Cybercriminals Are Taking Aim At Your Business … Is Your Network Protected?

Cybercriminals love to test your defenses. They love to see how far they can get into the networks ofbusinesses all over the globe. Cybercriminals really love going after small businesses because they can all too often sneak onto a network, copy data and move on. Through the use of ransomware, they can hold your data hostage and refuse to cooperate until you pay them some amount of dollars – and if you don’t pay up, they threaten to delete all your data.

But protecting yourself is not as hard as you might think. While cybercriminals and hackers are an everyday threat to businesses, you can take steps to significantly reduce that threat and take that target off your back. The first thing you need to do is understand why cybercriminals target small businesses and what makes your particular business vulnerable. There are many things small businesses do and don’t do that open them to attack and data theft. These may include not having enough (or any) security in place or not training employees on security protocols.

Realistically speaking, the biggest threat to your business does, in fact, come from your own employees. This doesn’t mean they are intentionally harming your business or leaving your network exposed to outside threats. It means they don’t have the proper training and knowledge to protect your business from a cyberthreat.

For instance, your team needs to be trained to use strong passwords, and those passwords must be changed periodically (every three months is a good rule of thumb). A lot of people push back on strong, complicated passwords or use the same password for everything, but this is just asking for trouble and should not be allowed at your company.

Once strong passwords are in place, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on everything you possibly can, from network access to every account you and your employees use. This is an additional layer of security on top of standard password protection. This feature is generally tied to a mobile number or secondary e-mail, or it may be in the form of a PIN. For example, when 2FA is enabled, after you’ve put in your password, you will be prompted for your PIN for the associated account.

Another thing you must do to get that target off your back is to get anti-malware software installed. Every workstation or device should have some form of this protection. Not sure what to use? This is when working with a dedicated IT company can come in handy. They can help you get the right software that will meet your specific needs without slowing you down. They will install software that is compatible with your PCs and

“You can take steps to significantly reduce that threat and take that target off your back.”

other networked equipment. Plus, they will make sure anti-malware software is working and is regularly updated.

On top of this, you want to have an active firewall in place. Every business should have its network protected by a firewall; like anti-malware software, firewall security comes with a number of different settings, and you can customize it to fit the needs of your network. Firewalls help keep attackers and malicious software off your network. When paired with a good anti-malware software, your layers of security are multiplied. The more layers, the better protected you are.

Finally, with all of this in place, your employees need to know what it all means. Keep your team up-to-date on your business’s security protocols. This includes items like your password policy, malware protection policy and proper e-mail and web-surfing etiquette.The bad guys are never going to stop attacking, but you have the power to protect your business from
those attacks.

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The Top 4 Tricks And Sneaky Schemes They Use To Hack Your Computer Network

Most cybercriminals love their jobs. They get to put their hacking skills to the test. In fact, many of them “compete” against one another to see who can hack into a network the fastest or who can steal the most data. They don’t care who gets hurt along the way. And in most cases, it’s smallbusiness owners who are getting hurt.

Cybercriminals will do anything to get what they want. Some want to create chaos. Some want to steal data. And others want to get straight to the money. These are the people who willnhold your data hostage until you pay up. They install ransomware on your computers, and if you don’t pay, they threaten to delete your data. This is one of the many reasons why backing up ALL of your data is so important!

So, how do the bad guys get your data? How do they work their way into your network and find exactly what they’re looking for? Well, it’s much easier than you might think.

They count on you to have no security. This is why cybercriminals go after small businesses. They know most small-business owners don’t invest in security or invest very little. Even if the business does have security, it’s generally easy for a hacker to break through.

Then, all the hacker has to do is steal or destroy data, install malware on the computers and then wait. Because there are so many small businesses around the world, it’s just a numbers game for cybercriminals. When you attack every business, you are guaranteed to eventually succeed in the attack.

They let your employees do the work for them. Most cybercriminals aren’t going to “hack” into your network or computer. They’ll let your employees do it for them. All the cybercriminal needs to do is get hold of your company’s email list and then e-mail your employees.

