSP will help you make better purchasing decisions. Plus, as a true business partner, an MSP supports your agility and success. Find out more about what we can do for you today!
Cyberattacks and data breaches happen worldwide, and no one is immune. Your business needs to protect its networks and systems, and secure sensitive data. But how much do you know about the types of cybercriminal out there? This roundup discusses the biggest threats and what they’re after.
Online crime is a lucrative industry. Cybergangs go online to offer “crime as a service.” Their targets vary and can be spread out globally. In 2019, one international crime gang stole $100 million from more than 40,000 victims. Culprits were found in the US, Bulgaria, Germany, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Victims included small businesses, law firms, international corporations, and nonprofits.
Many of these bad guys may have started out in the digital environment, but well-established street gangs are turning their attention to cybercrime too.
Typically well-funded and organized, cybergangs work long-term to mount large-scale attacks. They target banks, law firms, healthcare networks, and other big businesses.
Still, small businesses can be targeted by cybercrime gangs. You could be the first domino to compromise a larger, more lucrative target in your supply chain.
One nation pays an individual or group to target another country. On the digital battlefield this could mean:
Australia recently announced a “sophisticated state-based cyberattack” on political and private-sector organizations.
State actors also used cyber techniques to damage Iran’s nuclear program. They left an infected thumb drive in the parking lot. A well-meaning staffer found the USB and plugged it into the facility computers. The virus caused Iran’s fast-spinning centrifuges to go into overdrive.
These attackers are often motivated by nationalism, but this doesn’t mean businesses are safe. A politically motivated cyber actor might target a hotel hosting an international convention or gain access to a government vendor to send false communications.
Also known as disorganized crime, this is the online equivalent of a petty thief. Many make their income stealing money from low-hanging targets.
Some Lone Wolves are only interested in proof-of-concept: hacking into businesses and governments to see if it’s possible, without doing any damage once they are inside.
Now that you better understand why your business might be targeted, it’s time to take the necessary steps. We can help solidify your cybersecurity stance. Partner with a managed service provider. Our experts can set up email security, remote access management, anti-malware scanning, and more. Contact us today at 312-600-8357!
Today, businesses are embracing digital technology to enable productivity anywhere, at any time. Yet ensuring accountability is a stumbling block to widespread acceptance of remote work.
Recently, COVID-19 has forced many businesses to transition quickly to working from home. Even bosses concerned about lack of control over absent employees had to make the change. Former opponents to remote work may have discovered the benefits of this approach. Employees certainly may have enjoyed the opportunity and want to keep doing it.
The good news is that technology and products are even better today for managing remote teams.
Top Tools for Remote Work Accountability
Overall, employers need to trust their people. This is true whether they’re working on-site or from home. Still, for some supervisors, trust is easier with remote monitoring abilities.
Joint calendars are a common starting point. Microsoft 365, Google’s G Suite, and other tools allow staff to share calendars. People can still schedule personal appointments and keep those private, but the joint professional calendar lets everyone on a team stay in the know. Managers can go online to track sales meetings, client presentations, or team sessions.
Project management software is another way to see what co-workers are doing. Teamwork, Basecamp, and Trello offer a central location to see a project come together. Employees can access secure software from any location to share files and interact. Individuals can set deadlines and create tasks to improve accountability and responsibility-sharing.
Business-based internal messaging software also keeps everyone on the same page. These communication tools typically provide one-on-one messaging and group chat. It’s easy to send a quick note asking someone for a status update, or just check-in. Some tools also allow individual and team audio calls as well as video conferencing. Top contenders are Slack, WhatsApp, Skype for Business, or the Facebook and Google Hangout work chat apps.
Go big enabling collaboration among employees with cloud-based office software. Microsoft 365 and G Suite enable many users to go online and work on the same things at the same time. This solution also lets managers easily view shared documents and verify progress. It’s even possible to invite clients or other external partners to view folders. For security reasons, you may want to limit their access to “view only.”
