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Got a New Device? Here’s the Essential Tech Prep You Can’t Afford to Skip

The sellers like to say it’s ready to use straight from the box – and it is – except not quite the way you need it to work. They’ll all turn on, look for wifi, and sure, you can type…but rather like when you buy a new fridge, simply turning it on isn’t enough – it’s still empty and you’re still hungry.  A few minutes now to prep your new device will save you time, stress, and quite possibly money.

 

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Today, we’re talking vital tech prep for new devices:

Security Updates and Fixes

From the factory to your hands, that device has been in the box for at least a month. In the world of security, that’s an eternity. During that time on the shelf, new viruses have come out and new software weaknesses have been discovered. Fortunately, new updates to combat these problems were also created, they just haven’t been downloaded to your device yet. We can make sure your essential software is up-to-date and set to stay that way. That way, you know your device is safe to go online.

Data Transfer From Old to New

Some people want to transfer everything from one device to another, others like to have a fresh start and keep the old device as a backup. We can either transfer your data entirely or just the things you use. For computers, we can even turn your old hard drive into an external drive that you can plug into your new computer and grab files as required.

Setting up Hardware

If your new device is a computer, you’ll need to hook it up to extra tech like a printer or webcam. These tasks that should be plug-and-play can sometimes send you loopy, especially when you’ve got a plug mismatch or incompatible drivers. We can help get you set up, with everything tested and working.

Setting up Email and Software

This is one people commonly forget and then struggle with. Email clients in particular, need special configuration to connect properly. Quite often, we find people are stuck only able to receive, with overflowing unsent mail that won’t go anywhere! We’ll get all your personal software and connections up and going.

Setting up the Network

While tapping in a wifi password is easy enough, it doesn’t mean your browsing is secure, or even as fast as it could possibly be. We can quickly determine which connectivity method will be best for your device and your needs, and hook you up with fast, robust security measures.

Lockdown Privacy & Permissions

Whether you have children and are looking to provide a safe online experience, files you’d prefer to keep private, or simply want to set up ‘profiles’ for each user to have their own login, we can quickly get your new device configured to meet your needs.

 

Most Businesses Won’t Survive a Disaster. Could Yours?

With the crazy weather we’re seeing, natural disasters on the rise and cyber terrorism echoing for years, it’s not a case of ‘if’ a disaster will strike your business, but ‘when’. Surprisingly, it’s not the scope and scale of the event that influences how deeply your business is impacted, it’s your business continuity plan.

Most Businesses Won't Survive a Distaster. Could Yours?

Put simply, this is the all-important set of precautions and pre-planned responses to an event, laid out in bullet-proof detail and implemented with one driving focus: keeping your business running with little or no downtime.  Think about what would happen if your business was hit by a natural disaster tomorrow. Would it survive? How much downtime would it take to push you into dangerous territory?

According to an IBM study of all the companies that had a major loss of data, 43% never reopen, 51% close within two years and just 6% will survive long-term. For a fraction of those survivors, business even continued as usual thanks to their ‘failsafe’ business continuity plan. It’s more than disaster recovery, it’s full preparedness that bypasses the need for 2+ weeks of downtime, financial ruin, wasted salaries and reputation loss – but it does require a higher level of planning…in advance.

Recommendations to Put You in the Surviving 6%

Prioritize: You’ll need to plan exactly what you’ll recover first and know who’s in charge of making it happen. It goes beyond jotting down a checklist of things to do, it’s taking an analytical, process-based approach to recovery for each unique business perspective. But it’s also realistic: there’s no point dedicating precious time to reviving the email system if your customer data is leaking onto the internet, even if email did rank as your top communication priority!

Backup: Of course, the most critical part of your business continuity is having full backups in three places. Why three? One copy locally which you use each day, a backup on another (disconnected) device in the same location, and one in the cloud. That local backup is your life-saver for system crashes, cyber-attacks and the like; the cloud backup comes into play when your business has taken a major physical hit, perhaps from fire or flood. Some businesses can run entirely location-independent when using cloud systems like Office365, which can be enough to put them in that 6% of disaster survivors.