This phishing e-mail may include a link or an attached file. The e-mail may be disguised as a message from a bank or retailer – or another source your employees are familiar with. The problem is that it’s all fake. The cybercriminal wants your employees to click the link or open the file, which will likely install malware on their computer. Once the malware is there, the cybercriminal may gain access to your network and be able to steal critical data.

They exploit outdated hardware and software. If you haven’t updated your equipment in years, you leave it open to attack. This is a huge problem in the health care industry right now. Many hospital-based computers are still running Windows XP. Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in 2014, which means the operating system isn’t getting any security patches, leaving users
vulnerable.

“Most cybercriminals aren’t going to ‘hack’ into your network or computer. They’ll let your employees do it for them.”

Hackers spend a lot of time looking for vulnerabilities in different types of hardware and software. When they find them, it opens up the general public to those vulnerabilities. In many cases, hardware and software developers work to fix these vulnerabilities and get updates out to users. But these updates only work if YOU update your equipment. If your equipment is no longer supported by the developers or manufacturers, that’s a good indication that it’s time to update. While the upfront cost can be high, it doesn’t compare to the cost you’ll face if hackers get into your network.

They try every password. Many cybercriminals use password-cracking software to get past your password defenses. The weaker your password, the easier it is to break. In fact, hackers can often break simple passwords in a matter of seconds. This is why it’s so important to have strong passwords. Not only that, but all your passwords MUST be changed every three months.

Here’s why you need to constantly update your passwords: cybercriminals aren’t just going after you. They’re going after everybody, including the services you use as a business. If those businesses get hacked, criminals can gain access to countless passwords, including yours. Hackers then can either attempt to useyour passwords or sell them for profit. Either way, if you never change your password, you make yourself a target.

Use these four points to your advantage! It is possible to protect yourself and your business from the bad guys. Do everything you can to implement stronger overall security. Prioritize stronger passwords. Keep your equipment updated. And most of all, educate your team about cyberthreats to your business!

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4 Things You Should Absolutely Demand From Your IT Services Firm

How much do you rely on your IT services provider? It’s startling to think that a lot of small businesses outsource their IT (which is a good thing), only to get little to nothing out of that relationship.

Why is that?

Well, some businesses just aren’t proactive. They only rely on their IT services company when something goes horribly wrong. If there’s a network failure or their website gets hacked, they’ll make the call to their IT people, but that’s the extent of the relationship.

On the other side of the same coin, there are a lot of IT companies that wait around for that phone call. They don’t work with their clients as closely as they should. Both of these reasons are downright irresponsible.

First and foremost, business owners should work closely with their IT pros. They should have the staff and resources to not only address your IT emergencies but also to keep your business safe and secure to minimize those emergencies. Here are four things you should ask of your IT services provider.

“Keep my business safe!” Your IT company should make sure your network security, firewalls, malware protection, etc., are installed, operating and up-to-date. They should be working with you to do everything to keep your business’s data secure and make sure it can be restored in the rare event that data loss does occur.

Keeping your customer data secure should be a top priority. Don’t take unnecessary risks, because when you do, the consequences can be devastating.

“Help me keep costs down!” You outsourced your IT to save money. Hiring an internal IT person or staff is a massive expense (plus, many small businesses simply don’t have the revenue to sustain IT personnel). However, your IT company should be working to maintain your network and associated hardware and software. They are there to help you avoid costly disasters like data loss or network downtime. If you do a lot of e-commerce, your IT company can be an invaluable asset. You literally pay them to save money.

“Help me stay proactive!” An experienced IT company can often spot an issue before it becomes an issue. They keep your network updated and maintained, and they can help you avoid unnecessary downtime. Working closely with your IT company means you aren’t skimping on security, and this alone puts you ahead of so many other businesses that do. And make sure you have an open line of communication between your business and your IT team, even if that means scheduling regular calls. You should regularly talk about security and know about the issues that may impact your business, whether it’s an equipment concern or a hacker threat. On top of that, tell your customers you care about the security of your business and their data. They will appreciate it – seriously!

“Waiting until something breaks is a dangerous – and costly – way to do business.”

