Security Patches — The Better Way to Update

Security Patches — The Better Way to Update

Security Patches — The Better Way to Update

Updates often come at the worst moment. You go to shut down your laptop to rush to a meeting, and you get a “Windows is updating. Do not power off” message. Argh!

Or you leave your desktop to go to a meeting and come back to find your computer has restarted in your absence. Those unexpected bug fixes and performance improvements lost you all your unsaved work.

You know updates are important. They help patch security flaws. These are the vulnerabilities that hackers love to exploit. Updating helps you keep business documents and data safe. Software updates can also add new, useful features and remove outdated ones. Plus, keeping software and systems up to date is good cyber citizenship. Security patches protect from attacks that could also impact employees, customers, and partners.

Updating is a pain but oh so important

The WannaCry ransomware attacked hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries. Among those infected were the UK National Health Service, FedEx, Telefonica, the Russian Interior Ministry, and more, all because people (and companies) weren’t keeping their computers updated. The later Petya ransomware preyed on the same vulnerabilities, despite the publicity around WannaCry and Microsoft having already released a patch.

Still, people don’t bother updating. According to a Skype survey, 40% of respondents didn’t update their machines when prompted, almost 25% required a second prompt. Nearly 45% worried that installing the update would weaken their computer’s security.

And keeping Windows up to date isn’t enough. Cybercriminals aren’t stopping there, so you can’t either. You also need to be patching third-party applications such as Java or your Adobe suite. More employees are also bringing their own devices to the workplace. Overlooking security updates for these entry points is like leaving a window wide open and expecting criminals to walk by.

Equifax’s failure to update a Java virtual machine proved costly. Hackers accessed over 145 million credit reports in 2017. The company lost more than $5 billion in market cap, and the CEO lost his job.

Businesses need a better way to keep your software security patches current. Here’s help.

Keeping security patches current, conveniently

Avoid the inconvenience of the “Update Now” interruption by setting up automated patching. Patching all your computers or different device types can be time consuming.

Determine when downtime won’t be as disruptive, and schedule patches for that timeframe. This lets you update an entire department when they aren’t there, or patch individual computers around the employee’s schedule. For instance, if your accountant comes in only on Tuesdays, you wouldn’t patch that computer that day.

This approach also creates a consistency your employees can plan around, which allows them to manage all security updates without you having to lift a finger.

To do this, you can outsource the patching to a managed service provider (MSP). The MSP installs remote monitoring and management (RMM) software to manage all security updates without you having to lift a finger.

The RMM software gives your IT partner visibility into your business technology. They’ll track your hardware, software, and network environments to keep ahead of issues. This sets your business up to respond faster to any events.

Using the RMM, the MSP can automate software patching and OS updates to reduce the hassle. The RMM can be cloud-based or on-premises (requires onsite hardware investment).

Conclusion

Automating or outsourcing software updates can improve your security and compliance. Your employees enjoy new features, extended support, and access to the latest technology. A reliable, secure system can improve stability, speed processes, and drive increased productivity.

Get expert help determining patching priorities, or partner with an MSP to install RMM and monitor and resolve issues remotely. Give us a call at 323-7111!

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Making Technology Another Target for Continuous Improvement

Making Technology Another Target for Continuous Improvement

Your business likely talks a lot about continuous improvement. It’s everyone’s goal, right? Yet “set it and forget it” is a common approach to handling business technology. Here’s why IT needs your ongoing attention too.

Your competition is increasing, and it can feel as if it is doing so exponentially. Why? There are lower barriers to entry in many businesses. The marketplace has gone global. Transaction costs are declining. Technological advances, automation, and AI are making processes more efficient and increasing productivity.

Your business can’t stand still. Don’t leave your IT sitting unattended either. Sure, the very term “continuous improvement” may have you twitching with discomfort. Not that buzzword again! Yet taking an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to IT could be hurting your business. Settling for “alright” or relying on “the way we’ve always done it” could leave you lagging behind competitors.

Your business may not have a CIO lobbying for the latest tech, but every business can benefit from asking itself: “can we be doing this better?”. Of course, you don’t know what you don’t know. You are focusing on your industry, not all the new technology, automation, artificial intelligence, or machine learning to:

  • Innovate process
  • Automate routine, repetitive tasks
  • Increase productivity
  • Enable global collaboration
  • Streamline workflow
  • Integrate existing applications
  • Support informed decisions
  • Optimize information access
  • Enhance document, data exchange
  • Advance analysis-based action

The Value of a Strategic MSP Partnership

A managed services provider (MSP) can answer the technology questions you don’t even know to ask. Don’t rely on the old way of doing things. You don’t need to suffer through long, drawn-out processes and the inefficiency of manual work. Your business can partner with an MSP to embrace the power of digital transformation.

