19 06, 2018

Why Your Business Needs Unified Threat Management

2018-05-25T22:02:49+00:00 June 19th, 2018|Security|0 Comments

Why Your Business Needs Unified Threat Management

Sounds scary doesn’t it? Almost like a swat team dressed in black is going to swing in and start yelling orders. While just as effective at disabling the bad guys, Unified Threat Management (UTM) is a special kind of IT solution focused on proactive protection. Consider it more like a team of virtual bodyguards that stand at the door between your business and the internet, keeping trouble out while your legitimate traffic can come and go normally.

With the increasing number of connected devices in your business network and the different ways your employees now connect, it’s more important than ever to set up dedicated security systems that give integrated protection. UTM is a series of solutions that work together, simultaneously layering your protection across the board. We’ll cover the four main inclusions here, and exactly what they can do for your business.

Robust Firewall

Put simply, a firewall keeps an eye on all the data coming in and out, looking for anything abnormal. While every home PC comes with a software firewall built in, those ones pale in comparison to what a UTM firewall can do. Remember the team of virtual bodyguards? Imagine the home firewall asking nicely if the data should be doing that, while the UTM slams the data to the ground and demands credentials. It exists to make sure the data entering your network is safe, that it’s not part of a cyber-attack, and that in the rare event your network becomes infected, your servers aren’t being used to attack another business.

Anti-virus Where it Matters

With so much new malware being released daily, it’s easy to fall behind in updates and discover you’ve been infected. Your employees are likely doing their best, but manually scanning each file can be exhausting and time-consuming. Your UTM anti-virus is built into the firewall, ensuring known or suspicious malware is stopped at the door. It doesn’t even make it through to your employees, so the risk is removed. Clearly that’s the best outcome possible and will allow your employees to work at maximum efficiency, while you can run your business with confidence.

Spam Blocking

Most cyber-attacks come via email these days, with either an attachment or a link. Once clicked, the malware is released into the network to wreak havoc. Obviously, your employees are smart enough not to open random attachments/links, so hackers use phishing emails. These are emails that look legitimate and may refer to vendors you use, financial services you have accounts with, or even seem to be from other employees. Your UTM isn’t falling for any of those disguises, it strips down each email and checks it against high-tech legitimacy markers. If it sees anything suspicious, the email is marked as spam and either held for review or bounced away.

Your employees never see the attack, so they can’t accidentally fall for it. While the UTM is monitoring for phishing/fake emails, it’s also culling out the general spam that clogs up inboxes. Employees will no longer have to spend precious minutes each day wading through the junk, and the likelihood of missing an important customer email has greatly dropped.

Content Filtering

In a perfect world, your employees would only access work-related sites and do work-related things online. Content filtering can help you limit the risk they’re bringing into your business via these websites. Your UTM can be set to restrict sites that infect computers, such as adult content, gambling or illegal downloads. It can also be used to restrict access to productivity vampires like Facebook or Pinterest, either during work hours or completely. It’s up to your policies how much you’d like to filter and whether to add any flexibility. Some businesses allow social media during lunch breaks or have special reward hours each week. Simple tweaks like this can increase productivity overnight and give you the security you’re looking for.

You can see how a layered security solution like UTM provides a space for your business to thrive, where systems are secure, employees are able to maintain efficiency, and cyber problems stay outside the doors. The way the layers work together is more effective than a patchwork of separate systems, and a UTM is much easier to configure and maintain.

We can find the right UTM solution for your business. Call us today at 319-227-7000!

12 06, 2018

What’s Best for Your Computer: Shut Down or Sleep?

2018-06-13T11:33:39+00:00 June 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What’s Best for Your Computer: Shut Down or

Sleep?Shutdown or Sleep

Most homes are trying to reduce power costs by turning off lights and appliances, but do the same rules apply to computers? After all, it requires more than flicking a switch on your way out the door. Some people believe you should shut down after every use to save wear and tear, others believe you should never shut down your computer – ever. Others simply want to make sure the pages and apps they left open are still there waiting for them. So, who’s right and what are they really doing?