“Keep my network up-to-date!” This covers a lot of ground. Your outsourced IT should be keeping your security updated, from your firewall to your malware protection, but they should also be keeping your network tech updated too. Hackers look for weaknesses in network tech every day – weak spots that allow them to capture data from your network. Sometimes they exploit the firmware, and sometimes it’s the hardware. Regardless, you should always rest assured that your IT company is doing everything they can within the budget you set to keep your network as updated as possible.

If your IT company isn’t doing any of these things, you need to get on the phone with them NOW! Don’t put your business at risk because you only make the call after the worst-case scenario has occurred. Waiting until something breaks is a dangerous – and costly – way to do business. It’s time to be proactive and get the most out of the relationship you have with your IT company.

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Don’t Let Your IT Company Make This One Mistake With Your Computer Network

Your IT services company is one quick phone call away. This is true of a lot of businesses that outsource their IT needs through an IT services provider.

While having an outsourced IT company on standby is great, a lot of the time they stay on standby. That is to say, they only get a phone call when something goes absolutely wrong – networks crash, hardware fails, data is stolen or erased and so on.

This is a major mistake.

Your IT company is capable (and willing) to do so much more than react to a catastrophic failure. When you save the phone call for emergencies, you’re leaving a lot of expertise on the table. Your IT company can make a huge difference in the way your business operates day-to-day – and for the better!

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

You reduce your risk greatly. Do you know if your systems and processes are compliant with current standards? Is your network security up to par? Do you want to risk it and assume everything is up to snuff? Your IT company is there to make sure your business is secure before something happens, whether it’s a minor network outage or a catastrophic security breach. If you’re storing your customers’ financial details (or, really, any sensitive data) on a local server, this is HUGE.

You have one less thing to worry about. When you delegate and rely on your IT services company, this frees you up to work on what really matters: your business itself. Your IT company helps make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin. And when it comes to delegation, make sure your employees can contact your IT team as needed. After all, your employees are on the frontlines and may experience an issue that needs resolving. They shouldn’t need to bug you about it. They should be able to submit a ticket directly to your IT. Simple!

Your business stays ahead of the curve. This comes down to proactivity. An experienced IT company knows IT like no one else; they can, in some cases, catch a problem before it becomes a problem. They are there to keep your network updated and maintained, and, should an issue arise, they can address it ASAP to ensure your business avoids any downtime or outages. Plus, this gives you a competitive advantage. A lot of medium and small businesses skimp on security. They spend as little as possible on security and network management. You know who doesn’t skimp? The bigger companies. You can get on their level and blow past your competition.

Waiting until something goes wrong is a dangerous and ineffective approach to IT. It puts your business at serious risk …

This is something your own customers would love to hear.

You keep costs down. Business owners love to save money where they can. Outsourcing your IT and relying on your IT company helps you do this. First, you don’t have to hire a dedicated, in-house IT team. This can be very costly. A qualified IT staff can come with a serious price tag because they’re in such demand. Second, because you have an outside IT company maintaining your network, they can help you avoid costly disasters, such as a network failure or data loss.

Waiting until something goes wrong is a dangerous and ineffective approach to IT. It puts your business at serious risk, both internally and externally. Let your IT company do what they do best: managing your systems! They help keep things running smoothly. You never have to worry if your firewall is up and running (and up-to-date). Don’t keep them at arm’s length. Let them do their job.

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3 Ways To Prevent Your Employees From Leaking Confidential Information

A lot of businesses need to come to terms with the fact that their employees are their greatest IT threat. As a business owner, you may be aware of cyberthreats to your business, but your employees might not be. They might not know about the threat of cyber-attacks or malware. They might use unsecured WiFi on company equipment. As a result, your employees may be putting your business at serious risk.

What can you do to change that?

1. IT ALL STARTS WITH EDUCATION. One of the biggest reasons why employees put their employer at risk simply comes down to a lack of education. They don’t know about the threats targeting businesses or that small businesses are a major target of hackers and scammers.

