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Professional Businesses Deserve Professional Setup

Watching a business grow is as satisfying as it is rewarding. Whether opening a new office, starting a new department, or bringing in a new employee; it’s a positive step in the right direction. Upward growth often requires new office tech and IT changes to bring new staff fully online.

At a minimum, a new computer will be needed for employees to get started quickly and hit the ground running. New staff or an entire department may require a server, printer, or additional networking hardware to cope with extra demand.

A tech smart business should give careful consideration to how it sources and sets up its hardware and software. It can be tempting to pick a simple solution off the shelf from the nearest retailer.

Modern manufacturers often make it easy to get set up with a new device straight out the box. Using default settings and a simple setup means a laptop or tablet can be just plugged in and it’s ready to go, right?

Unfortunately, setting up technology to create safe, secure, and reliable business services requires a little more detail.

Setting Up Tech For Business

The hardware you have is at least as important as the hardware you buy. It’s important to ensure new tech on the network is compatible with your existing business systems. Adding the wrong solutions to accommodate new employees can slow down the system for everyone.

Many firms talk themselves into buying the most expensive, or heavily marketed system on the market. Buyers often feel confident that the high price tag and slick design means it’s guaranteed to work with anything you put to it. We wish that were always the case.

Without an eye for fine detail and good IT knowledge, combining certain solutions can cause a significant network slowdown or even fail to work together at all.

Consistency Is Key

It can seem easy, and tempting, to buy technology based on offers and deals around at the time you need it. Some companies do this to save money short term, building their systems using a mixture of hardware from various vendors and manufacturers. When thinking long term, this approach might not get you the great deal that you think.

Mixing suppliers alone can make it difficult to track where components came from in the coming months and years. Warranties, service agreements, and support can become hard to track down when parts fail and hardware dies. Money spent securing your business against failure is completely wasted if you can’t find the right paperwork at the right time.

Sourcing replacement parts and supported peripherals can be made more difficult when components are mixed too.

Planning ahead and purchasing identical hardware can make swapping components fast and straightforward. When systems are consistent, both parts and knowledge can be shared throughout the entire business. A smart decision today can eliminate costs, time, and headaches further down the road.

Unexpected issues appearing at the last minute can have large consequences on workload and deadlines. Sharing everything from chargers to memory can help to reduce and mitigate IT risks. Consistent hardware, swappable components, and even considering a supply of spares can take care of many potential headaches.

Smooth Onboarding

In business, first impressions are critically important. Whether setting up a new office or getting an employee ready to start, a professional attitude goes a long way. Good IT that’s ready to work sets a professional tone to carry your business forward.

IT that supports and enhances operations is infinitely better than IT that gets in the way. Using consistent and well-known solutions in the right way avoids wasting time, maintains performance, and reduces costs where it matters.

Our goal is to ensure your hardware meets your business needs. A professional setup ensures your IT is consistently improved while you watch your business flourish and grow.

Give us a call at 570-779-4018 for a professional setup to make sure nothing stands in the way of growing your business.

Invest Well in Your IT Security

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a common and useful rule for many business owners. It serves to protect your business against unnecessary costs and unneeded downtime. While protecting your business against many types of danger, it poses an outright threat when it comes to IT security.

Security threats to your firm move so fast that your IT should be working twice as hard as your company just to keep up. Every day, hundreds of thousands of new malware threats are released. Falling even hours behind means any one of these attacks can threaten your business.

The single most dangerous thing IT security can do is stand still. Keeping up with the latest advice, technology, and updates the security industry offers is vital to keep your business safe. This makes up much of the unseen job of IT professionals. Hackers never stop looking for new ways into your system, which means your security can’t stop looking for ways to keep them out.

Modern Systems for Modern Business

One of the most common security threats a business opens itself to is using an outdated operating system or software package. Many firms are scared to upgrade, update, or renew their IT over fears of breaking legacy systems. Many rely heavily on old software and are afraid to make a large change themselves. Some businesses today still run machines on Windows XP, an operating system first released back in 2001.

Old operating systems stop receiving security updates and patches that protect against newly released attacks. These systems become very vulnerable, presenting a large target for knowledgeable hackers. This happens many years after newer versions have been released, giving knowing IT firms a chance to migrate safely.

Hackers are always on the lookout for businesses that run IT equipment outside of its suggested service life. A server, desktop computer, or peripheral is a golden opportunity for criminals to enter and threaten a business.

Hackers purchase their attacks on the dark web, safe in the knowledge that old systems won’t be patched. These attacks can then be used to attack unguarded firms to steal or compromise vital company data.

An unpatched old machine is like a valuable security door left propped open overnight, a golden opportunity for thieves.

Smart Budgets

Budgeting for business is a difficult task. We aim to make the most of everything we spend and reduce spending as much as we can. IT security can easily fall very far down the list of priorities.

