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Your guide to working remotely without risking a security breach

In the age of the flexible workforce with more employees working remotely, are you concerned that they might pose a security risk? If the answer is yes, the following seven recommendations should help you develop a solid strategy when it comes maintaining security for remote employees.

Don’t trust WiFi

Mobile technology is a necessity of working remotely. Whether you’re working on your laptop from a local coffee shop or checking your email from your phone, think twice before connecting to the internet via unsecured public WiFi. Many mobile devices are set up to connect automatically to wifi when a connection comes within range, so we recommend turning off this particular feature. Only connect to WiFi connections that you know are secure.

Keep your devices close

Did you know that one laptop is stolen every 53 seconds? In addition to being an expensive loss for you or your company, if there is any sensitive data on the device you could be looking at steep fines related to compliance regulations.

Make sure you always keep your devices with you and lock them when not in use. Never leave laptops and other devices unattended in vehicles, or, if you must, keep them out of sight.

Related reading: Laptop theft impacts 43,000 patients of Coplin Health Systems

Turn on the “find my device” feature

Most mobile devices come with the “find my device” feature. This feature is just what it sounds like: if your device goes missing you can activate it from another device and it will help you to locate the missing device.

Use strong passwords

Always use strong passwords on your devices, and always use unique passwords for each device you have. Never share your password with anyone or write it down, and don’t use a password that could be easily guessed. When available, use multi-factor authentication. If your password is incorrectly entered or entered from a new location, this will require that you respond to notifications before allowing you to log in.

Related reading: Tips to create and manage strong passwords

Use a VPN

If you often find yourself needing to use public WiFi connections, it might be worth looking into a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt your data, helping to keep your connection and your data secure. A VPN can also allow you to access your home or business network while traveling. For more information, check out, What is a VPN, and why would I need one?.

Consider the source

When it comes to storing or accessing data, consider the source. Be cautious of downloading files from unfamiliar persons, and always use your antivirus software to scan files from familiar sources. Never plug a strange USB drive into your computer. When traveling, be cautious of USB charging stations. These can be used to transmit malware to your device or steal data.

Use secure cloud-based services

While there are many ways to remotely access your work, the safest option is to use secure cloud-based services. When you keep your work on the cloud you can access all of your files as needed with fewer risks. Using cloud services also enables you to access your work from multiple devices, and use cloud-based apps to keep up with your work on the go.

Related reading: 6 cloud solutions every SMB should have

With some employee education, clear expectations, and BYOD policies in place, you can create a safe and secure workplace– even if the workplace is remote.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Local and Cloud-Based Backups

Utilizing the power of technology is essential for any business trying to gain the lion’s share of their market. While using technology can be beneficial, there are a variety of dangers lurking around in cyber-space.

Nearly 50 percent of all cyber-attacks target small businesses. Rather than losing all of your data due to a network crash or ransomware attack, you need to think about how to back up your data.

Working with IT support professionals is one of the best ways to find out more about your backup options. For the most part, most businesses use a mix of local and cloud-based backups to keep their data safe and accessible.

The following are some of the things you need to know about cloud-based and local backups.

The Lowdown on a Local Storage Backup

While most business owners have heard the term local backup thrown around, many of them really don’t know what this type of backup entails. In essence, a local backup requires you to manually hook an external hard drive or other external devices to your computers to backup the data. Before cloud-based backups were invented, local backups were widely used by businesses all over the country.

Most businesses choose to lock up the external hard drives and USB flash drives used for this purpose in a safe. Not only does this keep them safe from prying eyes, but it can also reduce the chance of internal employee theft as well.

The Advantages of Local Storage

The biggest advantage of local storage is the control it provides a business owner. Instead of worrying about whether or not a third-party is adequately backing up and protecting your data, you can do this job on your own.

Some business owners prefer local storage due to the increased security it provides. Once a flash drive or external hard drive is removed from your network, cyber-criminals won’t be able to access it.

The Disadvantages of Local Storage

While there are a number of benefits that come with local backups, there are a number of problems as well. One of the biggest problems businesses face with this type of backup is finding the space needed to house all of the information they need to store.

Most business owners fail to realize just how expensive external storage can be. If your business has to house large volumes of data, you will have to spend a lot of money to facilitate this storage.

