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January 12th, 2017

2017january12_security_bRansomware, Trojan horses, spyware and malware are things small businesses like yours don’t ever want to come across. While the term cyber security was once thrown around to scare businesses into purchasing security software, today’s sophisticated threats can leave immense impact, something that antivirus solution alone can’t handle. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up top cyber attack statistics that prove you need managed services in order to remain safe and operational.

The numbers

Small businesses are not at risk of being attacked, but worse, they’ve already fallen victim to cyber threats. According to Small Business Trends, 55 percent of survey respondents say their companies have experienced cyber attack sometime between 2015 and 2016. Not only that, 50 percent reported they have experienced data breaches with customer and employee information during that time, too. The aftermath of these incidents? These companies spent an average of $879,582 to fix the damages done to their IT assets and recover their data. To make matters worse, disruption to their daily operations cost an average of $955,429.

The attacks

So what types of attack did these businesses experience? The order from most to least common are as follows: Web-based attacks, phishing, general malware, SQL injection, stolen devices, denial of services, advanced malware, malicious insider, cross-site scripting, ransomware and others.

Why managed services?

Managed services is the most effective prevention and protection from these malicious threats. They include a full range of proactive IT support that focuses on advanced security such as around the clock monitoring, data encryption and backup, real-time threat prevention and elimination, network and firewall protection and more.

Not only that, but because managed services are designed to identify weak spots in your IT infrastructure and fix them, you’ll enjoy other benefits including faster network performance, business continuity and disaster recovery as well as minimal downtime. One of the best things about managed services is the fact that you get a dedicated team of IT professionals ready to assist with any technology problems you might have. This is much more effective and budget-friendly than having an in-house personnel handling all your IT issues.

Being proactive when it comes to cyber security is the only way to protect what you’ve worked hard to built. If you’d like to know more about how managed services can benefit your business, just give us a call, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 11th, 2017

2017january11_business_bOver the previous months, you’ve probably heard about new and disruptive trends like virtual assistants, smartphones, and automation technologies. Some of these IT solutions may even be placed on top of your business priority list. However, with floods, fires, and power outages just around the corner, disaster recovery and business continuity plans should always have a place on your annual budget.

DR isn’t a huge investment A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive secondary data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple -- and as cheap -- as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the cloud or in a virtualized server, restoring critical data and applications only take a few minutes.

Business disasters can be man-made, too Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
January 10th, 2017

2017january10_socialmedia_bWith communication apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Slack aiming to conquer audio and video calling, what is a social networking giant like Facebook to do? In a move to enhance its already ubiquitous Messaging app, Facebook is all set to follow suite and occupy a space alongside some of the most dominant VoIP apps in the market, particularly in desktop group video calling.

No one gets left behind

In group chats, there’s always that one person who gets the joke last, or reads it last, and so feels left out. With Facebook’s group video chat, this never has to happen as every participant in the group can be connected at the same time. The functionality is still in the “small test” phase, which means certain details are still being ironed out. When it fully launches, though, expect a considerable portion of Facebook Messenger users to consider moving their Skype group video conversations to Facebook.

Potentially compelling benefits

Since introducing its audio calling capability in 2013, Facebook has worked hard to keep up with the competition. Facebook’s introduction – and potential domination – of desktop group video calling might signal the end of times for Skype and other players. For one, Facebook and social media user growth hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Moreover, most users of internet telephony might inevitably see the advantages of using a single platform for their social media activity and online communications.

Possible user reservations

Users who prefer a communication tool that creates zero distractions in their chats might not opt for Facebook when conducting group video conferences. Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media platform, which serves as a springboard for important news updates, personal anecdotes, and funny cat videos. Not everyone will prefer all those distractions while in a business meeting.

Those looking for a clean communications tool might find the wealth of content a bit overwhelming. In addition, employees of small companies in need of a free communications tool might not immediately warm up to the idea of surrendering their Facebook profile as an official point of contact.

If there’s anything Facebook has proven, however, it is the ability to improve upon previous versions by adding or removing details to enhance user experience. Users may not always be pleased with the updates, but that hasn’t slowed down the billion-user company’s popularity. If the newly introduced desktop group video calling function proves efficient, Facebook might persuade even more users to lean towards its messaging tool.