IT can seem like an easy way to cut costs. It’s a department that the customer doesn’t always benefit from directly, and when it’s working well, it might not be on the radar at all. Despite working largely behind the scenes, successful IT is one of the critical components of every highly successful firm. Good IT can be the binding glue that holds the company together.

Even businesses far removed from the IT world typically uses payment machines, ordering systems, and inventory. Even restaurants and retail stores rely on computers to operate. Downtime for any critical system can be a complete disaster. A business can be unable to trade, and costs can mount up fast.

When vital IT components are used by the customer, a sales website, or an automated booking system for example, the problem can multiply tenfold.

Keep On Top Of The Essentials

Good IT isn’t built on high peaks and deep troughs in the yearly budget. The kind of IT that makes your business and helps it to grow is built by smart financing and careful planning. Great technicians are what makes excellent IT.

Maintaining steady updates, keeping pace with the latest security, and building your IT as you build your business keeps you in the driving seat when it matters most.

When IT is planned and issues are solved before they appear, security becomes cheaper, easier, and many times more effective. System upgrades can be planned out months, if not years in advance so you are never caught unaware.

Don’t let your IT be broken before you take steps to fix it. Move ahead of the curve and give us a call at 570-779-4018 so you don’t have to find out what your business looks like without IT.

What Hackers Target In Small Businesses

Hackers today have many ways to attack small businesses and business owners. Many attempt to use technology to send malware, viruses, or phishing attacks; or use information to con owners and employees into handing over more information than they should.

One or more of these techniques can be combined with gaining physical access to steal from vulnerable firms. Identifying precisely how criminals target businesses and what they deem most valuable can help to protect from the most devastating attacks out there.

Remaining vigilant and informed is one of the most vital things you can do as a business owner to protect your assets and reputation.

Extortion

Different types of attacks tend to rise and fall in popularity. Fifteen years ago, computer worms were the most common attack that businesses faced. Security software wasn’t as advanced or as widely used at it is today. Computer worms were, at the time, an exceptionally low-cost and efficient way to inflict the maximum amount of damage for minimum cost.

Today ransomware has seen an unfortunate boom in popularity. This technology aims to encrypt the target’s files on their personal computer. This technique denies the victim access and charges a large fee in exchange for the key to retrieve the victim’s own data.

The attack has worked so often because it requires minimal effort and can be used again and again. Many businesses have no option but to pay because the data is worth far more than the ransom demand the hackers have made.

The best defense against ransomware attacks, in addition to strong online security, is an up-to-date offsite backup — one that is tested to work reliably.

Targeting Customer Records

One of the most important things for your firm to take care of is your customer data records. Records which include names, dates of birth, and other personally identifying details. These details are extremely valuable to hackers or criminals who, either use them personally or sell them on to someone who will.

Many regions have strict laws and guidelines about how this information must be stored, accessed and protected. Failing to follow these can result in severe penalties that could devastate any company.

Targeting Financial Information

Like personal information, a small business must take extreme care when storing customer financial information. Sensitive details such as credit card or banking information are a key target for hackers looking to steal money fast.

The impact on your business reputation following a breach of financial data will be severe and devastating. Even a simple mistake can require years of advertising and great PR to repair. Many firms have failed to recover after losing the trust of their customers.

Social Engineering

Most firms today run good IT security packages to protect against online attacks and other forms of malware. Attackers often know to take their methods offline to achieve the best results.

Whether posing as a supplier, customer, or interested party; attackers can seek to gain information that you may be less than willing to hand over to a stranger. Small businesses can often be used to gather information on vendors and suppliers they do business with in order to attack them too.

Be particularly cautious of the information you provide when discussing business with individuals you haven’t spoken to before.

Keeping Small Business Safe

Each of these targets and attacks are just some of the most popular and hard-hitting attacks out there now. The list is forever changing, and the methods we use to protect against them always needs to change too.

Some can be defended against with great security, backups, and software. Others, such as social engineering, need you and your staff to stay up-to-date and remain vigilant about the major attacks affecting small business today.

If you need help tightening your businesses security, give us a call at 570-779-4018.

Tech New Year 2019

Preparing Your Business Tech to Start the New Year

The start of a new year is a challenging time for businesses. It can be a good time to reflect on the wins and losses of the previous twelve months. It’s also an excellent time to take stock and evaluate what your business needs to go forward.

IT demands move at a staggering speed, meaning last year’s tech may not fit next year’s needs.

The new year can bring major change to both the business and the environment it operates in. Regulations, contract terms, and seasonal spending habits mean that adaptations have to be made for continued growth.

A smart business knows how and where to incorporate flexibility to win more business and adapt to a new environment. As we move into the new year, there are fundamental questions we should ask about our IT to ensure we are ready to tackle the next twelve months too.

Is Your Hardware Still Up to The Task?