Securing Remote Work
Security is another point of friction for businesses allowing remote work, but the technology is keeping pace there also. Even so, you’ll want to educate employees about cybersecurity best practices. Requiring antivirus and malware upgrades, limiting external sharing and enabling multifactor access will help make remote work viable, reliable, safe, and secure.
Need help installing or implementing remote work tools? A managed service provider can help. Or, our IT experts can put in place the administrative controls you need to help secure work from home. Let us provide the IT help you need. Contact us today at 312-600-8357!
Your business has the OK to go ahead and get back to work on-site. You want to return to your office, but you don’t want to risk people’s health by doing so. After all, some say it’s too soon to go back. Plus, others predict a second wave of COVID-19 is likely. These suggestions can help you return to work while prioritizing safety.
Not everyone will welcome the call back to the corporate environment. Some employees may still be in a population vulnerable to the virus. They may want to take leave instead of returning to the work environment. Others may simply not show up.
Have your HR team send out a written notice informing employees of the timeline for returning to the office. Educate them about precautions you’re taking to provide a safe work environment. Ask for a written response of people’s intentions. Then, IT can start establishing procedures for getting everyone back to work.
You may have had great success with remote working during the quarantine. This could position you to allow workers to stay home if they are at risk or oppose the idea of returning “too soon.”
For those coming back, support social distancing by phasing in people’s return. Your business could also use a hybrid IT solution to allow people to come in just three days a week, and they could continue to work two days at home. This allows staggered re-entry and reduces the number of people on-site at the same time.
You may be thinking you already have all the tech you need to go back to the office. C’mon, you were already working from there before this whole thing started. Plus, now you have all the new tools you added to support remote-employee productivity.
Still, you may not have invested in a long-term remote-work solution that will now support a hybrid model. Or perhaps the on-site tech you’ve long relied on isn’t meant to handle remote working for the long haul.
To achieve a flexible hybrid model, go with cloud solutions, or expand on-site IT. Do you need to add infrastructure to handle remote employees using virtual private networks (VPNs)? Both on-site staff and off-site workers might need to securely access systems at the same time.
Adopting cloud collaboration software allows co-workers to access network resources simultaneously, regardless of location. Or with virtual desktops, employees can access the same files and business applications on their work machines or on a personal device.
Bringing people back to the office, you’ll want to rethink the physical setup. Support social distancing by spreading employees’ seating arrangements out more. This will require moving around computer hardware, too.
If you were previously sharing technology, you’ll also need to add more desktops. Or you might invest instead in more laptops or portable devices. This could mean securing more software, too.
Added IT Precautions
Finally, cybercriminals are opportunistic. They’re already exploiting people with malware promising vaccines or cheap masks. These bad actors are also looking to exploit the tech demands on businesses. Many businesses adapted to a new way of doing things: they moved files to the cloud, and they allowed employee access from personal devices, but they did so quickly.
Explore any new vulnerabilities from your transitions. This is a good time to double-check permissions. Ensure that accountant Jane can access staff wage data but that receptionist Jenny can’t. Also, confirm that all virus protection and security patches are current.
Active planning is the answer to a smooth return to work. While offering protective coverings and ramping up cleaning in the office is important, make sure that you don’t overlook your technology needs.
Our IT experts can help you adapt nimbly. Contact us today at 312-600-8357 or email@example.com!
Working from home is a big change in an already tumultuous time. Yet there’s a bright side. The quarantine could be your opportunity to reinvent how you work â€” for the better. Migrating to Microsoft Office 365 has benefits now. Plus, when you’re back to business as usual.
Office 365 is the cloud-based version of Microsoft Office. With a subscription, you get both the desktop and online versions of apps you already know. This includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer, and more.
Office 365 enables collaboration in many ways, on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. For example:
Remote Work with Teams
Microsoft teams at its core is a chat program. But it does so much more. On all your devices, both iOS and Android, Teams allows “channels”. You can have company-wide or small task group channels. Or use a separate channel to instant messaging to a single person.
You can also invite clients or customers into channels to join the discussion. Additionally, you can set up security features that filter what they can access. You don’t want them to know the ingredients to your secret sauce!
