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Getting tech new business

How to Get the Right Tech for Your New Business

Congratulations on your new business! Start-up costs can easily escalate, and tech is often one of the bigger expenses. It’s not that everything is high priced, but the sheer number of technologies available can overwhelm smart decision making. The latest tech is dangled in front of you with amazing features you didn’t know you needed, and suddenly your budget has gone boom!

Here’s how to get the tech right for your business, without the headache and drama.

1. Check if you actually need it

In a lot of cases, using a cloud application means you can skip the big server purchase, along with the on-site technician to manage it. Many of your business programs will have a cloud option that allows you to get all the benefits without the big expense. Before you make the tech purchase, work out which applications you’ll be running and whether a local installation or cloud access is preferred. As part of this stage, think about how you’d like to use the applications – perhaps remote access is a priority, or perhaps collaboration will underpin your business culture. This level of clarity is often overlooked and the number 1 reason why tech expenses spiral.

2. Get expert advice

It’s easy to ask friends and family what to buy, but there are many more factors to consider than just their personal preference. You trust their opinion, of course, but they may be speaking from a consumer perspective or basing their recommendation on brand loyalty. Every business is different and pairing the correct technology with the business will save you a lot of money in the long run.

3. Buy business grade

Unfortunately, the computers and laptops you see in department stores aren’t up to business standard. They’re designed for home users to perform quick tasks, not run a full 8 hour (or more) workload. Business grade systems have additional features that your business needs, plus longer warranties and better support. Even the attached devices like networking or printers are built to a higher standard, to last longer and perform better. Considering the cyber climate we live in, taking a special interest in the security offered by the business grade technology is a wise decision.

4. Prioritize flexibility

Businesses evolve rapidly during their first few years and the last thing you want to do is go out and buy new tech, playing catch-up with your vision and smushing together an assorted mismatch of devices. Your new technology should be as scalable as your business, which means making purchase decisions based on strategy, not price. Perhaps this means instead of workstations for employees, you only need tablets. Rather than having a fixed point of sale system, you might choose mobile checkout devices so your staff can assist customers on the go. These examples highlight how easy it is to commit to certain tech because it’s ‘what you do’ but later discover you’re locked into a certain way of doing business. Trying to change your processes down the line impacts productivity, efficiency and culture in a big way, so we recommend buying with your future success in mind.

5. Choose an IT partner

During your set up and moving ahead through growth, you’ll need an IT partner who can not only help with your purchase strategy but support you through any tech problems as they arise. That’s the difference between a partner and a supplier, they’re committed to driving long-term business success.

You’ll be able to call on your partner and know they’re immediately up to speed with your business, they know how IT can help leverage your competitive advantage and which critical systems they should focus on. Getting good tech in place shouldn’t be seen as just an expense. It improves productivity and allows you to serve your customers better while enjoying consistent growth.

If you need an IT partner to help your business grow, give us a call at 570-779-4018.

Outsourcing Updates

Keep Up to Date by Outsourcing

Updating your business software is one of your best protections against cyber-attack, but actually going through and running the updates is a task that often gets overlooked. Either they take too long, they pop up at inconvenient times, or you simply don’t know when an update is available. Do you have a plan in place to ensure all your tech is up-to-date, or are you flying by the seat of your pants?

Emergency updates are a killer

Just between us, most businesses update their software only when the repair techs come to fix a major breakage. The techs run the updates before they leave, then the systems sit there with ever-widening security gaps… until another breach happens and the techs are called back for another band-aid solution. Emergency only updates in a break/fix model are a great little earner for those techs, not so good for your uptime or budget.

Finding time for maintenance

To keep your business up and running securely, you need someone who lives and breathes updates. They’ll need to have top tech skills so they know when and how to apply all the patches, and how to make sure all your other tech is playing nice (and do it all after-hours). If you have an in-house IT specialist, you’re set – and they should already have an update plan. But if you don’t have a qualified IT team member, outsourcing to managed services is the perfect solution. You get highly skilled technicians remotely applying your network updates after hours. It’s also a great alternative when your in-house IT team is overloaded and has no time left for routine maintenance. We’re able to partner with your existing techs to take care of the small tasks, leaving them free to focus on bigger initiatives.

What else needs to be checked?

Beyond running security patches, it’s important to keep your business moving forward. Here are a few areas our techs look at as part of managed services:

Hardware health: The last thing you want is days of downtime after a piece of hardware dies a spectacular death, dragging other components down with it. By not staying on top of your hardware health, you’re opening yourself up to lost productivity, lost income and unknown delays. Our managed services can assess and replace components before they break. If suitable, we’ll also save you money by recommending (and helping) you move to a cloud solution, so you can access your data with inexpensive hardware like tablets.