Test: Make sure all employees know what the plan is if something goes wrong, and their specific roles in these scenarios. You can test, prepare and rehearse your continuity plan under simulated disaster conditions, which will uncover new obstacles, priorities and additional threats.

As your IT environment becomes more complex, carrying more responsibility and risk, so does the importance of a robust business continuity plan. The best BC plans look beyond disaster recovery, taking into account scalability of your system and scope of your individual business, to create strong battle lines that will keep your business operational, both now and for the long term.

Give us a call at 203-744-9760 to create a custom business continuity plan for your business.

3 Tech Tips to Make You a Better Business Owner

There’s no doubt about it, business can be tough! You’re juggling employees, customers, suppliers, stakeholders…the list is endless. You’re also operating in a competitive, high-tech economy that keeps trying to speed ahead without you. It’s no wonder you’re craving ways to get ahead of the competition, cut costs, boost productivity and dreaming of a vacation. Here are 3 tech tips that will make your life easier – and maybe get you closer to that ‘World’s Best Boss’ mug.

3 Tech Tips to Make You A Better Business Owner

Consider a commuting policy
With better technology and faster internet connections, remote working isn’t just a possibility now, it’s an expectation. Clearly, not for every job (virtual burgers anyone?), but there are a lot of computer tasks in your business that could be done from home. Even if you offer a split week with 1-2 days at home and the remainder in the office, this can be a huge boost to your productivity.

From your perspective, remote employees can be more efficient without the distractions of yet another birthday sing-along, they have fewer absences and stay in the job longer. From the employee perspective, they don’t need to waste time commuting, get their work done faster, and generally feel happier and healthier.

Don’t cheap out on technology
Unsurprisingly, a tech newsletter is advising you to invest in tech, but hear us out. Technology is rapidly becoming the backbone of most businesses, yet we still see people who try and get by with the bare minimum investment and maintenance. And by ‘see people’, we mean they’re our most frequent repair and data recovery clients.

When you take shortcuts with your tech you’ll always get higher failure rates, more downtime, and employees who can’t do their job even though you’re still paying them by the hour. When businesses keep old tech longer than they should, thinking of the immediate cost saving, they usually end up paying more in the long term.

Embrace the cloud
Many of your existing software packages have a cloud version, which would allow multiple people to access it at once and give added backup or synchronization benefits. Your remote workers, mobile staff, accountant or CFO can all view the same reports without anyone having the trouble of sending out separate copies.

Cloud technology is also perfect for notetaking and collaboration using software like Evernote or OneDrive. You and your employees can think of ideas while out and about, make a few notes on a mobile device, and have it all synced perfectly to your desktop when you need it. You can even scan in paperwork and have your entire filing cabinet in your pocket.

Your business tech can unlock multiple possibilities that will make your days run smoother, more profitable and put you miles ahead of the competition. Ready?

Give us a call at 203-744-9760 to make your tech work harder for you.

6 Simple Tips to Protect Your Customer Data

As cyber-attacks continue to make headlines, hackers are exposing or selling customer data files in record numbers. But just like with any threat, there are actions you can take to minimize risk and ensure your business retains a positive reputation among customers.

1. Stop using the same password on repeat. Set a mandate for all staff that passwords must be unique for each user and for your workplace. That means it can’t be remotely like the one on their home PC, tablet or online banking. Passwords are hacked more than ever, so when you’re prompted for a password change, dig deep and really think about what goes into a hacker-proof password. If remembering them is a problem, consider one of the latest password management tools.

2. Go on a shredding spree. How much sensitive data is being dumped into the recycling bin? Valuable customer data is often taken from the bins of small businesses and quickly sold or published. It’s not just good practice to shred sensitive documents, it’s the law.  Take 5 seconds to run documents through the shredder or book in the services of a secure shredding company.