You need to do everything you can to train your employees. Give them the education and resources to be a line of defense rather than a risk. Develop a consistent training regimen. If you need to bring in IT professionals to help, do it. Don’t make assumptions about critical IT security training if you aren’t sure. Professionals can answer your questions and make sure you and your employees have everything you need to know to keep your business secure.

Another important thing is to hold this training regularly. Threats evolve, and you need to stay ahead of the curve. Keep IT security on the minds of your employees. When they forget about it, that’s when the risk is highest.

2. SAY NO TO UNSECURED, PUBLIC WIFI. This is a big problem for businesses with remote employees, employees who work from home or employees who use company technology outside of the business walls. According to a Spiceworks study, 61% of employees said they have connected to unsecured WiFi while working remotely.

This is cause for concern. Connecting to public WiFi is like leaving the front door of your home wide-open while posting on social media that you’re going to be out of town for a week. You never know who is going to let themselves in and snoop around. Hackers use public hot spots to circulate malware and steal data. Sometimes they even set up fake hot spots with the same name as a legitimate hot spot to trick users into connecting to their WiFi, which makes data theft even easier.

Discouraging your employees from using unsecured, public WiFi is a good step to take, but don’t be afraid to take it further. Don’t let them connect company equipment to unsecured WiFi at all. And place a bigger focus on endpoint security – make sure your equipment has up-to-date software, malware protection, local firewalls, as well as a VPN (virtual private network). The more layers of security, the better.

“It’s all about understanding the threats and taking a proactive approach to security.”

3. PROTECT ALL OF YOUR DATA. Your employees should never save personal or business data on portable/external hard drives, USB drives or even as printed material – and then take that data out of the office. The theft of these types of devices is a real threat. An external hard drive is a tempting target for thieves because they will search the drive for sensitive data, such as financial or customer information that they can use or sell.

If you have remote employees who need to access company data, put a method in place to do just that (it should be discussed as part of your regular company IT security training). They need to know how to properly access the data, save the data or delete it, if necessary. Many businesses go with a secure cloud option, but you need to determine what makes the most sense for your business and its security.

While these three tips are great, nothing beats helping your employees develop a positive IT security mindset. It’s all about understanding the threats and taking a proactive approach to security. Proactivity reduces risk. But you don’t have to go it alone. Working with experienced IT security professionals is the best way to cover all your bases – and to ensure your employees have everything they need to protect your business.

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Employees Keeping Your Data Safe? … Don’t Count On It

In any business, big or small, employees can be your biggest IT threat, and they might not even realize it. Businesses already face countless cyberthreats, like data breaches, cyber-attacks, online viruses and malicious e-mails. But despite all these outside threats, the real problem can come from the inside.

One of the biggest threats to your business’s security is simply a lack of awareness on the part of your employees. It comes down to this: your employees just aren’t aware of current threats or how to safely navigate e-mails and the web. They might not be aware when they connect to an unsecured WiFi network or if they’re using a firewall. They may be haphazard in all things IT. There are a lot of variables.

Your best defence, in this case, is training. Get all of your employees on the same page. Look at your current training and find the gaps, or start putting together training if you don’t have it. You want a training program that covers all your bases and gives your employees the knowledge and tools they need to keep themselves and your business secure. (Don’t know where to begin? Work with professional IT specialists. They know what your employees NEED to know!)

Another major security threat is phishing e-mails. On any given day, you and your employees can be on the receiving end of dozens, if not hundreds, of fraudulent e-mails. Data from Symantec shows that 71% of targeted cyber-attacks stem from phishing e-mails. While awareness regarding phishing scams is better than ever, it’s still far from perfect. And it doesn’t help that phishing e-mails have gotten more advanced.

Phishing e-mails are typically disguised as messages from a legitimate source, such as a colleague, a bank or an online retailer. They try to trick recipients into clicking a link or opening a file (which you should NEVER do if you are not 100% sure about the source). But there are easy ways to identify scam e-mails:

  1. They’re impersonal. They may be addressed to “customer,” “to whom it may concern” or “my friend.” But be careful – sometimes they are addressed properly and use your name.
  2. They’re full of spelling and grammar errors. Not every phishing e-mail will have these errors, but it’s good to read e-mails word for word rather than just glancing over them. Unusual errors often mean a scam is lurking.
  3. The “from” e-mail address is unfamiliar. This is one of the easiest ways to pinpoint a scam e-mail. Look at the sender, and if the address is filled with numbers, letters, misspelled words or is weirdly long, there’s a good chance it’s from a scammer.