Operating system expiry: While it’s great that you have a preferred OS, keeping it after the manufacturer ceases support can leave your business wide open for attack. It’s simply not a good combination. Our managed services technicians will advise you of any changes coming up for your OS, and suggest the best upgrade for your needs.

Legacy programs: Updates to your software have the potential to disrupt older programs, either resulting in errors, slow performance or even downtime. With technology advancing so fast, we often find additional requirements with an update, such as extra processing power, memory or graphics. Our technicians always make sure to check for compatibility as a whole before running an update.

Staying on top of your maintenance and upgrades can be a huge challenge for small business. Outsourcing to our managed services can help more than your budget – call us today at 570-779-4018.

business disaster

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

With the crazy weather we’re seeing, natural disasters 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.

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 570-779-4018 to create a custom business continuity plan for your business.

mac malware

Apple devices and Macs get malware!!

I don’t like picking on Macs… Oh, wait. That is a lie. I do like picking on Macs because I am tired of hearing “Apple’s don’t get viruses or malware.” This absolutely not true!

There hasn’t been a serious ransomware outbreak on Mac but that doesn’t mean isn’t coming. There are a few ransomware programs in the wild and there has been increased activity in the mac security sector just like there has been in the PC world. Other malware and scam software are out there and on the rise.  “Our tracking of Mac malware has seen a more than 220 percent increase in malware so far in 2017 over 2016,” said Malwarebytes. The main reason that Mac desktops and laptops seem to not be affected is that they only are about 7% of computer users. They are a much small target so there are less malicious programs out there. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They will still steal your data if they can. WIth RaaS (Ransomware as a Service) and cross-platform malware, it is becoming easier for the bad guys to target whatever they want. They don’t even have to be proficient at programming anymore. And with an attitude like “we don’t get malware,” you might be easy pickings.

Beyond that, you are also just as likely to lose your online data as a PC user! Just because you are browsing the internet from your Mac doesn’t mean things like the Yahoo and Equifax data breaches will not affect you. You still need to be vigilant in the cloud and protect your personal information.

Protect you and your Mac

  • Backup your data – Onsite, Offsite and Cloud
  • Keep your software and OS up to date
  • Don’t use unapproved software
  • Use an extra anti-malware solution
  • Be wary of unknown websites and unsolicited email
  • Use strong password and 2fa (Two-factor authentication) wherever you can
  • Use a standard account over an admin account for everyday use
  • If you have a laptop, consider full disk encryption

We offer backup, monitoring, and antimalware solutions if you use Apple products in your business. Let us know how we can help!

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 570-779-4018 for help with your business email.

Dropbox Reasons

Does Dropbox Make Sense For Your Business?

It seems so easy! Drag your files into a Dropbox folder and you’ve got yourself a file sharing system that brings your business in line with modern expectations. But then again, maybe not.

Dropbox has grown to become one of the main file sharing and cloud storage solutions of choice, with a core simplicity that’s hard to deny. But for business, that simplicity comes with a catch. In some cases, sticking with the familiar blue box can provide good value, and of course, it never hurts when your staff already know how to use your software. In other cases, you’ll need to consider alternatives designed to meet your needs more explicitly.

When Dropbox is a Good Choice

Micro-sized: If your business is small with no more than a handful of employees (or none);

No sensitive information: This includes accounts, customer details, vendor, staff or proprietary data; plus

Nobody ever accidentally deletes anything: Dropbox is a syncing service, which means when a file is deleted, it deletes it from all machines. While the file is recoverable from the Dropbox website within 30 days, by the time you notice it’s missing, it might be too late.

If you’re thinking those attributes sound more like a fictional business, you’re not far off. Somehow, Dropbox’s popularity in the consumer sphere has snuck into business environments, despite the risks. Key amongst these is the fact that Dropbox is designed for syncing, NOT backup. This means while your data is sprawling across all connected devices, it’s a mirror of the source only – when you delete or change the original file, the Dropbox version immediately syncs with it. In some cases, this can spread malware between your connected devices and put all of them at risk.

Your business also misses out on important security controls, such as user-level access control and password protected links. Rather like a free-for-all, the shared files are sitting there available to anyone with either a connected device or an unsecure weblink. You’ll also miss collaborative editing, losing out in productivity and data resilience as multiple employees overwrite each other simultaneously, with no record of who even opened the file, let alone changed it.

