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Why Small Businesses Need Technology

Technology has become an integral part of most small businesses.  Email has replaced the fax machine.  An onslaught of mobile devices have replaced cash registers, binders and note pads.  Pencil and paper no longer keep up with the velocity of business today.  In order to attract new customers and deliver products and services at competitive prices, small business technology is the cornerstone to automation and profitability. Cloud computing, mobility and consumerization of IT make it affordable for small businesses to deploy systems that were once reserved for large scale enterprise.  With ready access to small businesses technology, there is also more reliance on these core systems.  Small businesses are also targets of cyber attack because they may be perceived as more vulnerable and less vigilant.  Also, small businesses may be less resilient to business disruption related to systems failure.  Accordingly, Small Businesses should take every precaution to protect applications and their data.  They should also properly assess their risks and exposure to ensure they get the most from their small business IT Budgets. What can small businesses do to make sure these systems support the ongoing operations with minimal interruption? Small Business Technology Inventory A good place to start is to take inventory of your systems and data.  It is good policy to document all of your IT assets including hardware, networking devices, application software and data so you can have a complete view of your IT Systems.  Make sure you include mobile devices, cloud computing or software as a service (SaaS) systems, as well as, custom applications and legacy systems. Small Business Technology Risk Assessment Once you have...

Cyber Security Awareness

Did you know October is Cyber Security Awareness month?  This tradition was established ten years ago in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security in cooperation with the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center.  This is a great opportunity for the public and private sectors to establish  secure and vigilant infrastructure and to protect IT Assets from Cyber Security Threats. This initiative places emphasis on the following areas of Cyber Security throughout the month: Mobile Security The importance of cyber security in a mobile setting is highly important, no matter where you are or what device you are using.  Business owners should take time to evaluate Mobile Security Policies including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Acceptable Use Policies for access to corporate systems and their data from a mobile device.  Mobile data protection including Antivirus, Anti Malware and Mobile Device Management to track, monitor, protect and enforce IT security policy on a Mobile Device. Cyber Security Workforce Cyber Security in the workforce highlights the importance of fostering the next generation of workers through education and training.  Cyber attack can come from anywhere in the world, at any time.  As a result, the Cybersecurity workforce is on the defense against elusive Cyber Criminals.  Having a well staffed, well trained Cybersecurity workforce is critical to the fight against Cyber Crime. Cyber Crime Cyber Crime prevention focuses on national and local efforts to prevent traditional crimes like theft, fraud, and abuse that can also take place online.  Many of these attacks go unnoticed and unreported.  Malicious software or Malware may be downloaded and undetected.  Phishing schemes...

Do you Have a Strategy for Online Backup?

Online Backup is one of the more popular deployments of cloud computing. Online backup can be a cost effective part of your data protection strategy. Many businesses have achieved benefits by leveraging cloud computing for secure and affordable remote data storage and cloud file sharing technologies.  In some cases, business owners do not even realize they are using Cloud Based Online Backup services.  For business owners there are a number of important considerations for your Online backup strategy. Industry and Regulatory Compliance Some industries, such as health services, have strict regulations on how data is managed and protected.  Some online backup vendors comply with these strict requirements, while others do not.  It is important to carefully select your online backup supplier and ensure their Service Level Agreements (SLA) meets your business needs and comply with your industry regulations. Online Backup Recovery Time Online backup can be a secure and affordable option for offsite data storage and cloud sharing capability.  If you are considering remote backup for your business continuity and disaster recovery plans, it is important to consider recovery times in the event you need to to restore your data.  Some online backup services provide great value for easy access to data, while other services are optimized for rapid recovery of your most critical information.  You should weigh costs and risks when deploying online backup for your disaster recovery scenarios. How Secure is Your Online Backup There are many online backup vendors providing a secure solution that is equally or more reliable that tape storage or other data vaulting solutions.  In fact, the cloud infrastructure for your data may...