Protecting your business from cyber bad guys isn’t the only thing an MSP can do. An MSP can help you improve processes, exceed customer expectations, and reduce costs, all while minimizing your risk.

The MSP will get to know the ways in which you do business and your vision for the future. The MSP can help your business work smarter and reach its goals faster. Understanding available improvements, the MSP can make recommendations to fit your budget and help you become better, faster, and more agile.

Of course, incorporating continuous improvement in your technology can mean making changes to the way you work. Your employees may shudder. That’s why it’s important to work with a partner that can help you clearly articulate the value of digital transformation.

Your people will want to know “what’s in it for me,” and the MSP can help you provide the answer. Explaining how innovation will help employees do their job better or drive business outcomes is key. Working with an MSP means intentional strategy drives your technology improvements. That’s the foundation for successful implementation and adoption.

Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all, set-and-sit approach to information technology. Your competition will be happy if you do. Instead, work with an MSP that doesn’t just keep your technology running and your systems secure. Join forces with a service provider who is your strategic partner – they’ll ensure your technology is continuously improving.

You’re not alone. Adapt with us.

Technology’s rapid pace of change was a top threat for business leaders, according to a 2017 survey of business school grads. Digital advances surpassed economic, political, and environmental changes. But you’re not alone in your struggle to continuously improve.

Turn to the experts who can answer your questions and plan strategic improvement. No matter what your industry or business size, you can enjoy our technology expertise. Talk to us about a technology assessment. Our experts will suggest options that suit your needs and help you beat the competition. Reach to us at 504-323-7111.

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Island Hopping: Not Always a Good Thing

Island Hopping: Not Always a Good Thing

The phrase “island hopping” conjures up positive images. You might think of cruising beautiful sandy beaches on a tour of tropical islands. Too bad cybercriminals have given the term a new, less pleasant spin.

Island hopping is an increasingly popular method of attacking businesses. In this approach, the cybercriminal targets a business indirectly. The bad actors first go after the target’s smaller strategic partners. So, vendors or affiliates, who might not have the same level of cybersecurity, become stepping stones to hop.

Attackers might hack into smaller businesses handling the target’s HR, payroll, accounting, healthcare, or marketing. Then, they take advantage of the pre-existing relationship to access the final destination.

Humans are trusting. Cybercriminals exploit that. With island hopping, attackers leverage the trust established between strategic partners.

It’s quite simple: attackers gain access to Company A and send a counterfeit business communication to Company B. Company B, knowing the sender, is less likely to question a download link or opening an attachment.

After all, it’s not coming from a stranger; it’s a message from perfectly pleasant Jenny at Company A. You may have in the past already shared logins to various sites/portals, or passwords to unlock zip files.

The Rise of Island Hopping

This is not a brand-new form of attack. In fact, it’s named after a military strategy which the United States used in World War II to establish a stronghold in the Pacific Islands.

Perhaps the best-known island-hopping cyberattack was seen in the United States in 2013. Retail giant Target was the aptly named target of a point-of-sale system breach. Hackers stole payment information from 40 million customers. The first “island” in the planned attack was Fazio Mechanical Services. The heating and refrigeration firm suffered a malware attack shortly before Target’s breach. Fazio’s hackers stole email credentials needed to access the retailer’s networks.

As enterprises continue to strengthen their cybersecurity, it’s predicted that island hopping will gain momentum. According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2019 report, less than a third of businesses globally know how strategic partners secure their networks. A majority (56%) rely on trust that business partners would uphold security standards.

Preventing Island Hopping

You may be one of the islands to hop or the attackers’ final destination. It depends on your business size and industry. Either way, your business is vulnerable to malware attack, infected systems, or a data breach. Plus, if you’re the stepping stone, you’re likely to lose the target company’s business, too.

How do you prevent island hopping? First, secure your own networks and systems:

  • Follow best practices to detect and identify vulnerabilities and reduce risk.
  • Educate your employees about the dangers of business communication scams.
  • Raise awareness of phishing schemes and social engineering.
  • Require two-factor user authentication.
  • Change all default, generic, or predictable passwords.
  • Keep security up to date (patching and system upgrades are mandatory).
  • Control who can access your networks and servers.
  • Protect all endpoints (including employee devices in a Bring Your Own Device workplace).

