IT services

COVID-19: Remote Workforce Considerations

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As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to threaten and impact not only the lives of our loved-ones and those in our communities, but the way in which we live our lives and conduct our businesses, we’ve been forced to adjust to new priorities and workflows. These are challenging times to say the least. Most organizations have ramped up their remote workforce to keep their employees safe and adhere to Social Distancing requirements while trying to keep their companies viable. We want to share some considerations to make your remote workforce as productive as possible while maintaining your corporate security.

Avoid BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) if at all possible

We want your employees to be productive, but we also want your corporate data and workflows to be secure. When allowing your employees to use their personal devices from home to work remotely, you never know what kind of Malware or other Computer Viruses may be lurking on their systems. The last thing you need is to introduce data loss or breach to an already difficult situation.

Adhere to corporate IT Policies

If you have no choice but to let your employees work from home on their own devices, make sure that they are adhering to your corporate IT Policies around acceptable use, monitoring, anti-virus/anti-malware software and firewall use.

Phishing and Identity Theft

Even during these challenging times, bad guys are still bad guys. The World Health Organization has issued a warning to be on the look out for emails or social media postings regarding COVID-19 which are really attempts to steal your data and identity. Be sure to educate your staff to be on the look out for these phishing attempts and use only trusted websites and news sources for more information about COVID-19.

Office Internet Circuit Performance

It’s not uncommon for your office internet circuit to have different upload and download speeds. With your remote workforce, you may notice a slowness in your network as it puts more stress on the upload requirements of your circuit. You may want to consider staggering your workforce to alleviate the pressure on your network. In addition, upgrading your circuit or implementing an SD-WAN (Software Driven Wide Area Network) solution may also increase your internet performance and add some redundancy and fail-over capabilities to help your team.

At Digital323 we understand the challenges that we all face and have in fact implemented our own Business Continuity plans and remote workforce policies. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance during these trying times.

Be safe and wash your hands! No, seriously, wash your hands.

IT services

IT Policies

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In today’s world of ever-changing and expanding technology, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to manage and secure the data and systems which make their organizations run. Often times decisions regarding technology become a “knee-jerk” or ad-hoc event about solving system crises or reacting to a security breach in the environment. Creating a set of IT Policies brings a more mature and proactive approach to the way organizations manage many of the day-to-day functions and security of their computing infrastructure. So, how do you create a set of IT Policies for your organization? A good way to start is by asking the right kind of questions.

  • Is my industry or company regulated by any external entities or rules? (i.e., HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI, NIST, etc.)
  • Does my company maintain different categories (or types) of data that may have different protection requirements?
  • Do I need to control who within and without of the company has access to the different types of data?
  • Do I need to keep track of what is changing within my IT environment and who may be making those changes?
  • Do I know what my data retention requirements are? (How many versions of the data should I be keeping, and for how long?)
  • Should I be making it a regular habit of testing my ability to restore my data and systems?
  • Do I know what the risks are to my business, specifically the technology side?
  • Do I know how my staff should be interacting with the computing environment, and have I trained them on those expectations?
  • Are we putting in to practice those elements which will secure and protect my customers, employees, data, and systems as a whole? (i.e., anti-virus, anti-malware, firewalls, etc.)

Your IT Policies should help to answer these questions, and your IT staff and partners can then configure your environment to enforce those answers.

If you would like assistance in developing a set of IT Policies for your organization, please don’t hesitate to call Digital323. We’d be happy to help!

strategic IT solutions

How to Choose an IT Partner

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With the ever-changing world of technology in these times, it’s critical for small businesses to find a trusted IT partner that can weed through the alphabet soup and help to make sound business decisions. Here are three critical factors in finding an IT partner that will make sense for you.

1. Know Yourself
The first step is to define your expectations. Are you looking for someone to assist with IT budget planning and operational considerations, or simply someone to press “next” when you don’t have the time? Many IT companies have a vast skill set and can assist with planning at a CIO/CTO level, through to an out-sourced help desk. Understanding what your company needs will go a long way in determining which IT firm will best fit the bill. Here are some questions that may help:
• Do I have a set of corporate IT policies that help govern the care, feeding and security of my business’s technology needs?
• Have I identified an internal super-user, who is the “go-to” person when things go awry?
• Does the company do any annual IT budgeting and planning?
• Do I simply feel lost when it comes to my technology?