Back when computers were clunky behemoths that took a long time to start, you’d go nuts at the person who shut it down when it was your turn. If you have an older computer, maybe you still do. Modern computers actually have two options for their downtime: Shut down or sleep.

When it shuts down, the system goes through and closes any open programs (often prompting you to save first), then gradually cuts power to all components. It’s a methodical process that seems quite fast to us but is actually made of 100+ intentionally ordered steps. If there’s a sudden blackout or you hold the power button until it turns off, it means the steps aren’t followed and damage is possible. The second option is to put your computer to sleep. This can be triggered by an automated timeout or a user click. Your system uses a special type of memory called RAM to hold all your running programs exactly as you left them but use minimal power. The hard drive stops spinning, the graphics card lets the screen go black, and even the system fan slows to become almost silent. When you wake it by moving the mouse or pressing a key, it ‘wakes’ again almost instantly.

Reasons to Shut Down

A switched off computer isn’t drawing power which is a tick for the environment. But shutting down is about more than saving power. It can sometimes give improved stability over a machine that’s been running for days/weeks. This is because every time you shut down, you give your computer a chance to clear out all temporary junk files it’s been carrying in memory. It also triggers various health checks on startup that may otherwise be missed, important routines like checking for updates or scanning for viruses. It’s certainly more convenient to spend an extra minute booting up than lose everything to a cyber-attack. For older computers or those under heavy strain like gaming or video editing, shutting down also provides a necessary chance for the components to cool down.

Reasons to Sleep

Speed is the big selling point here. You can literally sit down and start working where you left off without the delays of bootup, finding your program, opening your saved files, scrolling down… it’s all right there and ready. You can even tell it how long to wait before putting itself into sleep mode, just in case you get called away and forget. Windows updates still run in the background, so that’s okay, but it’s important to note that your computer might get stuck waiting for a reboot that never comes. Those pending updates may stack up, ineffective until it either forces a reboot or becomes unstable enough that you give in to a restart.

The best method is….

Since the whole point of having a computer is that it’s ready to work when you are, we recommend shutting down at night when it’s definitely not in use but using sleep mode during the day. Updates will get all the rebooting they need, memory is refreshed for the new day, and you’ll get the best of both worlds – speed and stability.

 

We can help your computer boot faster, give us a call at 319-227-7000.

5 06, 2018

Should You Pay for a Ransomware Attack?

2018-05-25T21:43:29+00:00 June 5th, 2018|Ransomware|0 Comments

Should You Pay for a Ransomware Attack?Ransomware

Getting hit with a ransomware attack is never fun, your files get encrypted by cybercriminals and you’re left having to decide: should we pay to get them back? It’s a scene that’s played out across the world with 70% of businesses saying ‘yes’ in 2016 alone. Here’s what you should consider if you’re ever in this situation.

Do you trust them?

Besides the fact that they’re criminals holding your data hostage, how confident are you that they’ll send the decryption key? Most attackers demand you send the payment via untraceable Bitcoin, so you have no recourse if they take it and run. You’re also equally trapped if they decide they asked too little and come back with increasingly higher demands. If they do send the decryption key, be aware they still have access to your systems and can hit you again at any time until your network is disinfected by experts. Businesses don’t exactly want their breach publicized either, so many don’t admit to paying the ransom, whether it went to plan or otherwise.

Can you manage the impact?

Best case scenario, you can wipe the affected drives and restore from a clean backup without paying the ransom. You might even decide the encrypted files aren’t that important and simply let them go, or even wipe a whole laptop or workstation. On the other hand, if your data management comes under any special regulations, like health or legal, you may find the attack has a much wider, more intense impact. The attacker will usually give you a countdown to motivate a payment, with a threat of deletion when it hits zero. If the data isn’t that valuable, or you have confirmed backups, this urgency has no effect. There are also new types of ransomware like KillDisk which can permanently wipe your entire hard drive or even network.

How much do they want?

Cybercriminals rarely send out global attacks with set amounts, instead, they prefer to customize the ransom based on how much they think you can pay. Large corporations and hospitals are hit with very high demands, while small business demands are more modest. They may be criminals, but they’re smart people who know your financial limits. They’ll also consider how much similar businesses have paid and how quickly, then expect you to follow suit.