When it comes to cyber island hopping, your business doesn’t want to be a layover or the final destination. Keep your cybersecurity borders tight to avoid unwanted visitors.

Want to make your business inhospitable to island hoppers? Work with a managed service provider. They can help assess cybersecurity, provide a plan to reduce risk, and upgrade technology. Let us support your efforts to fend off unwanted tourists.

Give us a call on 504-323-7111.

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Are You Sick of Ongoing IT Issues?

Are You Sick of Ongoing IT Issues?

Like a persistent cough or muscle strain that won’t go away, many IT issues prove ongoing. Every time they come back you think about getting an expert’s opinion. Then, the cough fades, you can walk freely again, or your computers are back up and running. You keep on going. Until the next time. If you’re sick of ongoing issues with your IT, look to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for help.

There are many IT ailments that can negatively impact your ability to do work. Let’s consider some of the particularly common ones, and why an MSP is the right prescription.

#1 Network and Internet issues.

Business is done online these days. Not being able to connect to the network and slow connections are frustrating. Without the Internet, how can you do your job? You can’t even check and send emails! Let alone access team documents or enter data into cloud-based accounting software. A lagging network also slows down application and data loading time. It may only be a few moments of thumb twiddling. But add that up over several times a day and multiple by employees. You’re looking at a decrease in productivity that adds up.

An MSP has the know-how to survey the IT environment for what’s causing these frustrations. When there’s a problem, they’re at the ready to resolve it and help improve reliability.

#2 Repeated malware infections.

This can mean a couple of things. First, you don’t have effective system and application protections in place. These attacks shouldn’t be able to make it through the door in the first place. With the right firewalls, anti-spam, and protections, you should be able to keep your system on lock down. You don’t have to do this yourself. Your internal IT team has a lot to manage and monitor. Gain expert backup with an MSP reviewing your security protocols to keep the bad guys at bay.

Secondly, educate employees about the dangers of social engineering. Don’t let them keep falling for the pretexts and downloading malicious files. Also, ensure passwords are strong enough to avoid adding another point of entry. 

#3 Printing problems.

Many businesses are printing less today, but we’re not done with hard copies entirely. So, when a printer starts whirring, spinning endlessly, or can’t connect, efficiency halts. Know that printers sold at big box stores are consumer grade quality. Avoid printer frustrations with solid business-class printers (which your MSP can identify).

#4 Application overload.

Maybe some of your employees prefer Dropbox. Others rely on their free Gmail accounts. This hodgepodge of options can cause chaos. Staff have difficulty remembering the passwords to all of the accounts they need. So, they simplify, and that makes their accounts more hackable. 

Upgrading to business-grade versions of important applications is easier with an MSP. They’ll help identify the software that best addresses your business needs.

#5 Aging technology.

You’ve had your current computers for ages. They are slower than you’d like, but you don’t have the time to look for something else. Plus, you can’t imagine having to learn something new. You’re too busy. But aging tech is more likely to fail, which could prove catastrophic if you don’t have the right systems backup.

MSPs know IT. Based on your individual business needs, they can suggest a plan of attack to update the IT and keep it secure. They can also provide backup strategies to prepare for the worst and recover quickly.

Basically, a managed service provider has your back when it comes to IT. Work with experts who focus on technology day in and day out. You’ll typically save money and gain time to spend innovating in your field.

Gain a competitive advantage with the support of an MSP. Give us a call at 504-323-7111 today!

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Avoiding Growing Pains — Tech Tips for a Thriving Business

Avoiding Growing Pains — Tech Tips for a Thriving Business

Maybe you started your business in a basement or home office. It was just you at the beginning. Then, your service or product gained traction. The number of staff grew, and you moved into an office. It’s amazing how far you’ve come. Better still, your business continues to grow. It may be time to consider some of these tech tips to help your thriving business.

 

#1 Upgrade to Business-Grade Cloud Services

Perhaps you’ve been relying on free software from Gmail, Outlook, or Dropbox. Who can argue with free email, calendars, collaboration and file storage right? Well, it may be time to upgrade to the business versions of the software your team relies upon.

Move from Gmail to Google Apps, or Outlook to Office 365, or Dropbox to Dropbox Business. For a small monthly fee, you gain business-grade features.

The basic Google Apps offers business email, video and voice conferencing, secure team messaging, shared calendars, 30GB cloud storage and document, spreadsheet and presentation creation. Plus, you gain greater security and administration controls. Right now, a disgruntled employee could refuse to give up control of a business account.

