Recovery Test Your Data Backups

Recovery Test Your Data Backups

Recovery Test Your Data Backups

Most businesses are aware of the need for data backup. Without it they risk losing important files in the event of a hard drive failure or cyberattack. Yet having a backup in place isn’t enough: it’s important also to test that backup. Ensure that you are able to restore that essential data when you need it.

The many reasons to establish data backups include:

  • protecting against natural or man-made disasters (including hacker or insider attack);
  • ensuring compliance with tax, financial, and other industry standards;
  • preserving relationships with clients;
  • reducing downtime;
  • improving productivity;
  • establishing credibility with customers, investors, and employees.

We recommend backing up in three places. You might have one on a local, on-site computer. You’d also have a backup on a remote device and another in the cloud. The cloud option gives you the most flexibility. It can be accessed from anywhere, regardless of conditions in your particular environment.

Yet while many people know they need backups, too few do recovery tests. The worst time to find out there’s a problem with your backup solution is when you need it the most.

Testing Data Backups

Regular data backups can offer peace of mind, but you’ll really know you are ready to go if you regularly test your ability to recover your system from a backup.

Testing your backup lets you verify the necessary data is available for recovery. Plus, testing helps you learn how to actually implement recovery following a data loss. If a backup test fails, you can take the steps needed to ensure you don’t actually lose valuable information. Otherwise, you’re throwing money at storage space and backup services that are no help, and you’ll find out too late.

Regular monitoring helps you keep track of any software or hardware changes that may have an impact on data backups. Via testing, you might also learn some staff members are storing data somewhere that isn’t being backed up, and you can now intervene with those employees or extend your backup protocols to prevent that data getting lost.

Scheduling data backup tests can also help you to identify a misconfiguration in the backup software or ways in which you’re not adequately addressing your backup needs. For instance, you might not have set up a complete backup in the first place. This might mean you’re backing up the data but not the settings. Most backup software will send error messages if there was an issue backing up. Still, they’re easy for an overworked IT team to miss.

Actively testing backups allows the business to confirm fallback data accuracy and effectiveness. Additionally, you’ll be able to gauge:

  • how long it takes to perform the backup;
  • any issues that arise during recovery;
  • what steps need to be taken to address those problems.

All of this is something you want to consider proactively. Some people say they work best under pressure, but most of us think more clearly and perform better if not in the midst of a data catastrophe.

A managed service provider can help your business with data backup and recovery testing. Our IT experts can monitor for failures and make any changes needed to get the backup running properly again. You’ll be glad you did recovery testing in advance when things run smoother and quicker in the midst of your disaster recovery.

Give us a call at 323-7111 to correct your backups, make sure they are working the way you want to, and set up regular backup restore tests.

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Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

The Coronavirus is spreading as fast as feared. Business must be ready for the worst. One priority? Protecting the health of employees. Preparing the way for remote working is one top recommendation.

News of the virus, which the WHO is now calling COVID-19, has prompted urgent interest in remote work. Business collaboration software, virtual desktops, and private networks can all help. This tech helps business continue as usual, even with quarantined employees.

It’s difficult to imagine you aren’t aware of the looming health pandemic. Trying to limit the contagion, we’ve already seen big business take major measures. These include:

  • Nike temporarily closed its European headquarters when an employee was diagnosed with the virus. After the first death in Washington state in the U.S., the company also closed its world headquarters for a deep clean of its campus.
  • Twitter told its roughly 4,900 employees to stay home to work.

Other businesses are weighing up the options. Furloughs? Changes to sick leave? Or encouraging work from home. The last option appeals, but how do employees work remotely? How can they continue collaborating with people they used to sit beside, meet in the office, or travel to see? Technological solutions.

The Right Technology for Remote Work

Remote workers want a centralized platform with a simplified (yet secure) login process. Business collaboration software is a great enabler of mobile, flexible work. Replace in-person meetings with voice or video conferencing. Streamline chat, voice, and video in one software platform. Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google’s G-suite, or Slack, allow business to create team channels.

Business collaboration tools also simplify access to email, calendars, documents, and file sharing. Employees can use a single sign-on to access business tools and data. This supports improved efficiency and increased transparency.

Providing a virtual desktop can provide access to important business applications, as well. Virtual desktops in the cloud allow users to work separately from their personal computers. The software virtualizes the user’s unique desktop environment at any workstation. All the data and applications are stored on a central server. Users access apps, folders, and toolbars from anywhere, with a consistent, secure experience.