2. Know Your Industry
Secondly, find an IT group that not only understands technology, but how technology applies to your specific industry. New software, and ways of interfacing with this software, is being developed at break-neck pace for all industries. You want a partner that knows the IT trends and future plans for your industry. For example, if you’re in healthcare you want to find a group that not only knows the varying technologies and EHR software that you are using, but understands the impact of the HITECH Act and Meaningful Use, and how it will impact your medical practice.

In addition, having an IT partner that understands any regulatory requirements your industry may be under will help with compliance and security concerns.

3. Know Your Partner
Third, you want a partner that you can trust. An outsourced IT group can potentially hold the keys to your entire organization. Be sure you find a partner that is proven with very good references and a track record for integrity and being trustworthy. You want to know that you can hold them accountable for caring for your technology, and that they will be responsive to your needs.

There are many additional factors to consider: cost, location, contract terms, etc.; but these first three are a great place to start.

cybersecurity

7 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach in Your Business

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Don’t think you’re vulnerable to a data breach? Think again. In 2018, businesses reported 1,244 breaches – and small businesses accounted for 58 percent of victims. In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are seven ways to prevent a data breach in your business:

Take Inventory of Your Risks

Conduct a complete audit of your systems, including on-premises, cloud and third-party IT assets that could lead to your network. Think about not only obvious points, like your servers and applications, but also your employees’ devices, Internet of Things-enabled devices, and industrial control systems.

Once you’ve taken stock of your infrastructure, prioritize any issues you find. Likely, you’re dealing with limited resources, so decide which problems are putting you at the most risk, like unpatched software or weak passwords.

Control User Access

When possible, employees should only have access to the data they need for their positions, and sensitive data should only be accessible to authorized users. It’s unlikely that all of your employees need access to all of your data, all the time.

Think also about how to handle departing employees and temporary employees like vendors and contractors. Provide the necessary passwords, key cards, laptop access and more that those employees need, but make it a priority to rescind access as soon as their work with your company ends.

Keep Software Updated

Many high-profile data breaches, including the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, are a result of hackers exploiting a weakness in older software. In the case of the WannaCry attack, Microsoft had already released patches to close the exploit, but many companies had failed to apply the patches or were using out-of-date Windows systems that no longer had support. 

Fortunately, the fix for this is fairly simple. Patch and update your software as soon as the developer releases those options, and upgrade your software when it’s no longer supported by the developer. This is especially timely now with the end of support for many Microsoft products starting in January 2020.

Enforce BYOD Policies

Your employees are probably using laptops, tablets and smartphones for at least some of their work. Unsecured endpoints can lead hackers straight to your network, rendering your other security measures much less effective and making your sensitive data vulnerable to a breach.

To combat this threat, you need a dedicated mobile device management program. Whether you provide the device or employees use their own personal devices, implement data security measures to ensure that employees are handling, retrieving and sending data safely. If a device is lost or stolen, create a policy to protect your data, such as remotely wiping the device.

Strengthen Credentials

No one likes managing their passwords, but unique passwords are critical to preventing a data breach. Don’t leave password strength up to chance. Require your employees to use complex passwords that are changed frequently, at least every 90 days. Employees should not write passwords down where others can find them. 

A password management tool such as LastPass or OneLogin can store and remember multiple encrypted passwords to reduce the hassle of employees forgetting complex passwords. Another security best practice is multi-factor authentication, where passwords are supplemented by passcodes, challenge questions and other identification measures. Even if an employee accidentally gives their login information away in a phishing attack, two-factor authentication will minimize that damage.

Educate Employees

Security-wise, employees are your weakest link; 95 percent of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Train your employees to identify and report signs of a data breach, but more importantly, train them to prevent a data breach. When your employees fully understand and support initiatives such as BYOD security or password management, your security will be stronger across the board.

Perhaps the most crucial area for employee training is email. Since the majority of malware, ransomware and phishing attacks stem from illegitimate emails, training your employees how to spot and report strange senders, links or attachments can drastically minimize the chance of a breach.

Back Up Files

Our last tip is to back up your files. While this is always a best practice for all businesses, it can especially pay off when your business suffers a ransomware attack. When your files are securely backed up to an off-site or cloud location, you won’t have to debate whether or not to pay the hacker. You’ll simply clean your systems, retrieve your data and continue your day.