With many options to choose from, the only thing left for people to do is discern which platform best serves their communications needs. For advice on which VoIP platform is best for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 3rd, 2017

2016january3_offce_bCommunication might be the key to personal relationships, but collaboration is the key to business connections. That’s why many small- and medium-sized businesses are looking into Office 365, a productivity and collaboration-enhancing software that allows employees to stay productive on-the-go. Recently, Microsoft announced some new Office 365 features, and we’ve rounded up the four latest updates:

Real-time collaboration in PowerPoint

Users will now be able to share a PowerPoint deck and update documents with others in real time. This means you’ll be able to see edits as your colleagues make them. Microsoft was committed to expanding real-time co-authoring of a company’s native applications, with Microsoft Word already rolling out this feature beforehand. Currently, real-time collaboration is available for PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program and for PowerPoint Mobile on Windows tablets.

Move attachments to the cloud and share with colleagues in Outlook

According to Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, this feature allows users to transform a traditional document into a shared cloud document within Outlook. Previously, Outlook users could only attach cloud-based documents to an email, but this new feature makes it easier to send large files and to collaborate on those files with ease.

Users can upload files into their own OneDrive or a document library as part of an Office 365 group and then designate sharing permissions for the email recipients. The new feature is currently available in Outlook on the web as well as Outlook on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers.

Mobile notifications for changes to shared documents

With this new update, users will be notified when any cloud documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint are being shared or edited. These notifications let you know when changes are being made, even if you are away from a particular document, so you’re always connected and know when you have to act. This feature can be integrated with the activity feed on Windows desktops, and help businesses improve user collaboration. Koenigsbauer says that Microsoft will continue working on the notification feature “to provide more detail and transparency around shared document activity in the future.” Sharing and editing notifications are available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users on Android and Windows Mobile for Office Insiders. This feature will be available for commercial users in all Office mobile applications in the coming months.

Find, open, and save documents in a Shared with Me and Recent Folders tab

Microsoft’s “Shared with Me” tab in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint makes it easier for enterprise users to find and open shared documents without having to leave the app you’re working in. At the moment, the Shared with Me tab is available on Windows desktops and Macs for all Office 365 subscribers, iOS and Android devices included. And soon, it will be available on Windows Mobile. And the “Recent Folders” tab -- used to help quickly locate files as well -- is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program.

Technology has become an integral part of modern businesses, and investing in the right IT resources is needed in order to achieve success. With the latest additions to Microsoft Office 365, small- and medium-sized businesses will enjoy enhanced staff collaboration, increased corporate productivity, and an overall competitive advantage.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic office
December 28th, 2016

2016december28_security_bIt's scary to think you can be simply browsing the Internet when WHAM! a screen pops up out of nowhere claiming that you have been hijacked and will need to pay a bitcoin to free your computer. Unfortunately, ransomware like this is not uncommon. But now there's a new, more devastating virus that asks victims to pick other victims to replace them in order to get their computer information back safely. Read on to find out how Popcorn Time is turning the ransom game on its head -- and how you can protect yourself from it.

Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to "unlock" a victim's computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom -- a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).

The Cost of Popcorn

When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay during any season but particularly difficult for those infected during the holiday season.

Spread the "Holiday Cheer" and Hope they Bite

What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.

Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season

The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Norton or Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you're online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call. We'll keep you away from the popcorn this season.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 22nd, 2016

2016december22_business_bAt a recent cloud technology conference, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched a tool to help streamline data analytics in the cloud. This new tool, named “Glue,” is designed to help reduce the burden on engineers and employees so they can get down to the important elements of data analytics. Read on for an explanation of the AWS Glue and all the ways it can benefit your business.

Data analysis can be an extremely profitable arm of your business, if undertaken carefully. Much of what people consider to be data analysis for a business is actually just digital clerical work, which makes the process even more frustrating and time-consuming than it needs to be. At its core, AWS’s Glue is an app that automates this tedium, which is often referred to as ETL (extract-transform-load).

Third-party software already exists to help with this task, but the service from AWS is one of the first cloud-based alternatives to come to market. Glue is designed to work with businesses that have their own on-premises data centers and infrastructures in addition to working with AWS frameworks. In fact, if a business makes changes to on-premises data, Glue can be set up to trigger jobs and update the data in the cloud so users always have access to the most up-to-date information for use and analysis.

Essentially, AWS extracts various types of data from a wide array of sources and analyzes it, ultimately homogenizing the data to fit the business's existing database. This eliminates a great deal of work because the extremely tedious task of importing data is often done by hand. Handing this burden over to AWS allows businesses to focus on the real analysis work; saving effort, time, and money in the process.

Every day, data becomes more and more integral to building a successful company. And with such a heavy burden placed on this facet of business, falling behind on the technology that makes it possible is an expensive mistake. If you’re hosting large amounts of data on-premises or in an AWS database, contact us today about how you can eliminate costly ETL processes.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
December 16th, 2016

2016december16_office_bSharePoint and OneDrive are similar programs used to help business owners manage and share company data across the board. Choosing which program will best utilize the space and resources you have can be confusing. For a quick overview of these unique programs and how to rationalize the choice for your business, continue reading.