Using a cloud-based solution also provides peace of mind. While remote workers access the corporate network, the sensitive data isn’t stored locally. So, the business needn’t worry about the loss or theft of sensitive data. Plus, cloud-based virtual desktops are easy to rapidly install outside a quarantined area.

Worried about securing those remote connections? Another option is a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN connects computers, smartphones, or tablets to a shared or public network as if connecting to a private network. These encrypted connections to the internet secure data and protect employees’ mobile activities.

Mobile Work Helps Every Day

You can hope that your employees stay healthy and your business remains unaffected, but why take that risk? Empowering remote work benefits business, even without the threat of a fatal flu.

Remote teams enjoy greater work-life balance. The workers spend less time commuting and are more productive. Empowered, they also feel trusted and more engaged.

Meanwhile, business can save money on physical space and hardware investments. Additionally, the hiring pool of qualified personnel expands with remote work, and the business can offer its services more globally and flexibly. All that’s true whether the coronavirus becomes an issue for your business or not.

Enabling a remote workforce takes technology. Need help installing and connecting your employees? We can help. Contact us today at 323-7111.

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7 Things You Need to Know About Ransomware

7 Things You Need to Know About Ransomware

7 Things You Need to Know About Ransomware

​Ransomware is a well-named type of cyberattack. Cybercriminals taking this approach kidnap your data. After accessing your network, they encrypt files and demand payment for the passcode. Here are the top seven things you need to know about this business threat.

#1 It Can Happen to You

Cybercriminals rely on your false confidence. Don’t think “it won’t happen to me.” Attacks on government, education, healthcare, or financial institutions get publicity. Yet organizations of all types and sizes are targeted.

#2 Ransomware Spreads Fast

Ransomware is malware, malicious software that can reach throughout a network. So, if Jane from accounting opens a ransomware file, every single computer on your business network could be infected. The virus can spread between businesses, too. Consider the debilitating WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017. Within four days of its first detection in Europe, the strain had spread to 116 countries.

#3 Ransomware Targets People

A common method to send out phishing emails in the hope of having people enter their access credentials. Targeted business communication emails work, too. The attacker gets to know your business first. Then they send an email impersonating a colleague, supplier, or customer asking you to take action or update contact details by clicking on the link or downloading a file.

#4 Ransomware is Costly

Once the ransomware is installed on your system, it locks down your files. To regain access to the files, you need the password or decryption key the attacker supplies when you pay up; that’s if they keep their end of the bargain once you pay the ransom. These are crooks you’re dealing with after all!

In Coveware’s analysis of Q3 2019, the average ransom payment increased by 13% to $41,198 as compared to $36,295 in Q2 of 2019. And that’s just the cost of the ransom. Indirect costs include the cost of downtime, lost revenue, and long-term brand damage. There’s also the expense of removing the ransomware, forensic analysis, and rebuilding systems.

The average ransomware attack in Q3 2019 resulted in 12.1 days of downtime. — Coveware

#5 Ransom Requires Cryptocurrency

Ransom payment is usually made by bitcoin or another cryptocurrency. Your business needs to buy cryptocurrency with actual cash, then transmit the ransom. They choose cryptocurrency because it’s very difficult to trace. It doesn’t help you that bitcoin is not something you can charge back like a credit card.

#6 A Recovery Plan Helps

Planning in advance can help you respond more reasonably. Document plans to disconnect infected computers from the network as soon as possible. Also, power down any machines that could be vulnerable to avoid spreading contagion.

You should also discuss in advance whether or not your business will pay a ransom. Weighing the costs and benefits without a deadline on the decision can help you react more strategically.

#7 You Can Take Action

You don’t have to sit around worrying and waiting for a ransomware attack. There are many things you can do to help prevent this type of attack:

  • Filter traffic, preventing it from coming into your network in the first place.
  • Scan inbound emails for known threats, and block certain attachment types.
  • Use antivirus and anti-spam solutions and regularly upgrade and patch vulnerable software.
  • Educate all users about social engineering.
  • Allow remote access to your network only from secure virtual private networks.
  • Back up your data to more than one location so that you can restore any impacted files from a known source.

Ransomware is a lucrative, relatively easy mode of attack for cybercriminals. They could target your business. Contact us today for help implementing the best protection practices to keep your data safe. Call us at 323-7111.

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Why Your Business Needs Managed Services Security

Why Your Business Needs Managed Services Security

Why Your Business Needs Managed Services Security

Locking your front door after a burglar has already ransacked your house doesn’t do much, and the same is true of cybersecurity. With the help of a managed service provider, you can stay ahead of security threats with well-tested, leading-edge technologies.