Unfortunately, backups are no longer a set-it-and-forget-it measure. Hackers are disabling backups and then waiting 30, 60, 90 days to take systems down, leaving companies with no choice but to pay a ransom to retrieve their data. Regularly testing your backups to ensure that they’re working as intended is key to protecting yourself.

How We Can Help

Implementing all of these security procedures can be time-consuming and costly, especially for a small or mid-size business. We assess your security needs and implement procedures to help you minimize the chances of a data breach or quickly identify and contain a breach in progress. Don’t ignore the threat of data breaches – contact us today.

2020’s End-of-Support List: Why it Matters & What to Do

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January 14, 2020 is the fast-approaching date when a long list of Microsoft® products and solutions will reach their End of Support. That’s a lot of widely used products, and there’s a good chance your company relies on at least a few of them to get your job done every day.   

Why it Matters 

Microsoft solutions likely represent a big part of your daily software use. Even still, you might be tempted to ignore those incoming reminders from Microsoft about End of Support  but it’s imperative to your business and your clients that you don’t. Every Microsoft solution on the End-of-Support list will need to be upgraded or you will be facing three serious issues.  

  1. Security is Down – Without the ongoing patching and updates that come out regularly from the Microsoft team, your solutions will be vulnerable to the resulting security and compliance risks that can happen without proactive maintenance.  

  1. UX is Lacking – As patches stop happening, updates aren’t applied and support disappears, your users will start seeing user-experience issues that will make their everyday tasks significantly more complicated. 

  1. Support is Over – If you’re used to calling Microsoft when there’s an issue with one of the solutions on this list, that won’t be an option anymore. Microsoft’s support team will no longer be offering support for any of the listed solutions.

Proactive planning and aggressive action are the keys to making sure this transition leaves your business successful, protected and ready for growth. So how do you make it happen? 

What to Do 

If you’re ready to be proactive about updating your solutions, you have a few important steps to take.  

  1. Replace your Windows Server instance with cloud-based Azure and Windows Server 2019 

  1. Make the move to Windows 10  

  1. Replace your SharePoint and Office instances with Microsoft 365 and Office 365

These three steps represent a big change for your business and your end users, but making the switch means future-proofing your business and building a stronger foundation for growth. Upgrading to cloud-specific solutions can offer you the flexibility of the cloud without the added cost (and expiration date) of paying for Extended Support from Microsoft.  

But to make the transition to the cloud as successful, simple and stable as possible, you’ll need an IT expert solely dedicated to your solutions and systems. Don’t have one on staff? That’s where we come in. 

How We Can Help 

We are the IT experts you need to take the pressure of the 2020 End-of-Support date off of your shoulders. With our comprehensive IT support, we can help you create an upgrade timeline, update your systems and avoid a dip in productivity. Don’t wait until the final hour to think about how your business will handle Microsoft’s 2020 End of Support. Call us today and we’ll get started on your upgrade plan. 

business continuity

4 Ways a Business Continuity Plan Can Help Your Company

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As a business owner, the buck stops with you. Your employees rely on you to have the answers when problem occurs. But what are you going to do when you find out a hurricane or wildfire is heading your way? What about massive hardware failure? Will you be prepared? 

Nobody wants to think about a natural or manmade disaster affecting their business, so that’s why companies delay or ignore creating an emergency plan. A Travelers Insurance study found that 48 percent of small businesses have no plan in place. 

To be prepared in the event of a data, natural or manmade disaster, companies need to have a business continuity plan in place before a crisis occurs. A business continuity plan is a document outlining how a business will continue services following an emergency. 

With that in mind, here are four ways a business continuity plan can help your business:

  1. Identify Essential Business Functions

Do you know the minimum requirements for running your company? One of the primary goals of a business continuity plan is to identify the core functions of your business. These functions are what need to be addressed first to get back up and running at a minimum acceptable level. That way, you can reopen while continuing to address other issues.

  2. Minimize Downtime

Every hour your website, production line or office is down costs you money in lost profit. Following a disaster, 90 percent of smaller companies fail within a year unless they can resume operations within five days, according to FEMA. With a well-developed plan, your employees will know what to do to get operations running again as quickly as possible. 

  3. Uncover Gaps in Your Business

While doing a business impact analysis, you may find gaps in your plan. For example, if you’re in manufacturing, do you have a secondary location to shift operations if the main facility is inoperable? If not, then you may need to come up with a plan to temporarily use a rental facility or stock up on emergency inventory. 