The other major issue facing your business is your employees connecting to unsecured WiFi hot spots. It is such an easy mistake to make. Whether it’s a remote employee or an employee working during lunch at a corner café, you never know when they might connect to unsecured WiFi (it doesn’t help that it’s everywhere these days). One Spiceworks study found that upward of 61% of employees connect to unsecured public WiFi while working remotely.

The problem is, you never know who is watching or if the public WiFi is really the network you intend to connect to. Hackers can easily set up a “fake” network to divert traffic to their hot spot to circulate malware and steal data.

Another WiFi threat might be right at home. If you have employees who work from home, you need to make sure their home WiFi connection is secure. Too often, homeowners leave their WiFi wide-open because it’s home. They think no one’s going to sneak onto their WiFi or they keep it unsecure because it’s easier to connect a lot of devices.

While it might be easier to connect to, it can cause huge problems. For one, WiFi signals can reach hundreds of feet. It’s easy to sit outside of an apartment or out on the street and find dozens of WiFi signals. If any of these signals are unsecure, a hacker can sit outside undisturbed and go to work accessing data and planting malware.

It all comes back to this: Work with your employees to establish IT best practices. Educate them on threats and how to protect themselves and your company. Help them develop a positive IT security mindset at the office, at home or anywhere they work, whether they’re using company equipment or their own.

Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry – one phone call and we can help get you started. Don’t wait. Let’s secure your business today.

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Cybercriminals Are Plotting To Hack Your Network RIGHT NOW…And What You Can Do To Prevent It

Did you know that small businesses are more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than any other business or organization? It’s true! While we hear about major breaches on the news, we don’t get to hear the stories of the businesses that struggle with hacking attempts and cyber-attacks.

Hackers love to go after small businesses for one very big reason: small businesses are less likely to invest in top-notch (or even worthwhile) cyber security. Hackers love this vulnerability.

According to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43% of cyber-attacks hit small businesses. The reason comes down to many factors, but there are two in particular that hackers really dig into when going after targets: lack of resources and lack of knowledge. Of course, there’s more to this story, as hackers also look at a business’s customer base and the type of data the business shares online.

A lot of small businesses are also relying more on the cloud (and this is the trend moving forward), but then they do little to keep their line of communication with the cloud storage, or just the cloud storage itself, secure. According to Symantec, a lot of businesses that rely on the cloud also fail to rely on strong encryption software. They just share their data to the cloud and let that be that.

Hackers attack small businesses because they want money. Hackers go after targets they can profit from, whether they hold a business’s data hostage and demand a ransom (and get that ransom – hackers got $460,000 from Lake City, Florida, officials after a ransomware attack on government computers, and that wasn’t the only Florida city to pay!), or by stealing customer data and either selling it on the dark web or black market, or using it for themselves.

The Verizon report also looked at the types of businesses that are targeting. The top three are:

  • Public administration (23,399 reported incidents and 330 confirmed data disclosure)
  • Information services (1,094 reported incidents and 155 confirmed data disclosure)
  • Financial and insurance (927 reported incidents and 207 confirmed data disclosure)

They go after these types of businesses because this is where they can make their money – and it’s where they’ve discovered the most vulnerability. However, while these types of businesses represent the top three, there are many more. Every type of business is targeted. Some businesses make it past the attack unscathed, but many don’t. Their data is compromised in one way or another.

Why are small businesses are targeted so much? It’s a numbers game. Hackers know most small businesses lack good cyber security. This makes these businesses easier targets. Target enough of them, and you’re going to make some serious money (from selling stolen data or paid ransoms).

So, what can you do about this? How can you protect your network? First and foremost, you have to realize YOU are a target. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been hacked before. It just means the hackers haven’t gotten to you yet. Once you realize this, you can go to work and get your business ready for the eventual attack.