Ransomware, Trojans, crypto mining, and more make the news regularly these days. Businesses and consumers are both aware of the threats. Yet there is no single vaccine that can keep you safe. The volume of threats is growing. Cybercriminals are mixing up their tactics to outwit their targets, and the result is increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

Password theft and password-based breaches remain a daily occurrence in 2019. But that’s only one area of concern. Cybersecurity experts warn that, “the worst is yet to come.”

Managed services help you to stay on top of evolving threats. For a small, fixed monthly cost, you add a team of experts to your arsenal. Instead of reacting after the fact, they work to identify any vulnerabilities. Instead of reacting, they work to identify vulnerabilities and prevent attacks.

When security is internal, a single person or small, overworked team tries to stay current. Working with a managed service provider (MSP), in-house IT teams focus instead on business tasks. They can trust the MSP to know the latest, greatest technologies. The MSP’s experts do the necessary training and attend the security conferences, and your business benefits without having to spend finite resources.

Managed Services Make a Security Difference

An early order of business for your MSP is learning your system, network, and applications. These IT experts get to know your business and its workflow needs. Then, they recommend the best tools for you to use. They make suggestions that prioritize productivity, ease of use, cost, and security. You don’t have to deal directly with a vendor salesperson. You gain an objective perspective on what technology truly suits your needs.

Regrettably, your technology users remain a weak link, but you can boost your employee cyber education and awareness (and you should). A managed services provider partner adds levels of precaution. They will test and track staff cyber behavior on-site and off-premises.

An MSP partner understands your entire technology ecosystem. They determine how your business solutions operate together to keep your business protected.

The MSP’s proactive approach can save you data breach devastation. Financial damages can be large. In a 2018 Cisco study, 54% of all cyberattacks resulted in damages of more than $500,000 USD.

Those costs aren’t the only risk of a data breach, though. Your business also risks:

  • theft of international property;
  • loss of competitive advantage;
  • damage to brand reputation;
  • customer churn;
  • regulatory fines.

No matter your business size or industry, you are at risk. It’s that simple. Cisco found 40% of companies with 250-499 employees had experienced a severe security breach in 2018. Larger organizations were similarly impacted but tended to be more resilient. Meanwhile, when a small business is breached the damage is usually even greater. Their core systems are likely interconnected, which sees the attack spread easily.

Key Takeaway

The threat landscape is always shifting. You might be at risk from targeted attacks against your employees (e.g. faked business email communications), ransomware (holding your data hostage), or other advanced threats.

Managed services ensure you have the people, processes, and technology to prevent attack. Plus, if the worst happens, they have the skills to mitigate the damage and get you back up and running quickly.

Managed services provide the best security, proactively, and on an ongoing basis. Want to learn more? Give us a call today at 504-323-7111!

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The Dark Web and Its Impact on Your Business

The Dark Web and Its Impact on Your Business

The Dark Web and Its Impact on Your Business

Business owners today know the internet is not only a force for good. Some people exploit the Web for ill intent. They congregate on the Dark Web, and small businesses need to understand the risks.

What is the Dark Web?

You and your employees spend time daily on the Web. They’re researching clients, checking out competitors, and searching for information. They are not accessing the Dark Web. The Dark Web houses dangerous, often illegal activity. This includes black-market drug sales, illegal firearm sales, and illicit pornography.

The Dark Web’s collection of websites is inaccessible using standard search engines or browsers. Users employ a Tor or I2P encryption tool to hide their identity and activity, and they spoof IP addresses.

To go into the Dark Web, you also need to be using the Tor or I2P service. Plus, you’d need to know where to find the site you are looking for. There are Dark Web directories, but they are unreliable. The people on the Dark Web don’t want their victims to find them. Ultimately, it’s not somewhere you or your employees need to be.

So, why do you need to know about it? Because Dark Web users can buy:

  • usernames and passwords
  • counterfeit money
  • stolen credit card numbers or subscription credentials
  • software to break into people’s computers
  • operational, financial, or customer data
  • intellectual property or trade secrets

The Dark Web is also where someone can hire a hacker to attack your computers.

The Dark Web business risk

The Dark Web itself isn’t illegal, and not all its traffic is criminal. It is also visited by journalists and law enforcement agencies, and it’s used in countries prohibiting open communication.