3. Ditch the accounting spreadsheets. Still using an Excel doc for all your number-crunching? Besides making your accountant’s job harder (and more expensive), you’re opening your business to a massive range of vulnerabilities. Even with password-protection, spreadsheets aren’t designed to safeguard your financials or those of your clients. Upgrade to a proper accounting solution with built-in customer data protections and security guarantees.

4. Train staff explicitly. You can’t rely on common sense because what you think is a given might be news to someone else. It can be extremely beneficial to hold special data-safety training sessions once or twice a year as a reminder, as well as take the time to induct new staff into the way things are done.

5. Limit access to data. Just like the bank manager who guards the keys to the vault, you can limit who accesses your data. Revoke employee access as soon as they leave your business for good, and set rules around who can access what – and when. Do they need access to sensitive information while working from home? Should they be able to change the files, or only view them?

6. Keep your software updated. Possibly the most preventable hack, having outdated software can be an open invitation for cyber-criminals. They look for known weaknesses in business software and waltz right in. While the nagging pop-ups and reminders to update can feel like a selling ploy, they’re actually helping your business to stay in the safe zone. Updated software gives you protection against new viruses and hacking techniques, plus closes off those nasty weaknesses.

If you would like to make sure your business is secure from data breaches, give us a call at 203-744-9760.

When is Your Business Ready to Move to the Cloud?

By now you know that the cloud isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, cloud computing has become a natural step in business growth, thanks to the numerous (and continually growing) benefits. More and more applications are coming out in web-based form and staff are exceptionally comfortable with this type of change. So when is the right time to move your business computing to the cloud?

Many businesses are facing this question now that cloud computing has become a mainstream norm. After all, you’ll be able to roll out new apps in days, not weeks, and nobody ever says ‘no thanks’ to increased security and efficiency.  Like any strategic business decision though, timing is everything.  Here’s how to assess your need before you make the switch:

1. Age of servers and workstations
If your workstations and servers are reaching their end of life and a large capital investment is coming up, you’ll be able to minimize the expense by moving to the cloud. You may even be able to skip certain upgrades completely. Your staff will still need devices to access the cloud data, but you’ll have a lot more flexibility in your choice and they won’t need to be as powerful. This can be a huge cost saving made in just moments.

2. Need for remote and mobile access
Many businesses are growing while on the move, with a mobile workforce needing to access files from anywhere at any time. This could range from moving around the one location, between offices or even working from home. Forget frustrating connections and lost productivity, cloud computing allows staff to work securely and efficiently from any location with internet access.

3. Current support setup
If your business currently outsources all your network management, you’re perfectly suited for the move to cloud computing. Network maintenance and monitoring becomes a non-issue, handled 24/7 as part of your cloud service. Network efficiency just keeps rising too, as your cloud provider is always improving their systems. You’ll find problems are fixed before you knew they existed, and server downtime becomes a thing of the past.

4. Need for predictable IT costs
If it feels like IT costs can spiral out of control at times, challenging your budget and patience, cloud computing will seem like a dream come true. When you make this shift, you’re moving from a capital expense to an operational one – server and system replacements are no longer your concern. You’ll be able to budget for IT costs in advance, knowing no blowouts are hiding around the corner. Monthly costs are known and (usually) capped based on what you use, leaving your cash flow much relieved.

Today’s cloud computing is more advanced, secure and priced more competitively than ever before.  At its core, cloud computing is purely about doing things better, and it can have a massive impact on your profits, productivity and even staff satisfaction rates. If your business requires a robust, always available infrastructure with easy monthly costs, it’s time to take a serious look at your cloud computing options.

We offer a variety of cloud services to help your business. Give us a call at  203-744-9760 to discuss how we can improve your business IT.