If Dropbox makes sense for your business, there’s no reason to change. But if it’s clearly not a good choice for you, there are multiple corporate grade syncing solutions. These are designed for business with security, encryption and collaboration controls built in. Rather than the easiest solution which may pose a risk to your business and digital security, consider implementing a scalable solution that meets all your needs.

Call us at 570-779-4018 to discuss syncing solutions for your business

Four Simple Steps To Paperless

So your desk is buried in paper, your shelves are overcrowded with stacks of documents, and you’ve carved out just enough space for your keyboard, mouse, and coffee? It’s time to go paperless, not just for your own sanity, but to streamline the entire business. It’s the one move that saves time and space while gaining flexibility for your mobile workforce. When you’re ready to adopt paperless processes, consider these 4 steps:

  1. Leverage the cloud for storage and search: Documents can be uploaded, viewed and edited only by those with permission. Google Drive is the easiest tool to begin implementing paperless storage and collaboration, though Evernote and Microsoft OneNote are also strong contenders. No matter which you choose, you’ll be able to easily find files using search functions, and no longer need to remember whether it was filed by name, subject or category – just enter what you need and let the system locate it for you. Then simply update, share or email the file as required. No more filing cabinets or archive rooms, just clutter-free workspaces, room to breathe, and possibly even lower overheads now that you could fit into a smaller office space. Digital files will also allow remote access, perfect for working on the go or telecommuting staff. Access files at any time using your secure login, on any device, from any location.
  2. Provide training across the board: Establish ongoing training to ensure all workers are up to speed with the new system and the way you’d like things done. This is the time to set standards for file and folder names, new collaboration norms and security protocols. Long-term adoption will require cooperation from workers at all levels of the business, and training for everyone will go a long way towards success.
  3. Scan necessary papers: The move towards digital files often requires a step back to scan necessary files into the system. Many of the office grade multifunction printers offer double-sided feed scanning, so you can quickly scan papers into the system and then dispose of the paper. Alternatively, you can obtain special scanning hardware like the Fujitsu Scansnaps. Any new paper documents can be scanned likewise, and even faxes can be set to accept digital files only. Each file will digitize to quite a small size, so running out of hard drive space shouldn’t be a concern.
  4. Prioritize backups: The best way to prevent file and document loss is to have a robust backup system, including a regular off-site backup. Treat your backups as a vital insurance policy, so that your files are readily available and intact if required. Use your backups to address any issues as soon as they arise and keep your new paperless files well-managed and secure.

Ready to go paperless? We can help. Call us today at 570-779-4018.

Ransomware: It is not just a scare tactic

It is not just a scare tactic, and it is not going away

Ransomware activity continues to rise, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down for 2017. In 2016 it spiked by 6000%, and it is on track to be a 1 billion dollar a year “business.” IBM study.

Software teams are building ransomware kits to sell on the Dark Web. RaaS (Ransomware as a service!) is a thing. This means there are illegal companies making money from designing kits to build ransomware. So, not only are criminals making money from ransomware, the distributors don’t even have to be good at programming or hacking to do it. There is enough of a demand that a small team of programmers is making money from selling the software to commit the crime. It is also making it extremely hard for old fashion virus scanners to catch the activity because each criminal is adding their own twist.

How it happens

  • Phishing email
  • user clicks on link or attachment
  • ransomware makes contact
  • C&C server generates & retrieves an encryption key
  • ransomware scans infected a machine, looking for files
  • ransom demand
  • connects to other machines and infects them
  • ransomware builds an inventory of encrypted files
  • scan other machines over the network

Business Targeting

It used to be consumers or simplistic shotgunning techniques. Now there is more and more direct targeting. Business targets make sense to the bad guys. Consumers or individuals might just start from scratch, but businesses are more likely to pay a ransom. It is much more lucrative form them to target small business.

Spearphishing

Spearphishing is direct targeting your personal account using techniques to fool you into trusting the source. The criminal could use social media sites to gather information. The email may be crafted specifically for you and may even look like it comes from a person you know. One click is all it takes. And it isn’t just email anymore. Messaging, texting, and other apps can lead to infection.

 

 

What do you do about it?

Backup! Backup! Backup!

Step number one should be making sure your backup is up to date and ready to be restored. One “newer” option is DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service) but even a simple disk backup is better than nothing. Regardless, you need to spend time analyzing your current setup and determining if you need to take further steps to protect your data. If you have multiple, granular, safe and secure backups and can restore your data, you don’t have to pay the ransom.

Updates!

Keep your devices and systems on the latest version and patches. This should include firmware. Less exploitable software and devices mean that if you do get infected, it is less likely to spread.

Endpoint Protection!

