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Getting tech new business

How to Securely Dispose of Old Computers

Getting new computers for your business is exciting, but what happens to the old ones? Depending on the age, some people sell them, others throw them out. That’s the easy part. The problem is the sensitive data on them. There are passwords, account numbers, license keys, customer details, medical information, tax returns, browser history…. the works! Each computer, whether laptop, tablet or desktop, contains a treasure trove of sensitive information that cybercriminals would love to get their hands on.

Unfortunately, hitting delete on your files doesn’t actually make them disappear, nor does waving a strong magnet over the drive. These mistakes have cost businesses millions of dollars over the years.

Most businesses are unaware that specialized data cleanup is necessary, others think calling someone to collect the computers will cover all the bases. A 2016 experiment proved just how dangerous the situation can be when they bought 200 used hard drives and found 67% held unwiped, unencrypted sensitive data, including sales projection spreadsheets, CRM records, and product inventories. Frighteningly, they didn’t need any special hacking skills to get this data, it was all right there and helpfully labeled. It’s also not surprising that with simple data recovery tools, people have also been able to access British NHS medical records and missile data, all waiting patiently on a discarded hard drive.

Why hitting delete doesn’t help

Data on a hard drive works like a book with an index page. Every time data is written, it pops a quick entry into the index so when you need it again, it knows where to look. The index is used for files you create as well as system files you can’t even see. Sensible, right? Except if you delete a file it’s more like changing the index to say nothing is on page 10 and you can write something else there when you’re ready. But if you manually flip to page 10, you’ll find the information is still there – the file still exists until it’s been written over – it’s the index reference that got deleted.

Wiping data before disposal

There are software tools you can get to do it yourself, as well as dedicated security firms, but your best option is to choose an IT business you know and trust. With that in mind, a methodical approach is required to ensure not a single drive is left untreated. You don’t want to leave data behind, or even clues that a motivated person could extrapolate any private information from. The approach might include using checklists to maintain security, or dedicated processes to guide each step in decommissioning. Careful records should also be kept, including who signs off on completion of the retirement, and where the computers are sent afterwards. A proper inventory and auditing process may slow the rollout of the new computers slightly, but it’s always better than having your old data come back to haunt you.

We can migrate any needed data, backup the information to your server or external drive, then wipe or destroy the hard drives for you. We can assess the age of your old computers and either dispose of them for you or point you in the right direction of computer recyclers. Plus, the quicker you dispose of your old computers, the easier the process will be. Recyclers will be able to send less of your equipment to landfill, and you’ll be less likely to forget how valuable the drive contents are.

Upgrading your business computers should be a happy time for you and your employees, so with a little forward planning, you’ll be able to keep everyone smiling and all your data secure.

Need help with your old hardware? Call us today at 570-779-4018

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.

Unified Threat managment

Why Your Business Needs Unified Threat Management

Sounds scary doesn’t it? Almost like a swat team dressed in black is going to swing in and start yelling orders. While just as effective at disabling the bad guys, Unified Threat Management (UTM) is a special kind of IT solution focused on proactive protection. Consider it more like a team of virtual bodyguards that stand at the door between your business and the internet, keeping trouble out while your legitimate traffic can come and go normally.

With the increasing number of connected devices in your business network and the different ways your employees now connect, it’s more important than ever to set up dedicated security systems that give integrated protection. UTM is a series of solutions that work together, simultaneously layering your protection across the board. We’ll cover the four main inclusions here, and exactly what they can do for your business.

Robust Firewall

Put simply, a firewall keeps an eye on all the data coming in and out, looking for anything abnormal. While every home PC comes with a software firewall built in, those ones pale in comparison to what a UTM firewall can do. Remember the team of virtual bodyguards? Imagine the home firewall asking nicely if the data should be doing that, while the UTM slams the data to the ground and demands credentials. It exists to make sure the data entering your network is safe, that it’s not part of a cyber-attack, and that in the rare event your network becomes infected, your servers aren’t being used to attack another business.