You’d be out of luck. With Google Apps, your business would control all accounts and could simply reset the password.

Or Dropbox Business provides added storage space and user activity and sharing auditing. Unlimited file recovery and version history make recovery easier. A remote wipe feature protects files on a stolen device). 

#2 Revise your backup strategy

A consumer grade backup setup was enough when you were only dealing with one computer. Now that you have many computers, it’s worth enhancing your backup strategy.

With 3-2-1 backup, your business has a minimum of three backups. Two would be onsite (but separate from one another) and the other offsite. We recommend the cloud. Having your backups in a unified location helps efficient recovery if disaster strikes. With cloud backup, your data is encrypted for storage in the cloud. You can set parameters for how often data is backed up and confirm that it is backing up correctly. Then, if something does go wrong, you can access essential data from anywhere, anytime via the cloud.

#3 Consider Cloud-based Accounting Services

Traditional small business accounting software requires a large database on the desktop computer. As more people need access to the database, the problems start. With multiple people accessing the accounting software:

  • The network can slow when people try to access it remotely
  • Changes can’t be made while someone else is in database
  • Data can get mismatched depending on who has the “newest” version

Cloud-based accounting packages address these challenges. With online accounting software, it’s easy for your business to scale. Business owners can connect to the data from any device with an Internet connection. Plus, in the event of a disaster, productivity won’t suffer as the information is safe and secure on the cloud.

#4 Outsource your IT

Your expanding technology allows you and your staff to do more than ever before. Great. But it also takes extra resources to monitor, manage, and secure it all. By outsourcing IT, your business gains IT expertise. Meanwhile, your in-house IT team can focus its efforts on driving growth.

Outsourcing IT also provides long-term cost savings by reducing downtime, cutting infrastructure costs, and improving security to avoid costly cyber-attacks.

Keep your business growth in check with an eye out for value-adding initiatives.

Want to know more about the benefits of any of these tech tips? Give us a call at 504-323-7111.

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Stop the Inbox Insanity: Tips for Better Email Management

Stop the Inbox Insanity: Tips for Better Email Management

A staggering 269 billion emails are sent every day. Your business is receiving only a small fraction of those emails. Yet your staff likely feel as if at least 269 of those are coming their way daily. In fact, the typical employee in 2018 received 90 emails and sent out 40. 

Email is a powerful tool. But its help with doing business ever faster creates added business pressure. Consider these five strategies for better email management.

  1. Don’t start your day with email. Many people do. It’s how they set up for the day. However, beginning the day with a cup of coffee and clicking through your inbox, can backfire. Many of those emails become items on your to-do list. You put off important tasks from your day responding to other people’s requests. Plan your day around your business needs first. Even knock off some of the more important tasks, before diving into that inbox!

 

  1. Think twice about checking email constantly. It’s tempting to open emails as soon as they arrive. But, you only want to tackle your inbox when you have the time to take action. If you open an email planning to get back to it later, you’ll likely forget. When you have to revisit an email to remind yourself what it’s about, you’re doubling the time you spend on that message. Avoid interrupting your momentum by turning off email alert notifications and phone badges. Instead, set regular times to read and respond to accumulated emails.

 

  1. Write clear, concise emails. Avoid contributing to a colleague’s inbox chaos. Provide as much relevant information as possible. Now, that doesn’t mean writing a War and Peace-length email. Focus your message for your audience, anticipate questions, and answer in that email. Starting the message with an informative subject line can make a big difference too.

 

  1. Save time with reusable messages. You often end up answering the same questions over and again. Create templated emails that you can have at the ready to provide relevant details. Depending on your email software, this capability may be built in or you may need to add a plug-in.

 

  1. Use filters and folders to sort email. Learn how to use automatically filter your messages into the appropriate folders. For example, if the email is from accounting@yourbusiness.com then send it to your “Accounting” folder. This can save hundreds of hours a year. The better your folder system, the less time you’ll spend looking for specific emails the you need them. In Outlook, you can also set up a filter to change the color of email for different senders. Your boss could be red, and you’d know to handle that one first. Also save time by setting up strong filters for junk and spam. Unsubscribe from mailing lists that you don’t need any longer. Cleaning out the clutter can make your inbox much less overwhelming.

Email is an essential tool in business today. Don’t let it become a drain on your energy and attention. Make the most of the time you spend in your inbox with smart strategies for email management. 

Need help selecting the right email or setting up useful mailbox management tools? Give us a call at 504-323-7111.

 

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