Are your backups good?

Many businesses are discovering too late that their backup systems aren’t robust enough to withstand this type of attack. Either they’ve become infected too, they weren’t up-to-date or they backed up the wrong data. It’s worth doing some quick checks on your backup processes as even if you have to take the system down for a day as you recover, you’re still light years ahead of those without them.

What’s your policy?

More and more often, businesses are adding ransomware to their disaster recovery plans and having predefined actions mapped out. Seemingly simple inclusions like who has final say over the payment decision can stop chaos in its tracks. Employees and management alike can then approach the situation calmly, ready to make the best decisions for the business.

Stay safe in the first place

Ransomware is showing no signs of slowing down. As more businesses keep them funded the cybercriminals are steadily launching new attacks and making it their full-time job. Most attacks come via phishing emails – those emails that trick employees into clicking a link – and they can be extremely convincing. While training helps people spot them, it’s no guarantee. We recommend using business-class spam filters to catch these types of emails before they land in your employee inboxes so that triggering a ransomware attack becomes something that happens to other businesses, not yours.

Secure your data systems now, we can help! Call us at 319-227-7000

29 05, 2018

Should You Let an Amateur Loose on Your Network?

2018-05-29T14:54:51+00:00 May 29th, 2018|Managed Services|0 Comments

Should You Let an Amateur Loose on Your Network?Amateur

Most of us know a fair amount about computers, even kids are joining circuits and coding programs in schools – but that does that make everyone an IT expert? It’s fair to say almost all workplaces have that employee who can finesse the printer or use shortcuts nobody else knows about. They have skills, absolutely, but they often know just enough to be dangerous to your business.

Hobby IT skills are learned on home computers which are very different to a professional business setup. When something goes wrong on a home computer, there’s no drastic impact if parts need to be replaced, data is lost or it stays down for a week or two. In a business setting, every problem costs time and money, usually creating a domino effect through the entire network. Would you gamble the success of your business with a non-professional who did a quick Google? It’s unlikely you’d let someone be your lawyer purely because they can deliver a stubborn argument, nor would you let someone perform surgery just because it looked easy on TV. Businesses have unique, specialist IT needs that go beyond amateur computer skills and there’s always going to be more at stake.

Designing and implementing a custom backup plan for your business is a particularly interesting area. While most home users skip this part entirely, an IT professional has seen (and recovered) all manner of situations and will use that knowledge to ensure that if the worst happens, your business is covered. This could mean anything from having a complete copy of your drive stored securely in the cloud or drilling down to backup only the most important data. An IT expert is equipped to help you identify the value in each piece of data and implement a plan so robust that if your business is ever hit by disaster or breach, downtime is minimal – along with losses.

If a disaster ever does occur, like fire, flood or theft, would an amateur know what to do? Who to call? These situations are so charged with tension and panic that making the wrong moves can lead to more damage. A professional helps design continuity/disaster plans, which map out exactly what should happen, who should do it and in what order. It takes out the guesswork and minimizes downtime. Perhaps more importantly, the expertly written disaster plan will include a complete risk analysis so that you know in advance where to strengthen your protection. It also includes a business analysis so you know which systems are dependent so you can stop the domino effect, plus know the legal/contractual impacts, financial impacts and so on.

Your IT professional will also help ensure your business is meeting any regulatory requirements. Many businesses are subject to strict data rules set by government bodies, such as FISMA and HIPAA. The regulations change often and demand increasingly more attention to data security, with hefty penalties for businesses that fall behind. Professionals are constantly in the loop around upcoming revisions and how best to comply with little to no disruption to your daily business. Part of ensuring your business is safe means staying on top of software updates and patching multiple computers at the same time.

The best option is to run the updates before employees arrive for the day, and since the process can take a few hours and be quite fiddly, it’s generally not something amateurs will prioritize. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with recent cyber-attacks, delaying a security update by even a few days can lead to disaster. Engaging an IT professional is a cost-effective solution that keeps your business running, growing and earning.