Boost Your Email Impact With These Smart Strategies

Most small businesses rely on email as their preferred form of communication. Either internally or externally to clients, customers and suppliers, email is the go-to format we’d be lost without. Our love affair with it is no surprise – it’s quick, simple and provides a paper trail. But its convenience doesn’t always mean relaxed. In fact, poor email communication can hurt your reputation and cost you customers. Here’s how to be smart with your business email:

Manage your inbox: Your inbox is only for items you still need to access. Once you’re finished with an email, you should delete it or archive it. If you were to imagine your inbox as physical letters, you’d never let it grow to a 6-foot high stack of chaos. Instead, you’d either throw them out or do the filing. It’s not hard to identify which ones to keep for reference, so create inbox folders to sort them accordingly. As emails arrive and are actioned, move them to the relevant folder or the delete bin.

Write professional messages: Stepping across the line from casual to careless is easy if you skip the basic elements of good business writing. Grammar will always be important and the sentence structure of your language hasn’t changed. All email programs include a spell-checker, many of which draw attention to errors immediately, so there’s really no excuse. Typing in all CAPS is seen as yelling, and breaking your text into paragraphs makes your message so much more readable. One last thing before you click send, quickly glance over your email to make sure your tone is appropriate and no mistakes have snuck through.

Embrace the subject line: Many emails are missed because the subject line was empty or meant nothing to the receiver. Writing these attention-grabbing nuggets can be tricky, but if you simply summarize the message, you’ll do fine. Just remember to keep them under 5-8 words so they fit on mobile displays.

Be smart with attachments:  Keep attachments small – under 2MB – as they can clog up the email server. For larger attachments, share the file location as a link using cloud storage.  When you’re sent an attachment you’d like to keep, save the file and then delete the email. And as always, be careful with unexpected attachments, especially from unknown senders. It’s more important than ever to scan all attachments with an antivirus before opening.

Keep your CC/BCC under control: The carbon copy (CC) and blind carbon copy (BCC) let you send the email to additional stakeholders, more as an FYI than anything else. As a rule, use BCC if you’re using an email list or privacy is an issue. But before you add extra people to the email, make sure the email IS relevant to them. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a pointless email chain!

Call us at  203-744-9760 for help with your business email.

When is Your Business Ready to Move to the Cloud?

By now you know that the cloud isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, cloud computing has become a natural step in business growth, thanks to the numerous (and continually growing) benefits. More and more applications are coming out in web-based form and staff are exceptionally comfortable with this type of change. So when is the right time to move your business computing to the cloud?

Many businesses are facing this question now that cloud computing has become a mainstream norm. After all, you’ll be able to roll out new apps in days, not weeks, and nobody ever says ‘no thanks’ to increased security and efficiency.  Like any strategic business decision though, timing is everything.  Here’s how to assess your need before you make the switch:

1. Age of servers and workstations
If your workstations and servers are reaching their end of life and a large capital investment is coming up, you’ll be able to minimize the expense by moving to the cloud. You may even be able to skip certain upgrades completely. Your staff will still need devices to access the cloud data, but you’ll have a lot more flexibility in your choice and they won’t need to be as powerful. This can be a huge cost saving made in just moments.

2. Need for remote and mobile access
Many businesses are growing while on the move, with a mobile workforce needing to access files from anywhere at any time. This could range from moving around the one location, between offices or even working from home. Forget frustrating connections and lost productivity, cloud computing allows staff to work securely and efficiently from any location with internet access.

3. Current support setup
If your business currently outsources all your network management, you’re perfectly suited for the move to cloud computing. Network maintenance and monitoring becomes a non-issue, handled 24/7 as part of your cloud service. Network efficiency just keeps rising too, as your cloud provider is always improving their systems. You’ll find problems are fixed before you knew they existed, and server downtime becomes a thing of the past.

4. Need for predictable IT costs
If it feels like IT costs can spiral out of control at times, challenging your budget and patience, cloud computing will seem like a dream come true. When you make this shift, you’re moving from a capital expense to an operational one – server and system replacements are no longer your concern. You’ll be able to budget for IT costs in advance, knowing no blowouts are hiding around the corner. Monthly costs are known and (usually) capped based on what you use, leaving your cash flow much relieved.