Similarities between OneDrive and SharePoint Both OneDrive and SharePoint applications utilize Office 365 to help businesses organize information and share it with employees and company heads. Documents are stored in a cloud drive for security, so employees can track changes between edited versions, as well as make comments and add information when necessary. This real-time collaboration is one of the favorite benefits of online file management. Since data can be synchronized to various forms of technology, it is portable and usable everywhere.

OneDrive provides personal attention OneDrive uses a SharePoint backdrop in order to run, making the two programs inherently connected. However, there are distinct features that business owners will notice with their OneDrive account. The OneDrive program is utilized by individuals, and control is still maintained by the individual even if it is shared across a department. Changes are synced to a chosen device, allowing departments to work on projects together. As an administrator, you can share the document by way of a secure link, and you can allow some people to edit and leave others in a position to view only.

SharePoint is a wider group share program If OneDrive is the perfect individualized sharing option, then SharePoint takes a wider stance. An administrator or company head can save a document online, allowing employees throughout the company to view and edit the document. Every change is tracked to give higher-ups an idea of who is contributing to the company projects. SharePoint is a good application to use for human resource surveys or updates that need to be completed by team members in other departments.

Office 365 encourages businesses to increase their employees' usage of online storage and data options. SharePoint and OneDrive are just two of the many programs provided to improve how your business is run. For more information on how online document sharing programs can help you increase your company's visibility and productivity, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic office
December 13th, 2016

hackerscybersecurity-170px-02The New Year is upon us, and with it comes a new batch of cyber threats. As advances are made in the world of technology, businesses anticipate changes that can make life more convenient. But, like snakes slithering into your home, cyber attackers also keep up with technological changes for their own nefarious ends. Knowing what you are up against is the first step to fighting these threats.

Increased threats on cloud technology

Cloud service has numerous benefits to businesses. They make data storage, collaboration, and processing more efficient; they enable employees to work faster; and they help operations flow smoother. Cloud technology’s popularity is expected to rise well into the next few years, but as demand increases, so does the dangers presented by cyber attackers.

Ransomware will be more complex

Ransomware incapacitates computer systems by locking down files and preventing access for ransom. In its 2016 Threat Predictions report, security software company McAfee predicts a peak in ransomware attacks next year. Although they also predict it to recede by mid-year, damages to vulnerable cloud-dependent infrastructures can be great and costly. Most alarming in the prediction, however, is that in the coming year ransomware attacks will be more complex due to new elements.

Ransomworms, which use advanced victimization techniques to mine further data within an already compromised network, are expected to put an even crueler spin to an already formidable malware. Doxing, on the other hand, affects avenues such as social media and any place where sensitive, easily identifiable information can be extracted to serve the ultimate purpose of extorting money. Yet another wicked ransomware to watch out for is Backup Deletion, which destroys the very mechanism that can otherwise help you recover from a compromised system or files: your backup data.

More threats to IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled devices

It is also predicted that 2017 will see attacks made on IoT-powered devices, which will make life harder for those who depend on technology that makes life easier. It targets medical devices and Electronic Medical Records, “connected cars”, basic domestic tools, and tech-driven wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. The danger posed by this intrusion is fully capable of corrupting information stored in your devices.

Advanced cyber espionage

Cyber espionage is by no means a novelty. In 2017, it’s expected to hold sway in cyber-threat prevention measures as it becomes even more complex. It encompasses all sectors of society, including individuals, private organizations, government institutions, and entire countries. Perpetrators will have the means to bypass networks by attacking firewalls and wreak havoc in their victims’ network. Fret not, for there will be measures in place to detect this threat also in the coming year.

Hackers are one of the most cunning criminals to have ever existed. While the cyber-police and the defenses they put up are no slouches, threats to security systems can still make technology-dependent individuals and businesses quiver. Although damaged networks can be repaired, compromised privacy restored, and stolen data returned, the amount of damage that hackers can cause might be irreparable and/or result in a significant dent in your IT infrastructure and budget. The value of a network security system makes itself known when you least expect it, which is why security should be a top priority.

Are your systems protected from these predicted remarkable feats of hacking? Call us if you want to discuss security services that are best for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 12th, 2016

instagram-170px-02From being an emerging app that allows sharing photos of puppies in vintage-themed filters, Instagram has transformed into a marketing tool that savvy businesses ought to have. The photo-sharing giant now has more than 500 million users, making it an ideal online marketplace. Most businesses have an account, and those that know how to create and promote compelling content can benefit from more than just having a handful of filters at their disposal.