Let the professionals manage your tech the right way by calling us at 319-227-7000.

15 05, 2018

The True and Unexpected Costs of Being Hacked

2018-05-07T11:31:53+00:00 May 15th, 2018|Security|0 Comments

The True and Unexpected Costs of Being Hackedcosts of being hacked

There are the normal costs everyone associates with a breach, like getting your own server and computers fixed up, with maybe a little downtime. But really, most businesses view the possibility of getting hacked as more of an inconvenience than a bottom-line cost. For those who’ve come out the other side though, it’s a very different story. They know the hidden and ongoing costs of a data breach can be crippling, and that IT security exists to protect your business on multiple levels. All those surprise costs that spiral out of control are why most businesses close after a cyber-attack. Here are a few of the hard, but common realities of life after a hack.

Raiding the budget to reduce downtime

From the moment a cyber-attack gets into your system, things get expensive, and the longer the attack goes, the more it costs. Latest stats reveal most breaches aren’t identified for around 191 days, then it can take on average another 66 days to contain the damage. During this time you’re cleaning PCs, mobile devices, laptops, servers and even entire networks. Add to this the fee for experts to fix everything up, all the new tools and software they insist you have, and all the hours/days/weeks when your business is struggling with downtime, you’ll exhaust your emergency funds very quickly.

The long arm of the law

Depending on what data was stolen and how you handled the situation, you could be liable for fines into the millions. Having any medical data or legal files leak is a particularly messy scenario with fines coming from multiple sources. In any case, new privacy laws mean businesses are liable for massive fines if they don’t disclose a data breach, even if only email addresses were stolen. Where this gets even trickier is that the burden is on your business to know exactly what data has been stolen/illegally accessed, so you can report it before the fines stack up. This means that even if you were able to fix up the systems yourself, you still need to hire an expert who can identify exactly what the hackers took, from where and when.

Customer retention measures

In a double-down crush to your bottom line, not only does your business have to bear the cost of the hack, your future income takes a hit as customers lose trust and leave. To offset this, many businesses need to engage PR experts, spend more on advertising, and go all out to ensure they survive to fight another day. Even so, your breach disclosure will still come up in search results for many years. The more negative publicity your breach attracts, the more you’ll need to spend on customer retention.

All your secrets exposed

While you may not have Pentagon level secrets to protect, your business does have information that you’d like to keep to yourself. Hackers love going after those juicy tidbits, and the more closely you guard them, the more attractive they are. Think Coca Cola recipe, Big Mac Secret Sauce or 11 Herbs & Spices…While those corporations would be big enough to keep their competitive edge after the breach, your business success relies on at least some information staying secret. It may not be a secret recipe, but your proprietary methods and databases have a black-market value all of their own.

But simply avoiding a breach doesn’t cost much at all…

The thing is, it’s not expensive to stay on top of it all and keep your business protected. For a low monthly fee, we can reverse the entire scenario and secure your systems against the unknown. That means no need to raid other department budgets in a panic, pay crippling fines, make embarrassing public announcements, or fight to retain your competitive edge.

We can help with making sure your systems have the latest security patches and your anti-virus knows the latest tricks to watch for. Our technicians can build a virtual fortress around your business that keeps the bad guys out while letting you thrive, and even monitor security with early warning systems. Whatever your needs are, both now and moving ahead, we’re here to help keep you safe while keeping your IT costs low.

Ready to secure your business against breaches? Give us a call today on 319-227-7000.

8 05, 2018

Why Do Computers Break?

2018-05-07T11:23:52+00:00 May 8th, 2018|Computer Repair|0 Comments

Why Do Computers Break?Why Do Computers Break?

We know computers always break at the worst possible time, but what exactly prompts that failure? It’s easy to think it was something you did since you were using it at the time, but while your online gaming frenzy might cause a temporary crash, normal user actions are rarely the cause of a broken computer.