Businesses are often challenged by their client’s demand for files that seem to continually increase in size and resolution. The storage needed to handle, use, and archive these enormous files appears to grow at a near exponential rate.

Every device today is capable of capturing more data at a higher resolution than ever before. Huge data needs have become the new standard.

The expectation of bigger and bigger data is only set to continue as we progress into another new year. Many clients expect, or demand, exceptional quality from professional services and with a fast turnaround time too.

These competing demands put as much strain on network hardware and computing power as they do physical storage. One of the most important things a business can do when reviewing IT demands is to ensure there are no bottlenecks in the productivity pipeline.

Is Your Backup Reliable and Ready?

Almost every business in the modern day has learned enough to put a backup in place. Whether simply transferring files manually to USB storage, copying documents over to a local server, or saving media to the cloud. However, not every business is testing their backups. Fewer still are testing them reliably.

A backup is only as good as what we know can be reliably restored from it. Cases have emerged where big-name firms had famously believed they were backing up successfully for months or years, only to find out their backup was failing when they really needed it.

Whether impacted by missing assets, unable to transfer files, or affected by corrupt data, an untested backup may be as useful as not having any backup at all. A critical goal for the safety and reliability of any business should be to have dependable backups that are tested at regular intervals.

Is Your Compliance Still Up to Date?

Nearly every business in the world has compliance and regulations standards it must adhere to if it is to keep its position in the marketplace. These may be industry specific such as medical or automotive certifications, or regional protections such as data protection regulations.

Requirements for each of these areas change regularly. It is up to each firm to keep on top of both changes to rules and changes to the firm which may impact them.

Changing IT can often impact certifications in a big way. Many feature rules which affect storage, processing, or altering the way in which data is used; it’s essential to check your usage against strict requirements relevant to your business.

While time-consuming and difficult, these checks require a strong knowledge of both the rules and your IT system. The penalties for failure can be severe and crippling. It is a critical area of the firm you can’t afford to get wrong.

If you are looking to boost your business in the new year, check up on your systems and technology, or dust up your certifications to the latest standard: there’s never a better time than now.

Give us a call at 570-779-4018 to get your new year off to a flying start.

Christmas devices

Buying Tech in Time for Christmas

Christmas time is back with us again. The latest devices and gadgets are hitting store shelves just in time to keep up with the rush. Magazines, television, and the web are brimming with advertisements and reviews of the latest tech your money can buy.

Before you rush out to buy the gadgets you’ve been waiting all year for, consider a few important questions before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Does This Technology Do What I need?

First, you must ask what problem you are trying to solve with a new piece of tech. The most important thing to consider is how adopting your new device will improve on what you had before.

In some cases, a sleek new gadget or device for fun is good too.

When you’ve answered this question, you should consider whether there is other tech or competing devices out there that can perform even better.

Should I Become an Early Adopter?

Early adopters are people that anticipate the release of new tech, wait in line on release day, and pride themselves on having the latest gadgets to hit the shelves. If you recognize yourself in this description you are likely to snap up the latest devices the day they are released. This eager anticipation, however, is not always the way to get the best deals or the best gadgets.

Companies often rely on new product hype to give sales an early boost. Waiting for the marketing and hype to subside, even a little, can save you a lot of money.

After initial sales fall, companies often mark down their prices to keep their devices attractive and sales high. When newer, faster, sleeker devices hit the market, companies cut prices to maintain strong sales figures. For the budget smart consumer this is an opportunity for a bargain. A device good enough to buy on launch day is well worth waiting for.

Have I checked The Reviews?

We are fortunate enough to have access to seemingly unlimited amounts of information at our fingertips. Often weeks before a product is released, reviews are available across the web.

One of the best things you can do when considering a new device, particularly a high-cost purchase, is to watch and read a wide variety of product reviews. It pays to be cautious of reviews that are particularly glowing, or too downbeat. Keep an eye out for middle of the road reviews that fairly weigh the pros and cons of each device.

Have I Found the Best Deal?

There are many ways to keep an eye out to make sure you get the best deal on your device. If you can, monitor prices over time to see how they rise and fall to find the best time to purchase.

When purchasing online, many sites include a box to add a coupon code when you are ready to buy. It sometimes pays to jump over to Google and search the website name and ‘coupon’ or ‘voucher’ to find out if there are any good deals on.

A quick search can save you as much as 10, 15, or 20 per cent on some purchases. Sometimes companies send out offers to appeal to groups they want to market to. A companies Facebook page may get different offers or vouchers than its Twitter followers or newsletter for example.

It can pay to search around for offers and vouchers to get money off before you checkout. Five minutes work can save huge amounts of cash.

Purchase in Confidence

If you have asked yourself these questions, done all your research, and found the answers you’re looking for then you may well be ready to buy.

You can do so with the confidence that you’ve done all your homework and you’re getting the best deal and gadget for your money.

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!