Within Teams channels, users can share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Teams also integrates with other software. The options include Zendesk customer support, Asana project management, or Zoom video conferencing.
Using Teams in Office 365 creates a streamlined platform for remote work.
Remote Work with OneDrive
Working in the office, your users always had access to the business file server. OneDrive is the cloud equivalent. Yet, since it’s online, it’s always accessible. Microsoft’s hosts the file storage to let you access and share work files from all your devices.
Employees can even work offline. Any changes or edits to files automatically upload when you next connect.
Share OneDrive folders or files with external partners as well. Again, you can secure access with limits on who can see what and specifying what actions they can take. You can even set up automatic revoke access after a set time limit.
Office 365 & Business Security
An Office 365 subscription protects from viruses and cybercrime. It also offers ways to recover your files from malicious attacks.
Office 365 apps update with security patches without any effort on your part. Plus, Outlook scans email attachments and checks links for viruses or phishing scams.
OneDrive helps you restore files, so they’re not held captive in a ransomware attack. Office 365 also lets users encrypt email, prevent forwarding, and secure sensitive files.
Office 365 lets your business communicate and collaborate in real-time. Work on any device, anywhere, at any time. Enjoy business agility and flexibility with internal and external users.
Migrating to the cloud isn’t as simple as pressing the “start” button. Still, our tech experts can get you up and running quickly and with ease. Let us help you go online and get back to business as usual, even working remotely. Call us today 312-600-8357.
Working from home is not for everyone – we’ve all heard that said before – but many of us worldwide are now being forced to work from home. It can be challenging, especially when you have to adapt in the midst of all the other uncertainties COVID-19 has brought. These strategies can help you stay focused when working remotely.
Reserve your office space
Set up a temporary home office. Pick a space, if you can, that is away from distractions and has a door that you can close. Try to organize this space so that you feel more as if you’re going into the office. Clear those personal bills and photo albums waiting for assembly from your desk.
Creating a distinct space can help with the mental association that you are going to work. You’ll also find it easier to focus if you dress as you would for work. Shower, and put on makeup if you normally do. Getting out of your pajamas and putting on your “game face” puts you more in work mode.
Stick with your routines
Keeping a similar schedule can help, too. If you go to the office at a certain time every day, that’s when you should show up at your home workstation. If you took breaks at consistent times when on-site, do the same at home. This helps tell your brain it’s business as usual, even when you’re working in the laundry room on a folding card table!
You may not be able to go out and grab a coffee or eat lunch out with colleagues, but you can still go have a cup in the kitchen or order lunch from a local business that’s delivering – help them to stay in business too!
If you used to write emails first thing, do that still. If your team had a weekly conference call Wednesdays at 11, try to keep that, too. You can use voice or video conferencing to stay in touch while remaining at a safe distance.
This is going to mean different things for people. Working from home with children is tough, especially as you’re now supposed to be supervising their online learning. Giving them a dedicated space for schoolwork can help to keep them motivated and away from you. You might tell younger children to expect your attention at breaks (e.g. “I’ll play three rounds of Candyland when the big hand reaches 12 and the little hand reaches 3”).
The news and social media are other traps for those working from home. No one is watching over your shoulder, and it’s easy to think, “I’ll just check â€¦” That’s how you lose 30 minutes of productivity watching pandas wrestle on a zoo-cam.
Still struggling? You could consider setting up one operating system account for work and another for personal use creating different browser profiles. And if you’re still getting distracted, you could install a browser plug-in that forces you to stay on track.
Setting deadlines can help you stay motivated. The longer you have to get something done, the slower you’ll work – it’s inevitable. So, maintain some pressure by setting tight, but realistic targets.
Share your deadlines with other colleagues using an online task management tool. This can help with accountability.
This is a stressful time, and you’re being asked to deal with many changes. So, you need to be patient. Working in sprints could help your motivation and attention span. You might set a timer and focus completely on work until the bell chimes. One theory is that the most productive people take a 17-minute break every 52 minutes, but you’ll want to see what works for you.