Ensure your posts are shoppable

This simply means providing a convenient path in which your followers can buy the products posted on your page. With a shoppable Instagram tool, you can direct users to your online shop where they can make an actual purchase. Instagram is, arguably, not the best ecommerce platform to use if you depend on clickable media, but if you know how to tweak the app to your advantage – and provide an attractive presentation of your products – you can turn likes into sales.

Give away discount codes or coupons

Entice followers to engage with you and share content with incentives such as discount codes or coupons. You can do this by running contests with an interesting concept, cool prizes, and a sharing or voting element that encourages participants to share your content with their friends. Better yet, engage followers by tapping into user-generated content via photo contests, resulting in free promotion for your brand.

Come up with a strong call-to-action (CTA)

Instagram doesn’t exactly have the most mobile-friendly CTAs, but don’t let this prevent you from sending followers to your sales page. Whether it’s telling them to go to the link on your bio or simply incorporating a shoppable Instagram feature on your page, specific instructions on how to buy or know more about your product can spell the difference between making a sale and getting ignored.

Post frequently and make the most of all available tools

Post photos using stylish filters, create snappy and quirky videos, or let your followers take a friendly behind-the-scenes peek at your organization using the Stories feature. Come up with a catchy and relatable caption that encourages participation and engages your core audience. Also important: using hashtags on your posts. Any business Instagrammer worth his or her salt knows that a simple hashtag can pave the way for other users to reach your content and, ultimately, buy your product.

Last but not least…

Create captivating content

Remember that Instagram is a visual platform, and as such, users are enticed by striking images rendered in flattering filters, vivid colors, and clear messages. Although other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent mediums for promoting products, the image-oriented nature of Instagram brings in a wealth of opportunities for promoting your brand. Aside from coming up with likeable posts, crafting a clear and concise caption can lead to a winning Instagram marketing campaign.

With some creativity, visual flair, and a well-defined strategy, these tips can help shape your Instagram feed as an attractive online sales generator. If you need further advice on how you can make the most of your social media presence, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 6th, 2016

2016december6_business_bSmall business marketing has often been a difficult endeavor for small business owners. Marketing involves a great deal of time, effort, and can require significant financial investment. For a long time, marketing automation was something only enterprise-level businesses and corporations could afford, but with new technology, that’s no longer the case. Read up on the five most profitable benefits of this new IT innovation right here.

Instant responses to email requests

If a customer or prospect sends your business an email via your website or a "Contact Us" form, any delay in response could ultimately cost you a client. But if you have a marketing automation plan in place, you can customize automatic email responses to respond to these leads as soon as an email is received. This lets potential customers know either the information they requested or that you will be responding in more detail soon.

Stop leaving voicemails and start closing deals

There’s a reason most people prefer to communicate via email: Keeping in touch over phone can be tough if both parties are always busy. An automated system solves this by logging when you’ve contacted leads and automatically emailing them about follow-up times. The call, email, and its response are all logged in your CRM and calendar without a single minute wasted entering mundane information.

Inbound lead assignment

When you have phone calls, emails, and meetings piling up, it’s hard to keep track of which customer goes where and who is working with them. With marketing automation software and tracking, customer service representatives are automatically assigned to inbound leads based on specialities and demographics so they can begin working on building profitable rapport right away.

Give and you shall receive

Potential clients and leads get dozens, sometimes hundreds of business emails every day. You need something to set your business apart from the rest. By offering valuable content such as “How to” guides and “Total Cost of Ownership” tools in exchange for contact information, you can provide prospects with content they actually want.

All it takes is a web form and some creative writing that ultimately leads visitors back to your products and/or services. Your automation software delivers content to anyone who provides contact information, and it downloads metrics that can be tracked and analyzed by your solution.

Never type another phone number again

Networking events mean new contacts and new leads. Although that used to mean thick stacks of business cards, cutting-edge marketing tools make it possible to take a picture of contact information and automatically convert it into a cloud database. Call-ins, scanned business cards, and received emails all get organized into a single digital rolodex with recommendations for whom to contact, and when is best to do so -- without one minute of tedious data entry.

Every business owner knows that automating mindless tasks is a worthwhile investment. But not everyone knows just what sort of tools are available to help you cut down on wasted work. Our team specializes in using technology to add value to your business, and we believe that if you’re not utilizing any of the solutions above -- that’s the best place to start. Get in touch with us today to make your marketing technology work for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business