Anti-virus Where it Matters

With so much new malware being released daily, it’s easy to fall behind in updates and discover you’ve been infected. Your employees are likely doing their best, but manually scanning each file can be exhausting and time-consuming. Your UTM anti-virus is built into the firewall, ensuring known or suspicious malware is stopped at the door. It doesn’t even make it through to your employees, so the risk is removed. Clearly that’s the best outcome possible and will allow your employees to work at maximum efficiency, while you can run your business with confidence.

Spam Blocking

Most cyber-attacks come via email these days, with either an attachment or a link. Once clicked, the malware is released into the network to wreak havoc. Obviously, your employees are smart enough not to open random attachments/links, so hackers use phishing emails. These are emails that look legitimate and may refer to vendors you use, financial services you have accounts with, or even seem to be from other employees. Your UTM isn’t falling for any of those disguises, it strips down each email and checks it against high-tech legitimacy markers. If it sees anything suspicious, the email is marked as spam and either held for review or bounced away.

Your employees never see the attack, so they can’t accidentally fall for it. While the UTM is monitoring for phishing/fake emails, it’s also culling out the general spam that clogs up inboxes. Employees will no longer have to spend precious minutes each day wading through the junk, and the likelihood of missing an important customer email has greatly dropped.

Content Filtering

In a perfect world, your employees would only access work-related sites and do work-related things online. Content filtering can help you limit the risk they’re bringing into your business via these websites. Your UTM can be set to restrict sites that infect computers, such as adult content, gambling or illegal downloads. It can also be used to restrict access to productivity vampires like Facebook or Pinterest, either during work hours or completely. It’s up to your policies how much you’d like to filter and whether to add any flexibility. Some businesses allow social media during lunch breaks or have special reward hours each week. Simple tweaks like this can increase productivity overnight and give you the security you’re looking for.

You can see how a layered security solution like UTM provides a space for your business to thrive, where systems are secure, employees are able to maintain efficiency, and cyber problems stay outside the doors. The way the layers work together is more effective than a patchwork of separate systems, and a UTM is much easier to configure and maintain.

We can find the right UTM solution for your business. Call us today at 570-779-4018!

outsourcing your IT

Outsourcing your IT

Why outsource your IT?  As a Small – Medium Business (SMB), the question of outsourcing your Information Technology (IT) may have frequently crossed your mind, especially with the surging security breaches that the media outlets seem to broadcast weekly.  Whether your business does not already have a dedicated IT Department or if you are seeking complementary services to your already established IT infrastructure, outsourcing your IT technology can provide tremendous benefits to your business.  Using the 3 R’s (Reasons, Risks & Rewards) can provide a base to examine if outsourcing your IT may be beneficial and effective for your business.     

 

REASONS to outsource your Managed IT Services

  • Outsourcing is Budget Friendly – Cost Effective – Reduce & Control Operating Costs.
  • Would your business like to improve your and Your Employees’ Focus and Resources?
  • Would your business like to Reduce Labor Costs?  
  • Is your business finding it difficult to keep up to date with Routine Maintenance on Workstations and Servers?
  • Is your business finding it difficult to start or manage IT Projects?
  • Make capital available for other means in your business.
  • Reduce Security Risks.

 

RISKS involved with outsourcing Managed IT Services

Any time you hand over responsibilities for any aspect of your business you are inviting risk. Whether hiring a staff member or outsourced service, you may have lingering hesitations, such as, What are they supposed to do? Or Will they fit in with the company culture? Or Did I hire the right person?  

 

Some other risks that you may consider when outsourcing your Managed IT Services:

 

  • Loss of Control – Oversight
  • Confidentiality of DATA – entrusting someone to your company’s intimate practices may seem like a risk, but an Outsourced IT Service provider can also help protect your DATA from ending up in the wrong hands
  • Disaster Recovery – much like confidentiality, an Outsourced IT Service provider can mitigate and help to make a plan for Disaster Recovery
  • Some IT functions are not easily converted
  • Employee Morale
  • Your business may get locked into a contract

 

REWARDS of outsourcing your Managed IT Services

  • Acquire a Valuable Partner –  a committed Expert of Outsourced Managed IT that provides professional, objective and best practice advice along with keeping up with the most current technology trends.
  • Add to your In-House capabilities.
  • Little to no Human Resource (HR) Investment.  Hiring an employee hosts a staple of expenses from the hiring process, background checks and supplying a space to work to account for benefits, vacation, sick days, worker’s compensation, continued training, employee performance reviews, human resources, and of course, employee turnover.
  • Cost Savings.
  • Flexible to your Company’s changes in size, volume, and strategy.
  • Security – Keeping your Systems updated, leveraging Virus protection and proactively monitoring.
  • Predictable Monthly Budget.
  • Prevent Burnout of Yourself and Employees.