Today’s cloud computing is more advanced, secure and priced more competitively than ever before.  At its core, cloud computing is purely about doing things better, and it can have a massive impact on your profits, productivity and even staff satisfaction rates. If your business requires a robust, always available infrastructure with easy monthly costs, it’s time to take a serious look at your cloud computing options.

We offer a variety of cloud services to help your business. Give us a call at  203-744-9760 to discuss how we can improve your business IT.

7 Bonuses for Small Business in Office 365

You’ve seen all the ads for Office 365. They’re popping up on your desktop, your employees are sending you meaningful looks, and clearly, it’s not going away. You’ve probably even jumped online to see what all the fuss is about. But is Office 365 a necessary upgrade for your small business? The answer is yes. It’s more than a refreshed set of tools, it’s an efficiency and productivity powerhouse.

Here are 7 spot-on reasons why small business owners should upgrade now.

1. Data security is built in

Office 365 was created with data security at its core. The built-in compliance and security protocols mean your cloud storage is safe, and you can control access so your valuable data remains exactly where you want it. Storing your data in the 365 cloud keeps it safe in case of emergency, with 1TB of storage per user included at no extra cost.

2. Ditch the licensing drama

Software version differences can be a real nightmare in a small office. Not every system can do the same things, and half the time, they can’t even open the same files. It quickly becomes a hodge-podge of workarounds and lost time. Office 365 includes site-wide licenses with upgrades at the same time.

3. Mail storage for real people

Not everyone lives in the land of inbox zero. In fact, most people tend to leave messages in their inbox forever. Occasionally we’ll do a quick clean up, but only when the alert comes in that the mailbox is full. Meanwhile, new emails from customers may be bouncing away with the old ‘mailbox full’ message. Eek! In Office 365, your employees can communicate without worrying about storage space.

4. Better time management

Every person in your business is juggling meetings, emails and contacts – usually across multiple platforms. Office 365 brings all those elements together, integrating seamlessly for more efficient time management. Contacts updated via mobile while offsite are automatically updated across all connected devices. Meetings scheduled in an email are added instantly to the calendar. You can even access files from any device, edit on the run and then back in the office, simply pick up where you left off.

5. Predictable costs

Forget about planning (and delaying) those costly upgrades. Office 365 has small business covered. You can choose a plan based on your unique needs and change at any time. You can even add or decrease the number of users as you scale and streamline. It’s so easy to fit Office 365 into your monthly budget while knowing you’ve got the very best and latest in small business software.

6. Work on the go

The days of fiddling with private network and security settings are over, thanks to Office 365. You don’t even need any special IT skills or extra software. Users can now securely access their files from home, during their commute, or in meetings for on-the-fly impressive presentations. Got an internet connection? That’s all they’ll need to squeeze productivity out of every day.

7. Stay up and running with no downtime

A whopping 25% of small businesses shut down permanently after flood, fire, crash or cyber-attack. With Office 365, all your data is stored in the cloud with built-in backups for redundancy. No matter what happens, your data will be there, letting you stay up and running – and always ahead of the pack.

If you are ready to take your email to the next level, give us a call at 203-744-9760.

How Much Could A Ransomware Attack Cost You?

Have you ever thought about how much your data is worth? Information is possibly the most valuable part of your business – there’s your client database, accounting software and inventory management, and of course, any intellectual property you may own.  When the ransomware, WannaCry, tore through the world recently, many businesses were suddenly forced to re-assess the value of their data: was it worth saving, and what would be the deeper cost of the attack?

Most ransomware attacks cost $150-$600 to get your files released, but that’s only IF the cyber-criminals honor the payment and actually give you the decryption key. Meanwhile, new client calls are still coming in and you may find yourself unable to operate with your systems down. Paying the ransom or restoring from an unaffected backup seems like a quick fix, but it doesn’t end there. There’s still the downtime involved to restore all your data – possibly days – and that’s a lot of lost productivity.  Plus, if word gets out that your data has been compromised, you may find confidence in your business plummets and your existing clients head elsewhere.  That $150 ransom may end up costing well over $150,000!