Yes, you still need endpoint protection. While signature based isn’t what it used to be, companies are making strides and it is still worthwhile. You should look for something with anti-malware, anti-ransomware, and anti-exploit features. And you should protect all your devices: Mobile, desktops, laptops, physical and virtual servers.

Network/Gateway Security 

This should include some type of email protection even if you are using an outside source (Gmail, Office 365, Hosted solution) to host your email. You should also have a firewall with a strong IPS/IDS (intrusion protection system/intrusion detection system). Use VPNs whenever possible. This includes cloud and virtual. Do not make the mistake of assuming that these technologies make your network safer.

Also, please do not use a consumer class gateway/firewall. And if you insist on using one, change the default password!

Establish a Security Policy

This one may sound simple but it is possibly the most important and hardest to implement. You need to train your users. You need to train yourself. You need to have plans in place in case something does happen.

Ransomware: It's is not just a scare tactic
Ransomware: It is not just a scare tactic
Contact us for you computer repair, network support and IT consulting needs.

Business Computer Services

Business Computer Services

Are you opening a new business, trying to plan your next technology move in your current business, or just tired of your present IT provider? Great! We specialize in business IT consulting and service!

It doesn’t matter if your company is one person or three hundred employees, we can provide a number of IT services to help you keep your business running smoothly. We aren't at your office to talk around the water cooler. We are there to get the job done and keep your business productive and secure at a reasonable price.

Business Class Hardware

  • Sales and Support
  • Desktops and Laptops - Mac and PC
  • Tablets and Mobile Devices - Droid and Apple
  • Servers - Microsoft, Linux, and Virtual
  • NAS (Network Attached Storage)

Email Setup and Support

  • Spam Control and Encryption
  • Exchange Server
  • Office 365
  • G Suite
  • Hosted Solutions

Backup and Disaster Recovery

  • Onsite Solutions and Storage
  • Offsite and Cloud Backup
  • "Instant Up" Disaster Recovery Solutions

Managed Services

  • Remote Monitoring and Maintenance
  • Patch Management for OS and Software
  • Managed Antivirus/Antimalware

Computer Networking

  • Internet Connectivity 
  • Phone Systems
  • Network Hardware 
  • Structured Cabling 
  • Network Security 

Wireless Systems

  • Hardware Sales and Support
  • Heatmapping and Analysis
  • Security Configuration
  • Guest Networks and Captive Portals

Virus, Malware, and Ransomware

  • Endpoint Protection Solutions
  • Malware Removal and Cleanup 
  • Data Recovery 

Custom Programing and Interfaces

  • Interfaces - Accounting, HL7, DICOM
  • Legacy - Foxpro, dBase, Cobol
  • Website and App

Cloud Solutions

  • Public 
  • Private 
  • Hybrid

Interested in our services? Download our price guide!


 

Ready to start moving your business to the cloud?

What does that even mean? Well, the reason you might not know is that the cloud is a term used to cover a great many things. It generally means using the Internet to host your infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) or software as a service (SaaS). If you are a small business you would probably be more interested in SaaS and IaaS.  Especially, if you already have a client-server configuration in place.

An example of SaaS would be Office 365, Google Docs or QuickBooks online. An example of IaaS would be hosting one of your production servers at a service provider such as AWS or Azure. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just move your file server out into the cloud.  For cloud services to be cost effective you really have to change your philosophy and focus on user centric usage instead of server centric usage. At the same time, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your file server. There are some private cloud solutions that mix the best of both worlds.

Are you ready for the cloud?

There are some things to take into consideration before you even think about moving into the cloud.

  • Do you have reliable high-speed access at your location? Even if you think you do, we may need to run a few tests to make sure. You may also need a backup internet connection if you plan to rely mostly on cloud services. What happens when the internet is down?
  • Is your network and endpoint security adequate? You need to take steps to make sure your business location is secure before moving your data anywhere else. If you do move information to a cloud service, you must take extra steps to make sure it is secure since it is now on the internet.
  • Are your users ready? Sometimes this can be a stumbling block because using cloud services is different than the client-server structure that people have been using for many years. Cloud services can be very user-centric.
  • Is your wireless network ready?  Extra devices on the wireless may require increasing your coverage and network. You should also take steps to provide secure and controlled internet to your employees and possibly your customers.

Do you need to move to the cloud?

  • Do you want to have access to your documents, data and applications outside the office?
  • Do you need access to your files on different devices (PC, Phone, Laptop) ?
  • Do you want to easily share files with other people outside your business?

If they answer is yes to any of these, it is time to start planning.

Contact us and we can set up an appointment to review your current configuration and help you determine a path for your business.