The Cloud Storage Revolution

One of the most recent developments in the data storage industry is cloud-based backups. The cloud allows you to store all of your data without having to break the bank. Being able to store all of your data off-site comes with a number of advantages. However, you will have to spend some time finding the right cloud storage provider to work with.

The Pros of Using a Cloud Backup

If you are like most business owners, you have a pretty full schedule. Trying to add the responsibility of manually backing up data to your plate can lead to mistakes being made. This is why using a cloud-based backup is so beneficial. With this type of backup in place, the data on your network will automatically be backed up.

Another benefit that comes with a cloud-based backup is the fact that it makes information accessible. Any device connected to your network can access the data on the cloud with the click of a button.

The Cons of Cloud Backups

The only real disadvantage that comes with using a cloud backup is data security. If the cloud backup supplier you have chosen does not have proper security measures in place, it can lead to big problems. This is why you have to take your time to research each of the providers on the market before making a decision.

Conclusion

In order to gain the benefits of local storage and cloud backups while minimizing the downside, more and more companies are using a combination of both. This gives you the security you need with the accessibility you want. If you need help determining what data backup solution is right for you, contact us now.

Office 365 pro tips to make your life easier

When Microsoft Office 365 debuted in 2011, businesspeople around the world had high hopes for it. They weren’t disappointed. Its software and cloud-based subscription services provide companies with a vast array of features, all of which are accessible via a handy online portal.

Among many others, there are tools for managing contacts, calendars and tasks, for writing and editing documents, and for voice and video conferencing. All of these components are periodically updated, too. Not to mention, Office 365 saves your documents in the cloud.

If there’s any problem with Office 365, it’s that the program is so extensive you might feel like you’re not realizing its full potential.

These tips will help ensure that your Office 365 time is as productive as can be.

1. Choose the most useful package

If you haven’t yet signed up for an Office 365 subscription plan, research your options and compare them carefully. Then select one with the features and apps you need. That way, you won’t overpay, and you’ll have enough hosting space, enough file storage and so on.

Also, you won’t have components that you won’t use, which could overcomplicate your Office 365 experience.

2. Work offline

Maybe the internet isn’t working in your office today. Perhaps you’re stuck in a remote cabin where the internet connection is slow. Should you just twiddle your thumbs? Well, with Office 365, you can still make good use of your time.

After you sign up for this service, Microsoft will supply you with desktop versions of popular apps like PowerPoint and Excel. You can also save your SharePoint and OneDrive documents on your hard drive. That way, you can access them when you’re offline, and all of the changes you make will automatically be saved on the cloud as soon as your internet connection is restored.

3. Make Skype calls and create OneDrive surveys

Office 365 subscribers get to use Skype free of charge for a certain amount of time. Skype is ideal for calls and voice conferences. It’s simple to use and dependable, and it offers a crisp, clear sound. What’s not to love?

In addition, with OneDrive, you can quickly and easily distribute surveys that you compose with Excel, collect responses and analyze trends. It’s a powerful tool for gauging customers’ opinions and making informed decisions.

4. Write with partners

With Office 365, you can write documents in real time with other people via one of three web apps: Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

It’s a great way to brainstorm, share knowledge and ideas for revisions, and divide the workload evenly. With this capability, putting together website articles, white papers and other documents becomes much faster and more fun proposition.

Finally, if you’d like to integrate Office 365 into all of your business processes — or if you’d just like the best, most secure IT infrastructure possible — you should enlist the help of an excellent IT management team. They can answer all of your questions and hook you up with the most beneficial tools. With such guidance, you and your small business will sail into a bright and super efficient future.

6 cloud solutions every SMB should have

Cloud services can save costs and improve productivity for small-to-medium businesses. That’s part of the reason why 69 percent of SMBs currently use some cloud solutions – because they allow you to have state of the art IT systems without a huge IT expenditure.

But cost is not the only reason to migrate. Cloud solutions provide SMBs with the resources to change the way they do business. Whether it’s faster internal communication, better relationships with customers, or launching your own online business, the cloud can be the foundation for real growth.

So how do you make the most of the cloud? The first step is to be aware of the kind of things that are possible with cloud solutions. Here are six of the most popular applications for SMBs:

1. Data storage

Storing data on the cloud has a number of benefits. You can access your data from anywhere, enjoy better protection against data loss, and it can actually be more secure than storing it on your own network. Cloud storage also makes disaster contingency planning easier – there’s far less chance of losing all your records if disaster strikes. Having your data in a single place like Dropbox Business or SpiderOak also makes it easier to sort and to locate critical information when you need it.