Prevent Ransomware Attacks on your Business

Keep your systems up to date: WannaCry took advantage of a flaw in older versions of Windows, one that was since patched by Microsoft. But to be protected, businesses had to be up to date with their patches AND be running a supported version of Windows. Delaying patches and updates puts your business at risk – we can help you update automatically.

Lock down employee computers: Very few staff will require full administrator access to your business network. The higher their level of permissions, the more damage a person can do – either accidentally with a whoopsie click, or by inadvertently installing malware. By locking down your employee computers, you have a better chance of containing a malware attack to non-vital systems. Our experts can design an access management plan that gives you best of both worlds: flexibility PLUS security.

Educate your workplace: Most employees believe they’re being cyber-safe but the reality is quite different. Many malicious links and embedded malware have become hard to spot in an instant – which is all it takes to click and regret. We can work with your staff to establish procedures around checking links for authenticity before clicking, awareness around verifying the source of attachments, and the importance of anti-virus scanning. We’ll help get the message through!

Have a solid backup plan: When ransomware hits, a connected backup = infected backup. Unfortunately, synced options such as Dropbox immediately clone the infected files, rendering them useless. The only safe backups will be the ones both physically and electronically disconnected, with systems designed to protect against attacks like this. Our experts can set you up with a backup system that makes recovery a breeze.

Be proactive: The best way to avoid the financial cost of a ransomware attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Remember, many businesses were able to watch WannaCry from the sidelines, completely unaffected and seizing opportunities while their competitors were down.

Our managed services can help protect your business against the next cyber-attack. Call us today at 203-744-9760.

WannaCry Ransomware Explained: Is Your Business At Risk?

You’d be hard-pressed to miss last week’s biggest headline, the WannaCry cyber-attack sent shockwaves around the globe. Businesses of all sizes and even police departments found themselves crippled without warning.

Among the most prominent victims were many NHS hospitals in the UK, affecting up to 70,000 individual devices such as essential MRI scanners and blood-storage refrigerators. But by the time it hit the news, it was too late – either your system was protected, or it was infected. Here’s how it all went so wrong.

What is WannaCry?

The WannaCry cyber-attack was a type of malware (the collective name for computer viruses & bad juju) called ‘ransomware’. Just like the name suggests, it’s actually a demand for money. Like all ransomware attacks, WannaCry encrypts your files and holds them hostage until you pay. In this case, the price was set at $300, payable with internet currency Bitcoin, and you had 3 days to pay before it doubled. If you didn’t pay, the ransomware threatened to delete your files permanently. It’s yet unknown how much money the WannaCry hackers have earned with their latest attack, but you can be sure plenty of people have paid the ransom. Even the FBI recommends paying the ransom, especially if the ransomed files are of a sensitive nature or weren’t backed up.

 

How It Spread So Fast

It seems WannaCry may be a ‘computer worm’ that self-replicates and spreads, rather than a phishing attack that needs to be activated with a click. So far, no common trigger has been identified, as is normally the case with phishing links. WannaCry moved rapidly from system to system, spreading out through the entire network, including all connected backups and storage devices. At the same time, it spread out to infect other networks, who then spread it further, and so on. Given the nature of the internet, it was everywhere within hours.

Why Some Businesses Were Safe

WannaCry could ONLY infect systems that have fallen 2 months behind in their Windows updates. This is because it was created to take advantage of a specific vulnerability in Windows, one which Microsoft patched months ago. Without that patch, the ransomware could waltz right past the firewall, past the anti-virus and directly into the system (the NHS were reportedly running Windows XP – no longer supported). Those running Windows 10 or a fully patched, recent version of Windows were completely unaffected – the virus literally had no way in

It just goes to show the importance of staying up to date. We haven’t seen a second spike in WannaCry attacks yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. A quick update could protect your business from weeks of downtime and lost revenue, making attacks like this a non-issue.

With our managed services, we can make sure you stay up to date – and protected. Give us a call today at 203-744-9760.