Physical Damage

Accidents happen, but they don’t always mean you need to buy a new computer. As an electrical item, liquid spills are a big problem. This could be anywhere from a spill on the keyboard, going overboard with the screen cleaning spray or even a flood that reaches the computer. Laptop users need to be especially careful when choosing their work surface, as cafes and kitchen tables often have small puddles left behind. If you’re lucky and the liquid didn’t fry the circuits, ongoing corrosion is still likely, as is stickiness to gum up the internal parts. Similarly, a dropped computer isn’t going to be happy, nor is one that’s been knocked around. Even a light thump of frustration can cause loose cables, disconnections and internal damage.

Age

Computer parts have an expected lifetime, especially moving parts like fans or mechanical hard drives. Some computers can run 24/7 for up to a decade, while others can be barely used but fail within warranty. When age is the issue there are usually early warning signs like extra noise or slowing down, but the actual ‘break’ generally happens when you go to turn the computer on, perhaps after a crash or overnight – either it makes a valiant effort before giving up, or nothing happens at all. Sometimes lasting age is the luck of the draw with how it was manufactured, and quality does play a big part in how long it can keep churning.

Power Surges

We like to think electricity is a constant stream that never varies, but computers are particularly sensitive to both surges (too much electricity) and brownouts (not enough electricity). You might notice the lights dimming or flickering during a brownout, or glowing just a tad too strong during a surge. These variations never last long, and they’re not something you can control unless it’s just your house (it’s worth checking with your neighbors), but they can easily break your computer. A surge protector can guard against mild increases in voltage, but brownouts and strong surges will still cause damage.

Heat

Overheating is a big contributor to premature computer death. Some computer parts run hot and need plenty of cooling to keep them working. You might not feel it from the outside, but internal components can rapidly build up heat that needs to go somewhere. When your airflow vents get blocked with dust or pet hair, the temperature continues to increase until components literally bake themselves to failure. At set temperatures, the computer will automatically switch off to try and cool down, however the more often this happens and the higher the temps, the more likely your computer is to die.

Hard Drive Failure

Your data is stored on a hard drive, and if you’ve got a mechanical hard drive (most people do), it works a bit like a record player with a spinning ‘platter’ and a needle that reads it. Small bumps, liquid, age, surges and overheating can all trigger hard drive failure. Along with making your computer unusable, hard drive failure means your data is also lost. While sudden breakage might leave you surprised, take note of any strange noises or repeated crashes and back up your data in advance.

Like a car, your computer needs to be serviced. We can check your computer both physically and its software to make its running right and will keep on working for you. Give us a call at 319-227-7000.

7 05, 2018

Fake Invoice Attacks Are on the Rise – Here’s How to Spot (and Beat) Them

2018-05-07T11:01:11+00:00 May 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Fake Invoice Attacks Are on the Rise – Here’s How to Spot (and Beat) ThemFake Invoice

Businesses around the world are being struck with a cyber-attack that sends victims a fake invoice that looks real enough to fool to most employees. It’s an old scam that used to see bills faxed or mailed in, but it’s made its way into the digital world and instances are on the rise.

Chances are you’ve already seen some of the less effective attempts, like an email advising your domain is expiring, except it’s not from your host and your domain is nowhere near expiration. These new attacks are more advanced, in that they look completely legitimate and are often from contractors/suppliers you actually use. Logos are correct, spelling and grammar are spot on, and they might even refer to actual work or invoice numbers. The sender name may also be the normal contact you’d associate with that business, or even a co-worker, as cyber criminals are able to effectively ‘spoof’ real accounts and real people. While it’s worrying that they know enough about your business to wear that disguise so well, a successful attack relies on you not knowing what to look for, or even that fakes are a possibility. With that in mind, here are two types of invoice attacks you might receive:

The Payment Redirect

This style of fake invoice either explicitly states payment should be made to a certain account, perhaps with a friendly note about the new details, or includes a payment link direct to the new account. Your accounts payable person believes they’re doing the right thing by resolving the invoice and unwittingly sends company money offshore. The problem usually isn’t discovered until the real invoice from the real supplier comes in or the transaction is flagged in an audit. Due to the nature of international cybercrime, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover the funds even if you catch it quickly.