2. Communication tools

Managing communications across email and instant messaging platforms can be messy. This is especially true when some people work remotely, don’t have access to internal email and IM, or keep different hours to the rest of the team. Cloud solutions like Slack and Microsoft Teams help people work together in any environment, by blending elements of email, IM, social messaging and file sharing.

3. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM makes it easy to manage your relationship with clients by storing contact data, recording the history of your interactions and tracking open support tickets. Cloud-powered CRM tools like Salesforce and Hubspot offer an easy, secure way to access customer records when you’re on the road. CRM data can also be used for sales reporting and for marketing work, such as customer segmentation.

4. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

ERP keeps track of all the moving parts of your business, from supply chain to payroll. It’s especially useful for larger operations with multiple locations, but cloud solutions like SAP and Oracle make an ERP implementation practical for SMBs. If your business intends to use the Internet of Things technology, such as smart warehouse devices, then ERP is the software platform that enables such changes.

5. Unified communications

Computers are great, but somebody still needs to answer the phone when a customer calls. There is a wide range of cloud-based unified communication solutions available for SMBs. You’ll find a number of additional features on each platform: virtual customer service agents, VoIP technology, intelligent call forwarding, and voicemail-to-email services. What kind of service is best suited to your office?

6. Web services

Ready to go digital by launching an app or e-commerce site? This requires an infrastructure to host your software, which can be an expensive barrier. Cloud platforms such as AWS and Microsoft Azure can host and run any applications that you can build.

Making the move to the cloud

Cloud solutions by themselves won’t transform your business, of course. Technology can only ever be a tool to help you realize your strategic vision.

As with any investment, it’s best to know what you want to achieve and then talk to an expert. Find a cloud technology partner who understands your goals, and consult with them about the right cloud solutions for your business.

6 steps to take before choosing the right cloud solution for your business

More businesses have been making the most of cloud solutions and enjoying the competitive edge that comes with it. The great thing about cloud computing is that is can be tweaked and altered almost constantly to quickly meet the changes in an organization, positioning itself as a powerful tool for flexibility and scalability. So what exactly can the cloud do for you and your business?

Not surprisingly, there are still lots of businesses that are unsure about the cloud model. As with most things (technology in particular), you would be hard pressed to find a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. While the immediate benefits of cloud computing seem pretty straightforward, it needs a little know-how and digging to outsource your IT and find the right solution for your needs. Which is the right approach? How do you choose an appropriate cloud strategy for your IT needs? Which is better, public or private?

The first thing to know about the Cloud is that you have two options to store your data: a public cloud or a private cloud.

Private cloud

Also known as an enterprise or internal cloud, a private cloud is built exclusively for your business. Private clouds also rely on a company’s intranet or hosted center, meaning that your data is protected by a firewall. It provides all the efficiency of a public cloud but with a greater focus on control of management and security. Larger companies or those with strictly confidential data and regulation tend to opt for a private cloud for this reason. However, for some, having the sole responsibility of management and DIY network maintenance might be a drawback. So although a private cloud offers a considerably higher amount of security, replacing servers and dealing with other maintenance tasks can become costly and time-consuming.

Public cloud

Public clouds offer the same efficiency as private clouds but the main difference is that as a company, you’re not responsible for the management and maintenance of the cloud host. Your cloud provider deals with this, so many companies favor using a public cloud as it takes the stress and time away from testing and deploying new products. Unlike a private cloud, you don’t control the security in this case, a factor which repels some users. But although a public cloud may not share the same stringency as private clouds, data is still kept completely separate from others and it’s rare to see security breaches with public cloud services.

So how do you find the right cloud solution for your business?

1

Develop a project plan

The first step you should take is figuring who will be involved with what. Do you already know who will be responsible for migrating your data to the cloud? How long do you think the project will take? Who will be involved in the decision making process?

2

Cross reference with your data

Finding the right cloud solution for your business means knowing exactly what kinds of files you need to store. Separate your data. For example, if you have overly sensitive data such as financial or health records, you might instantly find that it narrows down the possible solutions, as you would need to prioritize security.