This is where a risk assessment can do a lot of good. You may already have some security measures in place, but do you know how effective those measures are? You need to know where your holes are so you can plug them and then reinforce them. You don’t want just a wall around your business, you want an entire ocean.

But it doesn’t end there. One of the most powerful tools against hackers and cybercriminals is knowledge. Next to securing your business, the best thing you can do is train your employees on understanding cyber security and the threats that exist to harm the business they work for. Your team MUST know how to identify phishing schemes, fraudulent websites and virus scams, then stay regularly updated on the threats out there. (And don’t forget using complex passwords that are locked away in a password vault or manager to add another layer of security).

On top of this, work with an IT team who knows what they’re doing. It’s one thing to tackle this all by yourself, as many businesses do, but it’s another to work with an experienced IT security firm. If you go it alone, you might miss something or you might not fully understand the security you have in place. Having an outsourced team of pros means you’re one step ahead of the hackers.

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Top 4 Strategies I Learned From Daymond John To Improve Leadership And Grow My Business

This past June, I got to hear the one and only Daymond John speak at a small private event. You may know Daymond as a successful entrepreneur who has appeared on the hit ABC show Shark Tank. Best known as the founder of the clothing brand, FUBU, he is also the author of The Power of Broke — an insightful look into his life and what he did to find success.

Daymond brought a lot of that insight to the room. While he had a lot of great things to say, there were four business strategies that really struck a chord with me — strategies any business can learn from to improve.

INVEST IN PEOPLE This is the most important thing for a business to realize, as Daymond put it. He talked about how he (and the Sharks) invests in people, not companies. Think about it: companies come and go. In fact, most companies will go. On the other hand, people learn from their experiences (good and bad), and they grow. Putting your people first is what gives companies staying power. Your team matters and your clients matter, and you should make every effort to ensure they know that.

DON’T BE REACTIVE — BE RESPONSIVE

A lot of businesses are reactionary. This was a lesson Daymond learned working with prolific rapper and music producer LL Cool J in the late 1980s. When you react to something, you’re already behind the times. Part of LL Cool J’s success in the rap world was being responsive. He didn’t just jump on trends, he helped create them. He recognized the rap world was constantly changing in terms of sound, lyrics and style (including his fashion).

Daymond was able to market his FUBU clothing because he was doing things other clothing makers weren’t. He was taking risks, working exceptionally hard (another one of Daymond’s points was “always be hustling”) and was willing to respond to changes in the marketplace.

BE TRUE TO YOUR WORD

When Daymond first got the call from Mark Burnett to join Shark Tank, Daymond knew he had to turn down the show. Signing onto Shark Tank meant he couldn’t appear on any other shows, and he was already working with the Kardashians — a family who, at the time, wasn’t quite the household brand name they are today.

Daymond told Burnett he was going to stick with the Kardashians because he had given them their word (and likely signed a few contracts with them). He wanted to help the Kardashians get their brands moving. He saw their potential. The family got word that Daymond had turned down the Shark Tank deal and said, “No, don’t let us get in your way!”

Daymond also recognized that the Kardashians are savvy business people. As he put it, “They know their analytics.” And that’s true! That’s why they found success on TV and in stores around the world where their many products are sold. But he wasn’t about the leave them high and dry for his own gain. Eventually, they found a solution, and he joined Shark Tank, but he wasn’t going to compromise his integrity. And that’s something none of us should compromise on.

REMEMBER, YOU ARE THE BRAND

The biggest brands are distilled down to three, four, five words. People know these words by heart, including Nike (Just Do It) and Apple (Think Different). You should have your own 2-5 words. “If you can’t describe yourself in 2-5 words and you walk into a room, you leave it up to us to interpret.”

Another thing to remember is that people associate your social media with your brand — whether you’re a business intentionally posting content related to your brand, or you’re an individual posting about your last vacation. What you share on social media is shared through a lens — your lens. Pictures, posts, you name it — it’s all a part of your brand.

That said, posting something negative will hurt that brand. It’s always important to be mindful of what you post and encourage your team to do the same. Having rules and policies regarding what can and cannot be shared on social media will go a long way in preventing a catastrophe.