  4. Get Peace of Mind

Researching and developing a business continuity plan can be a daunting task, no matter the size of your company. But once you’ve tested your plan and it works, you’ll be glad you have it. You and your employees can rest easy knowing that if the worst happens, you’ll be ready. 

Unfortunately, not all small-to-midsize businesses have the time to halt work and focus on building a plan. Luckily, they don’t have to do it alone. Our team of experts can help simplify the business continuity process to help prepare your business if the worst ever happens. 

Stop worrying about the worst-case scenario and contact us today. 

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BDR: A Shelter from the Storm

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As a business owner, you’re always focusing on how to best move your company forward. But have you taken time to consider the potential threats to your operations?

Having a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan is the best way to safeguard your data from all types of loss and destruction. Get to know these threats and the preparations you can make to keep your business going when dark clouds begin to loom.

Natural Disasters

You may assume backing up your data locally on a hard drive is the best way to recover it in the event your primary system fails. But what would you would do if that hard drive (and the entire building it resides in) was destroyed by a natural disaster?
Be it a hurricane, earthquake, fire or flood, the threats to your vital data are very real. But even if your business becomes a sinking ship, you can have enough lifeboats for every byte.

The best course of action is to store all data in a secure location using cloud services. This way, when it’s time to pick your business back up, your only concern will be selecting new office furniture.

Cyber Crime

A common way for cyber criminals to steal your data and make money is ransomware. This malicious software holds data hostage unless a specified amount is paid. “WannaCry” ransomware was a recent program that received worldwide attention for its effectiveness in blocking access to crucial data. Unfortunately, many of those who paid the ransom never had their data returned.

Setting up a firewall will block most attacks, but having an active image of all your data stored is the best defense. Data images provide a comprehensive and usable mirror of everything you’ve worked on and provide access when your primary system is locked out. It will also save you time on setting up new servers and reinstalling applications.

Internal Problems

Technology will induce audible rage in even the quietest cubical when it malfunctions for seemingly no reason. Sometimes data loss can occur due to forces from within your company. Even though you invested in the best servers and equipment, there’s always the chance something will cause a catastrophic failure and the loss of everything your business relies on to function.

Data loss can also stem from basic human error. Employees who are new, temporary or even long-term could mistakenly delete vital data. There’s also the unfortunate reality that data could purposely be deleted or corrupted by disgruntled employees.

How We Can Help

With so many unpredictable threats looming, BDR is your shelter from the storm. Disasters do happen, but you can rest easy knowing that the most important things will survive. Contact us now and ask how we can disaster-proof your business.

Is Your Business Following the Right Financial Compliance Regulations?

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Does your website or company accept payments online or store financial records digitally? If you answered “yes,” then you need to be compliant with industry regulations. 

In simple terms, compliance is the act of meeting established industry or government guidelines. These guidelines are in place to protect you and your customers’ data. As technology changes, these compliance regulations evolve, and it can be difficult for some businesses to keep up with the changes. 

Here are two compliance regulations businesses need to be aware of regarding financial information:

PCI

With more and more financial transactions conducted online than ever before, you have to be vigilant in protecting you and your customers’ payment information. All it takes is one data breach for your customers to lose trust in your business. Enter the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS. These regulations and requirements are designed to ensure that all companies that accept, store, process or transmit cardholder data during a credit card transaction maintain a secure environment. 

There are different compliance levels, determined by how many online credit card transactions your business performs within a year. Each major credit card company has its own specific requirements, such as annual questionnaires and quarterly network scans by a third-party vendor.

SOX

In the early 2000s, the U.S. government passed legislation to crack down on inaccurate financial information following scandals involving high-profile corporations such as Enron and WorldCom. This legislation became known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or SOX. The act protects shareholders and the general public by improving the accuracy of corporate financial disclosures.

 

The financial and IT departments of all public companies are required to follow SOX regulations. The act outlines which records need to be stored and how long you need to maintain a secure backup of your financial data. 

What Happens if You’re Not in Compliance?

For companies that are not in compliance with PCI, SOX or other regulations, there can be harsh penalties. For example, if you’re found in violation of the SOX requirements, you could get kicked off your exchange listing and face multimillion-dollar fines.

How We Can Help

If your business takes any kind of online payment, you need to be in compliance. We perform audits and assessments to determine whether your company meets industry regulations. Most importantly, we can create policies, controls and procedures to ensure your company prevents future issues and meets compliance every time.