Yet the number of Dark Web listings that could harm your business is growing. A 2019 research study found that 60% of all listings could harm enterprises, and the number of those Dark Web listings has risen by 20% since 2016.

Business risks from these Dark Web listings include:

  • undermining brand reputation
  • loss of competitive advantage
  • denial-of-service attack or malware disruption
  • IP theft
  • fraudulent activity

With media attention on data breaches impacting millions, it’s easy to think a small business is not at risk. However, bad actors don’t target a business for its size – they look for ease of access.

Dark Web information is up to twenty times more likely to come from an unreported breach. Privacy specialists told a Federal Trade Commission Conference victims included medical practices, retailers, school districts, restaurant chains, and other small businesses.

Reduce your risk

If your information ends up on the Dark Web, there’s little you can do about it. The bright side, at least, is that you would know that your business security has been compromised. Be proactive instead. Keep your security protections current, and install security patches regularly.

Consider a unified threat management (UTM) device, or UTM appliance. The UTM plugs into your network to serve as a gateway and protect your business from malware, illicit access, and other security risks.

Your UTM security appliance can provide:

  • application control
  • anti-malware scanning
  • URL and content filtering
  • data loss prevention
  • email security
  • wireless and remote access management

Or let a managed services provider (MSP) take care of all aspects of protecting your business. Pay a consistent monthly fee for an MSP to handle all your technology, patching, monitoring, and assessment needs.

Stay on top of the latest cybersecurity threats with an MSP, or learn more about installing a UTM. We can help protect you from the dangers of the Dark Web. Call us today at 504-323-7111!

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Failure is Not an Option: Getting Rid of Single Points of Failure

Failure is Not an Option: Getting Rid of Single Points of Failure

Failure is Not an Option: Getting Rid of Single Points of Failure

You might think that your business is going to be OK even if a single device goes down. After all, there are other devices your people can use. It’s not as if the entire system is going to fall like dominoes. Or is it? Get rid of single points of failure to make one vulnerability doesn’t take down your network.

A single point of failure (SPOF) can be a design, implementation, or configuration weakness. Star Wars fans will already be thinking of the Death Star’s ill-designed thermal exhaust port. That was the SPOF Luke Skywalker exploited. 

Yet, cybercriminals don’t need the Force to target IT fatal weaknesses. SPOFs for technology include:

  • Having only one server that runs an essential application. Without that server, your employees can’t use that particular business tool.
    • Solution: Plan for the worst with built-in server redundancy. Have multiples of any hardware that is business critical. Migrate to the cloud so you can continue accessing applications, software, and storage.
  • Power outages can wreak havoc on computers and devices operating your network.
    • Solution: An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) device can help prevent intermittent power interruptions to your computers, switches, and modems. Cloud solutions reduce the risk of this problem too. Employees can continue to access data and software working at different locations.
  • Your physical location could also be the SPOF. What if road closures, fire, floods, or a violent storm prevent you from being able to get to the office? Without a backup, you’ll struggle for business continuity.
    • Solution: Pool computer resources in the cloud (servers, storage, applications, and voice services). This provides continued access anywhere, anytime, and often from any device.
  • Sorry to say it, but your people could also be your fatal weakness. Perhaps you have one or even two in-house IT experts who know everything about your technology. But, what do you do if they both quit? Or one is sick and the other is on vacation when something goes wrong?
    • Solution: You can’t have every person become a subject matter expert on all aspects of IT. So consider outsourced IT.
  • You can’t get online without an internet connection. Yet you’re reliant on an external provider for that access. Planned downtime for maintenance is easier to plan around. Still, unexpected issues can cause the internet to go out.
    • Solution: Have a backup solution to pick up the slack if the main connection goes down. A router that supports having a 4G modem, for instance, could be a good failover.

 

Failure is Costly

Having one device out of commission is frustrating, but not necessarily the end of the world. But, when the damage wrought by a single weakness spreads business-wide, you could face serious consequences. 

Downtime for systems failure or data breaches can be:

  • Expensive — In addition to potential overtime for IT staff remedying the situation and possible revenue losses, your company may also face fines.
  • Time consuming — your people must adapt to a new reality while IT resources are spent trying to get back to business as usual.
  • Reputation damaging — any disruption to business as usual could undermine customer trust and prompt churn.

 

IT professionals understand the danger of SPOF. Avoid weaknesses that can lead to systemwide failures or loss of business information. Partner with computer specialists who can identify and eliminate these vulnerabilities at your business. Contact us today at 504-323-7111!

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