These four points only skim the surface of what Daymond talked about, but these are crucial things we all can learn from. It was great to hear him speak and to hear his story, and I send my thanks to him for all of his wonderful insights!

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3 IT Investments You Should NEVER Skimp On

What is standing between your business’s data and hackers a world away? What’s your plan when your on-site server fails?

When you skimp on technology and IT solutions for your business, the answers to these two questions are simple:

  1. There is nothing standing between your business’s sensitive data and people who want to take advantage of that data; and
  2. There is no plan. It happens way too often. Businesses cheap out on certain aspects of their technology to save a few bucks up-front. You may even know someone who has done just this. They jump at the chance to outfit their office with a huge monitor and a PC with top specs (even though they don’t need it) and then they decide that IT security isn’t a priority. They aren’t willing to pull out the credit card for a security solution because they don’t want to deal with a monthly or yearly cost.
  3. But skimping on security can cost them dearly in time, money, resources and clients. When it comes to investing in IT, here are three things you never want to cheap out on.

SECURITY. Far too many businesses – from small to large – underinvest in IT security. We touch on this topic a lot because we see it a lot. These are business owners and managers who fall into the mindset of “It won’t happen to me.” This is a dangerous line of thinking.

For small businesses, a data breach can be devastating. Not only is data compromised and potentially copied or stolen, but your clients will also immediately question whether or not they should trust you. There’s a good chance they end up taking their business elsewhere – and they may even sue you.

When IT security isn’t a priority and you invest in the cheapest option available, it’s like asking hackers to let themselves in. One study by the security firm Imperva found that over 50% of all Internet traffic is made by bots. Many of these bots are looking for security holes. They test websites and networks, looking for a way in. If they find their way in, they can do some serious damage.

Investing in solid IT security – with an experienced team of IT specialists behind that security – can prevent that damage from ever happening in the first place. It’s not only about protecting your business assets but also protecting your clients and giving them another reason why they should trust you.

BACKUPS. You keep all of your data on-site with no backups. It’s all stored in one central location and that’s it. This is a recipe for disaster if you get hacked, but it can be an even bigger disaster if a hard disk or server fails.

Suddenly, you find yourself unable to access client information, invoices, phone numbers – you name it. Having a backup onsite or in the cloud means everything you do has an extra layer of protection. A backup gives you the ability to restore your data should the worst-case scenario occur.

It’s even better to go a step further and have a backup for the backup. Have one on-site solution and one cloud-based solution. Even if the backup to the backup is as simple as a 4TB hard drive from Amazon, it has the potential to save your business should anything go wrong.

Of course, you also need a system in place to make sure data is being regularly and accurately updated. Another mistake

businesses make is buying a backup or backup services, but not making the best use out of it. For example, they simply never bother to set it up. Or it is set up but isn’t
configured correctly and isn’t backing up data as intended – or is backing up data too infrequently to be useful.

UPDATES. How old is your technology? Think about the hardware you’re running – and the software on that hardware. Letting your technology fall behind the times can spell trouble. Not only are you opening yourself up to security vulnerabilities, but you may also be operating on technology that’s no longer supported by the developers.

If the developers are no longer publishing updates or supporting the software, this is a huge security red flag that you need to update. On top of that, should you or an employee need to troubleshoot a piece of unsupported software, you may find yourself going up against walls. There might be no one to call, and if a Google search doesn’t help, you may be out of luck.

The potential headaches don’t end there. If you’re running unsupported software on shiny, new hardware, you may be voiding the warranty of that hardware (always check your warranties and the fine print of any hardware you buy).

Alternatively, if you’re trying to run brand-new software on old hardware, chances are you’re going to run into compatibility issues. That wonderful piece of software might not work, or work the way you expected it to, all because you didn’t want to update your old hardware.

It’s not always fun to reach into your pocketbook to invest in good IT security, cloud backup storage or new hardware, but when you cut corners and cheap out, you will end up paying for it later, one way or another. When that bill comes, it’s going to be a lot bigger than if you had committed to those IT investments in the first place. “… when you cut corners and cheap out, you will end up paying for it later..