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8.1

If you are running Windows XP on your computer, you are not alone.  It is estimated that 33% of all PCs still run on Windows XP.  Many businesses are considering upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8.1.  Microsoft has different plans in mind.  According to Microsoft pre-release documentation, upgrading from Windows XP and Windows Vista are not supported.  This means XP users will need a clean installation of Windows 8.1 instead.  So what choices do XP users have? Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 – Microsoft will Have a Clean Install Option for Windows 8.1 You may consider installing Windows 8.1 on your existing hardware.  Depending on your configuration, you may need to upgrade your RAM and increase your hard drive capacity and ensure you meet minimum system requirements for Windows 8.1.  While this option may breathe additional life into your existing personal computers, you may have difficulty finding support for some of your drivers and peripherals.  You will also need to evaluate support for your existing software applications to determine if they are compatible with Windows 8.1. If you consider this option please remember It is vital to that you must backup all of your applications and data prior to performing the migration from XP. Consider a Virtual Desktop Solution for Your Business Cloud computing experts claim you can leverage your existing XP machines to access the latest software and services in the cloud.  By connecting to a virtual desktop you may avoid some of the security risks associated with Windows XP.  Additionally, you will have the benefit of accessing the latest operating system and office productivity...

Apple Enhances Mobile Security with iPhone 5s

Earlier this week Apple announced their new line up of iPhones.  The iPhone 5c is a new model catering to smartphone users on a budget, while the iPhone 5s is their newest flagship product.  The iPhone 5s features a new fingerprint sensor known as “Touch ID”  designed to provide access to your new iPhone 5s with the touch of a finger versus a four digit passcode. Mobile Security  Concerns According to research by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) mobile device theft or loss is a top concern among IT professionals and small business owners.  CompTIA research also indicates that requiring a pass code to unlock a mobile device passcode is the most utilized defense according to 76% of those surveyed.  But is a four digit passcode enough? Apple “Touch ID” improves  Mobile Security Biometrics are far from perfect however, Apple Touch ID is expected to increase mobile security over a four digit pass code.  Apple’s four digit passcode is limited to 10,000 combinations and can be cracked by an expert in under six minutes.  Because some are concerned that Apple Touch ID stores fingerprints on its’ new A7 processor Apple will continue to provide the four digit pass code option for those who choose not use use Apple Touch ID. Other Mobile Security Concerns Through cloud sharing applications, Social Media, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) adoption and other mobility trends, mobile devices can create a hole in your company’s IT security architecture.  Access to corporate applications and their data, privacy information and commingling of personal and company assets add to the mobile security challenge.  Mobile devices are the...

Cloud Computing Trends 2013: CompTIA 4th Annual Research Report

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is expected to release their fourth Annual Cloud Computing Trends research study this week.  This cloud computing research is based on a survey of over 500 IT and Business Professionals collected in June 2013. The Fourth Annual CompTIA Cloud Computing Trends report is expected to reveal cloud computing trends and  buying patterns, benefits and challenges related to cloud computing use by businesses.  In addition, over 400 IT firms were surveyed on how the cloud is changing the IT technology channel.  Here are some anticipated highlights of cloud computing trends: Cloud Computing Trends:  Cloud is an Increasing Component of IT Architecture According to the research, 90% of companies are using cloud computing architecture in their business.  The research indicates “as cloud components are becoming more prevalent in IT architectures, more companies are relying on cloud computing for business processes such as storage (59%), business continuity/disaster recovery (48%), and security (44%).  This strong usage and strong market indicators show that cloud computing is becoming a default part of the IT landscape.” Top Benefits of Cloud Computing As Cloud Computing becomes more mainstream a range of business benefits are reported.  While no single reason stands out, businesses report a broad range of benefits by adopting cloud computing technologies:   Cloud Computing Reaches Maturity The research indicates that more than half of  those delivering, managing, integrating and supporting cloud computing solutions feel their cloud computing businesses are mature and strategic.   Integration Remains the Top Cloud Computing Challenge According to the cloud computing study by CompTIA, integration remains at the top of the list for all companies....

Solving Infrastructure Challenges for the Mobile Workforce

If you have a mobile workforce who use mobile devices within your business you want them to be productive, connected and have secure access to your companies applications and data. According to a recent research report by the Computing Technology Industry Association, mobile workers complain about poor connection speeds 49% of the time. In addition, mobile workers have difficulty transferring data and also are challenged by applications that are not optimized for the mobile environment. Make Sure Your Network is Ready for the Mobile Workforce Your Mobile workforce need ssecure and ready access to your network via WiFi communications while in your office. If you WiFi is insufficient your workers will suffer unnecessary downtime or slow connections and you will lose productivity and have decrease worker satisfaction. Secure your Mobile Workforce You also need to make sure those devices connecting to your corporate network are authorized and secure with the latest anti malware updates and O/S Patches for their specific mobile device. Mobile devices are the target of malware, phising schemes and virus threats. These exploits could expose your company and your data to data leaks or losses resulting in privacy and data breach. Undetected, your company could face fines, loss of reputation and other business interruption issues. Make Sure Your Data and Voice Plans Have Policy Control No one likes big surprises at the end of the month, so managing expenses for your mobile workforce should take into consideration travel and various roaming and out of network charges. Make sure your policies are clear who is responsible for voice and data usage and what is or is not...