Another approach is to say you’ll do 30 minutes of good work on that thing you’re avoiding. Worst case: you get only 30 minutes of it done. At least you’re further ahead. But you might find it only takes 30 minutes to complete or that you’re so close to finishing that you keep going and get the job done.
Have the right tech
Make sure you have the right tools to do your job. Working from home is challenging enough, so make it easier with reliable internet and Wi-Fi connections, and access to the required files.
Need help with working from home? We can’t actually be there to cheer you on and keep you motivated, but our tech experts can get you set up with the most efficient home office solutions. Contact us at 312-600-8357 today!
You can have top-notch security in place but there is still one danger: social engineering. It’s the old kid on the block, but most of us have never heard of it. Perhaps the more familiar term is ‘con’: the art of manipulating people to take certain actions or divulge private information. Social engineers are a special type of hacker who skip the hassle of writing code and go straight for the weakest link in your security defenses – your employees. A phone call, a cheap disguise or casual email may be all it takes to gain access, despite having solid tech protections in place.
Here are just a few examples of how social engineers work:
Email: Pretending to be a co-worker or customer who ‘just quickly’ needs a certain piece of information. It could be a shipping address, login, contact or personal detail that they pretend they already know, but simply don’t have in front of them. The email may even tell you where to get the data from. The hacker may also create a sense of urgency or indicate fear that they’ll get in trouble without this information. Your employee is naturally inclined to help and quickly sends a reply.
Phone: Posing as IT support, government official or customer, the hacker quickly manipulates your employee into changing a password or giving out information. These attacks are harder to identify and the hacker can be very persuasive, even using background sound effects like a crying baby or call-center noise to trigger empathy or trust.
In-person: A delivery man uniform gets past most people without question, as does a repairman. The social engineer can quickly then move into sensitive areas of your business. Once inside, they essentially become invisible, free to install network listening devices, read a Post-it note with a password on it, or tamper with your business in other ways.
It’s impossible to predict when and where (or how) a social engineer will strike. The above attacks aren’t particularly sophisticated, but they are extremely effective. Your staff has been trained to be helpful, but this can also be a weakness. So what can you do to protect your business? First, recognize that not all of your employees have the same level of interaction with people, the front desk clerk taking calls all day would be at higher risk than the factory worker, for example. We recommend cyber-security training for each level of risk identified, focusing on responding to the types of scenarios they might find themselves in. Social engineering is too dangerous to take lightly, and far too common for comfort.
Talk to us about your cybersecurity options today. Call us at 312-600-8357
With the world grappling with a health pandemic, scams are shocking. Regrettably, bad actors are everywhere, always looking for opportunities, and they’re seeing one in the coronavirus. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.
The last thing you want to read right now is that there’s another threat out there – sorry, but it’s true. Cybercriminals take advantage of fear. They take timely concerns and use them to target victims. Using the anxiety and upheaval around coronavirus is their mission.
So far, several coronavirus-related attempts to cyberscam people have been reported. There are examples of:
What to Watch Out For
Another concern is the number of bogus websites registered with names relating to COVID-19. The site can look legit but is set up to steal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.
You may get an email promising the attached information offers coronavirus safety measures, or information shared by the World Health Organization (WHO) if you click on the link, or a similar email pretending to be from a reputable news source, such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
In another example, an email impersonating a healthcare company’s IT team asked people to register for a seminar “about this deadly virus.” Anyone who didn’t question why IT was organizing the meeting clicked to register. By filling out the form, they gave their details to hackers.
What to Do
Be cautious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, but don’t let that stop you from taking cyber precautions. You should still:
Global health organizations generally do not send out emails with advice. Instead, navigate directly to that reputable health institution for real news.
If you’re still not sure about the validity of the communication, check it out. Do so by calling or using another medium to get in touch with the “source” of the received message.
While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, you can put anti-virus protection on your computer. Also, make sure that you’ve applied all available security updates to keep your software safe.
We hope you’ll take care and stay healthy both physically and online in these tough times.
Need help installing security software and keeping your technology safe? Our cybersecurity experts can give your home a tech immunization. Contact us today at 312-600-8357!