Don’t navigate complicated compliance and industry regulations alone. Contact us today to get started.

Checklist: Do You Need a Project Management Solution?

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Project management (PM) software plays a critical role in how successfully you implement a new solution or resolve a task. In fact, a study by Hive found that 77 percent of high-performing projects use project management software. So, if projects are more successful using PM software, why aren’t more companies using it?

The answers are as unique as each company, with one of the top responses being that there is a general misunderstanding of how project management impacts your services. But, how do you know if a project management software solution is truly right for your business?

Start by filling out this checklist:

  • Do you have visibility on each step of a product or process deployment?
  • Do you have a way to tell who is responsible for each task?
  • Can you organize your tasks into projects to eliminate chaos and confusion?
  • Can you easily track time spent on a project for accurate billing?
  • Can your team see which deadlines are approaching and prioritize their workload?
  • Can your team collaborate and share information in a single location?
  • Do your team members know their timeline before they begin a project?
  • Can you or your team quickly identify gaps in your deliverables?
  • Can you identify projects holds and quickly determine why they occur?
  • Do you have a way to generate reports based on the completed projects?

0-3 Yes: You need a project management software solution ASAP. You’re likely losing valuable time, money and resources on projects that you don’t quite have a handle on. You’re missing deadlines and struggling to get the entire team on board with process changes. By adopting a PM solution, you’ll gain visibility and control over your projects and deployments – helping you keep on schedule and budget.

4-7 Yes: You have a handle on some things, but you’re likely losing valuable visibility when it comes to where projects are being held up or how your team’s time is being spent. Don’t let a deployment come to a screeching halt because your teams lack communication about when a task has been completed and when another task should begin. A PM solution will help your team stay on the same page and work towards a common goal – total project euphoria.

8-10 Yes: You have a handle on most things, but do you have a comprehensive solution that lets you assign tasks, track time, create project reports and manage timelines all in one place? A PM solution makes it easier to monitor and manage your team and work together across different departments. Cut out the costs of adopting multiple software programs when a single solution can help you streamline and optimize your business.

To learn more about project management software, which solution is right for your business and how we can help you keep it secure, contact us today.

5 Things to Outsource to Your vCIO

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As your business grows, you’ll eventually need someone to help you choose and deploy technology to protect your business, improve processes and support your organization’s goals. If you’ve never heard of a virtual CIO, you might assume you don’t need one – but virtual CIOs, or vCIOs, give companies the benefits of a high-level technology executive without the cost of hiring an in-house CIO.

Virtual CIOs examine your current infrastructure, locate gaps in security and productivity, and implement solutions to improve your business operations. They bring their personal experiences and a network of technical resources to work with you and determine the best IT solutions for your business. Here are five aspects of your business that you can outsource to a vCIO:

  1. Strategic Initiatives
    Have you been putting off large projects because you’re worried about not having enough bandwidth to successfully manage them? Virtual CIOs can be brought in on an as-needed basis to oversee strategy IT initiatives that promote long-term growth and competitiveness within your organization.
  2. Business Continuity Planning
    Natural disasters, employee errors, even potential data loss during a planned system update or migration – there are numerous threats facing your business’s mission-critical information. A vCIO designs a comprehensive strategy to keep your business in operation during and after a disaster.
  3. Emerging Opportunities
    Technology trends come and go, but the right solutions can make a measurable impact on your efficiency, growth and profit. Your vCIO keeps on top of emerging technologies and identifies opportunities for innovation in your business to help you make higher-ROI technology investments.
  4. Cybersecurity Services
    Small and medium-sized businesses aren’t immune to cyberattacks – in fact, hackers often view them as easy targets. With help from an experienced vCIO, you can protect your business by implementing strong security measures to deflect malicious software and unauthorized access.
  5. IT Budgeting
    Technology costs can vary wildly from month to month – or, you can partner with a vCIO who helps you stick to a predictable IT budget. Plus, virtual CIOs implement technology strategically to reduce operating costs and drive revenue, allowing a larger budget for your business to expand and thrive.

Virtual CIOs are ideal for businesses that don’t have the budget for a full-time, in-house CIO. With our vCIO services, you get access to a team of knowledgeable IT experts at a price that makes sense for your business. To discuss how a vCIO fits into your company, contact us today and start your business transformation.