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4 BIG Mistakes You’re Making By Being Cheap With Technology

Technology is more affordable and accessible than it’s ever been. Whatever you need is only a few clicks away, whether it’s a product or a service.

But there are still many small businesses that cheap out on their technology and IT solutions. They just don’t want to commit to quality hardware, software, security or backups – the list goes on. They go for the cheapest solutions, which often means they spend nothing at all. They don’t commit to reliable security or current software. They’re setting themselves, and their customers, up for disaster.

The question is, are you setting your own business up for disaster? Here are four HUGE mistakes you should do everything to avoid.

MISTAKE #1: You aren’t backing up data. As convenient as it is to have all of your business’s information in one place, such as a single local server or even a desktop PC, you’re toast if anything happens to that hardware. For one, if you’re lacking in IT security, you’re making a cybercriminal’s job easier. And two, if that hardware fails (as hardware eventually does; there’s no way around this), you’re left scrambling to recover that data and hoping it’s still accessible.

You should never risk your business like this, considering how easy it is to back up your business’s data. You can back up data on-site, get a cloud-based service or you can do both. The point is, you need to back up everything so you’re ready should anything go wrong.

Once you have a solution, you can customize how your data is backed up. Do you need to back up data every day? Once a week? Once a month? It’s up to you. Here’s another thing to remember: your backup system isn’t “set it and forget it.” You need to check on it regularly and keep it updated to ensure your data is safe and ready to go should you need it

MISTAKE #2: You aren’t keeping up with the times. Speaking of keeping things updated, you should always update your software. Developers are constantly fixing bugs, patching software and improving usability. Skipping updates can leave you vulnerable.

Earlier this year, Cisco’s Series 1001-X router was found to have a fatal flaw that opened it up to hackers. This flaw potentially gave hackers network access – and access to connected devices. This isn’t the first router to have this kind of flaw and it won’t be the last. Cisco pushed out an update to fix the flaw, but the update is useless if you don’t install it.

Updates don’t just apply to software; they apply to hardware as well. When you’re running old hardware, that hardware is more likely to fail. It’s already been put through its paces. Over time, hardware performance degrades. Plus, the older your hardware is, the less compatible it is with current software. You don’t have to invest in new hardware every year or two, but keeping up with the times keeps you on top of your game.

MISTAKE #3: You don’t train your team. While most businesses hire people who understand certain software products, you can’t assume they know everything about that software. Your business might use a certain CRM application in a very specific way. Proper training on your systems ensures everyone is on the same page – and that they are using the software to its (and their) greatest potential.

More than software training, your team also needs to be trained up on IT security. They need to know the risks and how to keep your business’s data secure. Never assume your team knows about the latest threats to small business – or that they even understand the basics of safe web browsing.

While you need to have IT security in place and protecting your network, servers, PCs and so on, you need to make sure your team understands that security and the threats that are out there. Your team should also be aware of the consequences if any data becomes compromised.

MISTAKE #4: You skip data security. Data breaches happen every day, and most of them go unreported. You only hear about the biggest breaches on TV or online. While major companies like Target or Facebook can more easily recover from a data breach (as they have a lot of money to throw at the problem), most small businesses can’t.

If you’re lacking in IT security, you’re putting sensitive data at risk. This is proprietary business data as well as the personal and financial records of your customers. It can mean the end of your business if credit card numbers, names, addresses or phone numbers fall into the wrong hands.

Customers will no longer trust you. Your own employees likely won’t trust you either, especially if their personal data is on the line, not to mention their reputation. When you skimp on IT security, you’re about one step away from handing hackers and cybercriminals all the data you should be keeping under digital lock and key. When you invest in a solid IT security and work with experts who understand today’s security landscape, these are things you don’t have to worry about.

The bottom line is, if you don’t invest in your business’s technology and IT solutions today, you will pay for it tomorrow. You’ll be dealing with upset customers if you get hacked, and you may end up closing your doors, temporarily or perhaps even permanently, as you attempt to recover lost data. Don’t make these mistakes because you wanted to save money

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