Cyber Attacks in the News (Again)

Cyber Attacks are in the news again. Last week domain registrar Network Solutions suffered a denial of service attempt impacting the websites of their customers. Cyber attacks like this are high profile and always in the news. This raises the questions, are small business vulnerable to cyber attacks? Small business are Targets of Cyber Attacks Cyber Attacks are as likely, or more likely to occur on small businesses. Cyber attackers know small businesses may have less protection, thus making them easier targets for cyber attacks. Larger companies may have entire departments dedicated to cyber security. Harder to hack and quicker to detect, larger organizations may be tougher to penetrate and exploit with a cyber attack. Meanwhile, small businesses may have less protection against a cyber attack, leaving them more exposed and less likely to detect a cyber attack. Small Businesses may be Less Resilient from Cyber Threats Larger organizations not only are likely to respond quicker to a cyber attack, but have stronger brands and deeper pockets to withstand the impact of a cyber attack. When a cyber attack occurs there may be financial penalties for non compliance with industry regulations (e.g. PCI regulations). What’s more, the impact of a cyber attack may also cause loss of brand equity as a result of the negative publicity related to a cyber threat. In most cases a cyber attack may be too much for a small business to recover. How do I Protect my Business from a Cyber Attack? Consider contacting your IT Service & Support specialist to conduct an IT security assessment.  By performing an IT Security assessment you will...

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning

Business continuity and disaster recovery come to mind as hurricane and fire season is upon us.   This week meteorologists are reporting that Tropical Storm Chantal is looming over the East Coast and will potentially flood the southern United States.  Last year we all saw the terrible devastation of Hurricane Sandy.  We are also reminded of the destruction of Hurricane Dennis in 2005.  Earthquakes, which can not be predicted, can also pose a threat to your business continuity.   If you’re not worried about Hurricanes, keep in mind there are wildfires raging throughout the West this fire season.  If you are fortunate enough to live in a part of the world outside this business continuity and disaster recovery window, be thankful.  Either way you should ask yourself if your business continuity and disaster recovery plans are in place. Here are a few considerations for your business continuity and disaster recovery plans: Business Continuity and Application Data Assess what data is mission critical to your business.  Focusing on the most important assets to protect and provide rapid restore capability will aid you in getting your business up and running quickly.  It is not practical or cost effective to have all of your data available immediatly following a disaster recovery scenario, therefore prioritizing is key. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Policies and Procedures Review your policies and procedures to ensure they are up to date with your current needs.  In addition to data backup and recovery policies, review your emergency response policies as well.  In a disaster recovery scenario it is important to know who to call to get your data backup online...

IT Service for Small Business

There are many factors driving the way IT Service for small business is delivered. Small to medium sized businesses have the same IT Service challenges of larger companies such as: cyber security threats, cloud deployments and regulatory compliance issues. A small business may rely on IT as much as a larger company but may not have the internal staff for IT support. A current trend in IT Service for Small Business is comprehensive IT support and IT service called IT Managed Services. This method of IT Service for small business can provide proactive support for computer maintenance and repair and help a small business make the most of their IT Support budget. Fixing the Cost of IT Service for Small Business IT Managed Service Providers deliver IT services for computer repair, network monitoring, remote support, backup, anti virus updates, security patching and other proactive services using remote monitoring and management technologies. Working remotely reduces the need to come on site, saving you time and money. You may also benefit from obtaining IT Services at a flat rate, which will help you budget and manage your cash flows better. Proactive IT Service for Small Business Because monitoring and repairs are done remotely and scheduled in a proactive manner, problems may be identified and remediated before your employees productivity is interrupted. This improves employee productivity because of a reduction in downtime and higher availability of your applications and data. Also, if you have a contracted IT Service provider, you now know whom to call when problems occur. You also can anticipate the type of response to expect to remediate any computer problems...
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