3

Be clear on cloud compliance

Moving to a cloud solution means you need to keep a close eye on how and where your data is stored so that you can stay compliant with federal law and industry regulation. Deciding what to store in-house and what to store on a cloud means that you need to ask the questions before legal asks you. Where is your data going to live? Who is looking after it? Who will be able to see and access it? Is the cloud segregated from other people’s data?

4

Look at your security features

Do some research into the levels of security measures each cloud provider takes to protect your data. A good cloud solution employs data security experts, professionally trained to scope out any high-level cyber threats in real time. Security with a good cloud provider should be predictable and will identify and analyze potential attacks. The most important thing you can do to ensure your data’s security is to make sure your provider offers this as well as multi-factor authentification so you easily access it when you need it via an IP address, device or user.

5

Know how users will need to access files

Before choosing a cloud solution, think about how your staff will need to access any files. Most providers will offer some kind of way for users to access the stored data through their computers. To do this, you’ll need to sync a copy of the entire file structure onto your device, which can take up a huge amount of space and become impractical. Find out what the provider offers in terms of accessing your files.

6

How will your data be backed up?

Make sure the cloud you decide on has a redundant system so that there is always a backup of your files in the unlikely event of a system failure or unforeseen downtime with the cloud company. Having a solid data back up is a crucial aspect of your business. Be sure to be very clear on the disaster recovery plan that the company is offering. Be sure to also find out if they support file revisions in case you need to revisit an earlier version of a file.

 

What is the hybrid cloud and how can you use it?

Hybrid cloud technology gives you the advantages of using a cloud server and an on-site server. Many companies that want to use the cloud start by paying a third-party provider to access space on a public server. As companies grow, however, they find that they can also benefit from on-site servers that give them more control and security.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of hybrid cloud technology, you’ll want to learn about some of the ways that other companies already use it.

Hybrid cloud technology can save your business money

Surveys show that companies plan to spend a lot of money on cloud technology over the next few years. By 2021, the hybrid cloud market’s value should reach $91.74 billion.

Despite the industry’s growth, adopting hybrid cloud technology could help your business save money. If you solely rely on private servers that you keep in your office, then you will spend a lot of money on IT infrastructure. Remember that you will need an infrastructure and server that does more than handle a normal day’s request. You need to prepare for days when you need to meet the needs of more clients than usual.

With hybrid cloud solutions, you can always use a cloud server to scale on busy days. Instead of spending more money than necessary on your personal IT equipment, you can lower your overall costs by choosing essential equipment and accessing your public server when needed.

Your employees become more productive with hybrid cloud solutions

Most companies say that they want to invest in hybrid cloud solutions so they can use more cloud-based apps.

Today’s best cloud apps improve employee productivity by automating certain tasks, improving communication and making it easier to collaborate on projects. By adopting a hybrid cloud, you give employees the opportunity to use apps remotely as well as from their desks.

The hybrid cloud improves data recovery and business continuity

No matter how well you prepare, your business could lose important data after a malware attack. A fire, flood or other disasters could also harm your data recovery and business continuity.

The hybrid cloud improves your data recovery and business continuity processes by letting you keep data stored on a third-party server.

If a fire destroys the enterprise server that you keep on your premises, the data stored on the public server stays protected. Backing up your data to the public cloud means that you can get back to work quickly instead of losing money and clients while you try to rebuild.

In fact, using the hybrid cloud could mean that you suffer zero downtime. Your clients and customers may not even notice the disruption.

You get better security from hybrid cloud solutions

Hybrid cloud solutions give you two places to store your data and business processes. While some people believe that third-party servers put them at risk of malware attacks, your enterprise server is just as likely to get attacked.

By keeping your information in two places, you protect your data from malware and hackers. For example, if your private server gets overtaken by ransomware, you can delete your files to eliminate the threat. After deleting your files, you can access them from the public server you use.

You can stay at the forefront of technology

As your hardware ages, some of its features will become outdated. You may not want to spend money replacing the equipment, but avoiding the problem could cost you more money as productivity suffers.

You know that you need to replace your equipment when the hardware can’t run the software you want and needs frequent repairs. While you safely dispose of your old hardware and replace equipment with new models, you can use your public cloud server to avoid disruptions.

Whether you use a public or private server, you should think about the benefits of hybrid cloud solutions to determine whether the technology can help your business thrive.