 

BONUS – Tips to Working with your Outsourced Managed IT

  • Clearly formulate and communicate goals and objectives of the business relationship
  • Have a Strategic Vision
  • Keep Open Communication

 

Managed IT Outsourcing companies have a lot of experience with different types of businesses and thus – a better understanding of a client’s expectations. This is the main reason why outsourced companies are able to be flexible with your requests and visions. They can even propose new ideas that can change your perspectives. Outsourcing companies see your existing infrastructure from a different vantage point and can customize a solution for your individual business needs.  

 

About Herstek & Associates, LLC

Herstek & Associates, LLC is a professional outsourced computer service company serving small to medium businesses in Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties in Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA). Our specialties are network planning (network consulting), network projects, and ongoing network/computer maintenance. We pride ourselves in not only delivering the results you expect but also being knowledgeable, systematic, accountable, trustworthy and easy to work with. To speak with a Support Advisor about the the computer support provided by Herstek & Associates, LLC please call us at (570)779-4018 or contact us.

Why Do People Create Viruses?

You’d be right in thinking it’s hard to program a computer virus that can spread across the world in a flash – we’re talking days of constant desk-jockey nerd-work. So why do they bother? Well, it generally comes down to 3 reasons: Money, showing off their skill, or to simply being a jerk. While showing off or being a jerk is pretty self-explanatory, the money side is fascinating.

Here’s how people are making money with computer viruses:

Bank account theft: Virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to your bank details, sneaking in to grab your login details or credit card info. They can either transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person though, and simply sell your details to the highest bidder.

Ransomware: Rather than a financial snatch and grab, sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for the unlock code. Without a true backup plan in place beforehand, you’re at their mercy. You’ll be given very helpful information on how to pay, plus a firm deadline before your files are destroyed permanently.

Ad swappers: A cheeky technique, this is when they create a virus that either puts annoying ads on websites you visit, or places affiliate codes on pages so that when you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – they get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you’re supporting their activities.

Bitcoin mining: You might have heard of digital currencies being used for payment, but did you know you can also earn them with your computer processing power? Unfortunately, ‘renting’ out your computer’s processing power means paying more in running costs than you’d make – unless you were very clever and sneaky, and used a virus to rent out other people’s computers.

Botnets: Certain infected computers can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In this case, they’ll usually set the infected bot computers to overwhelm a target web server, like an e-commerce store. Sometimes it’s done as revenge, but more often it’s blackmail. The ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands of dollars or I’ll crash your site during the biggest shopping day of the year.”

Account stealing: Subscription accounts like Netflix and Hulu are often hijacked, leaving you to pay the bill for someone else’s entertainment. But sometimes, virus creators go one step further with online gaming accounts. All those digital items that you fought so hard for (special clothing, weapons etc.) can carry real world value and be stolen from your account and sold on a black market. Yes, that’s cheating!

Give us a call at 570-779-4018 to make sure your computer is secure and protected.

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.

iDrive windows server backup

Windows Server Backup w/ iDrive

Are you looking for an online backup solution for your Microsoft Windows Server? IDrive can handle regular files, SQL, Exchange, Hyper-V, and SharePoint.

A recent Forrester report suggested that businesses are not protecting their computers and remote offices sufficiently and the traditional tape backup scenario is prone to a lot of catastrophes such as loss of tapes due to theft or just plain data loss. A Gartner study even pointed out that businesses with dozens or hundreds of remote servers frequently delegate remote backup responsibilities to non-IT professionals (a night clerk at a hotel, for example).

What if this is not done right?

Of what use is a backup if it can’t be retrieved in one piece when needed? What good is a local tape backup if it cannot help retrieve data during a crisis, especially in cases where even just a few seconds of downtime can be extremely detrimental for business? These are a few of the aspects that IDrive addresses in its ‘software as a service’ strategy. IDrive alleviates the challenges faced by many small businesses that fail to recognize the importance of data protection.

iDrive windows server backup

 

Physical security of our infrastructure/security of your data

The IDrive application is hosted at our world class data center in the United States, which provides the physical environment necessary to keep the servers up and running 24/7. These world-class facilities are custom designed with raised floors, HVAC temperature control systems with separate cooling zones and seismically braced racks. They offer the widest range of physical security features, including state-of-the-art smoke detection and fire suppression systems, motion sensors, 24/7 secured access, video camera surveillance and security breach alarms. There is a proper DR (disaster recovery) system in place and our objective is to ensure that even in the worst of circumstances, your data is safe with IDrive so you can retrieve it with minimal downtime.

Network security

We have a periodic third party review of our network infrastructure to check for known application and service vulnerabilities.

Backups of backups

Your data on IDrive resides on raid-protected industry leading storage devices with multiple levels of redundancy. In addition, data is periodically backed up onto another set of devices for additional security.

Performance/flexibility

  • Instantly sync files across all linked devices – modify files on any device and the updates are immediately available on all linked devices.
  • Versioned data retrievals for up to 10 prior versions – helps you go back to any point in time when a file was backed up to your account and retrieve data as it was stored in that particular version.
  • Search and retrieve your backed up and synced files - locate any crucial business documents backed up to your IDrive account or synced across linked devices and retrieve it – at a lightening fast pace.
  • Simple, fast, reliable data transfers with superior performance - helps you conserve your bandwidth usage with a provision to adjust it.
  • Incremental backups that transfer only the modified portions of your files – extremely fast data transfers during backup and sync.
  • Open file backup - allows you to backup your open email files (such as the .PST files of Microsoft Outlook).
  • Local Backup - encrypts all files using 256-bit AES encryption, while them storing to any portable hard drives, like IDrive Wi-Fi.
  • Manage desktop backups via web-based console - manage data backups, restore files to corresponding computers, modify application settings, etc on your connected computers.

 

Get IDrive now!

Sign up today and get 25% off on your first year or get 50% off on your first year for a 2 year plan.

Microsoft 2003 Server is Expiring

Microsoft 2003 Server is ExpiringDo you still have Microsoft 2003 server in your business?

Windows Server 2003 support is ending July 14, 2015. No more security updates. No more software support. Security software vendors will stop supporting Windows 2003 Server.

It is time to migrate to something else. There are benefits to making the move. Right off the top, you will be looking at new server hardware, so your processing power will increase. You probably don’t realize how tired your old server is. There are also security benefits. Microsoft Server 2012 R2 is much more secure than 2003 and it will continue to receive security updates until 1/10/2023. If you are interested in cloud services, Server 2012 R2 is much more cloud-friendly than 2003 server. Sharing files and integrating with services can be accomplished with less setup time. There are a number of other technical reasons to upgrade that would bore you, but the basic premise of all of them is efficiency and then end goal is to save time and money.

There are a number of upgrade options available but if you are using Microsoft now, you probably want to stay Microsoft. If that is not the case, there are some Linux alternatives that may make your pocketbook happy.  Regardless, we can help you through the migration process. Contact us and our system consultants will set up an appointment to review your current system so we can help you make a migration plan. Some of our customers have chose to replace their Microsoft Exchange Servers with some form of hosted Exchange.  Others have decided to virtualize and keep their own Exchange Server. Businesses that do not use the full features of Exchange server have opted to switch to a different service which allows almost a direct conversion to Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. Each of these options has their own advantages and disadvantages. Let us help you make the decision on what type of solution is best for you.

We, at Herstek & Associates, know it is always a big expense to upgrade server systems, but it will be a bigger expense later if you do not upgrade your Microsoft 2003 Servers now.