The Malware Click – Rather than go for the immediate cash grab, this style of attack asks your employee to click a link to download the invoice. The email may even look like the ones normally generated by popular accounting tools like Quickbooks or Xero, making the click seem safe. Once your employee has clicked the link, malware is downloaded that can trigger ransomware or data breaches. While an up-to-date anti-virus should block the attack at that stage, it’s not always guaranteed, especially with new and undiscovered malware. If it does get through, the malware quickly embeds itself deep into your systems, often silently lurking until detected or activated.

How to Stay Safe

Awareness is key to ensuring these types of attacks have no impact on your business. As always, keep your anti-virus and spam filters up to date to minimize the risk of the emails getting through in the first place. Then, consider implementing a simple set of procedures regarding payments. These could include verifying account changes with a phone call (to the number you have on record, not the one in the email), double checking invoices against work orders, appointing a single administrator to restrict access to accounts, or even two-factor authorization for payments. Simple pre-emptive checks like hovering the mouse over any links before clicking and quickly making sure it looks right can also help. Like your own business, your contractors and suppliers are extra careful with their invoicing, so if anything looks off – even in the slightest – hold back on payment/clicking until it’s been reviewed. Fake invoices attacks may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean your business will become a statistic, especially now that you know what’s going on and how you can stop them.

We can help increase your security, talk to us today. Call us at 319-227-7000

24 04, 2018

How Refurbished Computers Save You a Bunch (and Get You a Better System)

2018-04-16T20:41:26+00:00 April 24th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Refurbished Computers Save You a Bunch (and Get You a Better System)Refurbished

Refurbished computers are almost like an insider secret – you can get great system specs for a fraction of the price. It’s how many families are meeting their back to school needs and upgrading their old systems, complete with warranty.

There’s one hot tip these people know: a refurb is NOT the same as used. You’re right to avoid those 2nd hand computers you see on Craigslist or Gumtree because there’s a reason that person is selling it! It’s probably slowed to a crawl, making weird noises or flat out broken in a way you’d never discover until too late. Refurbished computers are the complete opposite. They’re computers that have been given a new life, usually with a comprehensive repair, or sometimes they’re brand-new computers that were returned with a small problem like a hard drive failure, so we swap it out and sell it at bargain prices. Occasionally, the computer was even returned simply because the buyer changed their mind, but it’s still essentially brand-new (it might still be in the box!).

Quite often, refurbished computers start their life as business machines, built to the latest specs with business-grade components. When the budget or lease says ‘replace the computers’, that’s what the business does, whether the computers need it or not. There’s nothing wrong with them and they’ve likely been babysat by a corporate IT department who kept them in perfect condition every day. These are great machines that are still plenty fast for home use, both desktops and laptops. Plus, because business-grade components are more durable than the consumer ones, the entire system has been built to last longer and perform better, often up to several years without a problem. Rather than send these impressive machines to landfill, we check and replace necessary components and re-install a clean operating system. Next, we put them through a stack of verification tests, then pack them up ready for their new home. When you talk to us about buying one, we’ll always make sure you get a system that not only keeps up with your needs now, but gives you breathing space for the next few years too.

What are the benefits?

  • You save a LOT of money: You get yourself a great computer that’s been set up and checked over by an expert technician, for significantly less than the cost of buying new. Add in the fact that when you score a refurbished business computer you’re also getting more durable, higher-quality components that will last you for years longer than the off-the-shelf consumer model, it’s a clear win. We always recommend that when you see a refurbished deal that’s got you smiling, you act fast – it won’t sit around waiting for you!
  • Covered by warranty: A warranty is always included with our refurbished computers, giving you value plus peace of mind. It’s your guarantee that buying refurbished was a great decision. Problems are extremely rare since your computer has been through stringent checks, but if anything pops up that’s giving you trouble, we’ll fix it fast. Forget the delays and hoop jumping you might get with your other warranties, we stand by ours with rapid action.
  • You’re saving the environment: Fewer machines end up in landfill and fewer resources are used for unnecessary manufacturing. When you consider each computer requires a certain amount of precious metals to be mined, plastics to be created, packaging created from multiple materials and all the associated flow on effects of shipping, refurbishment is the right choice for the future. While you might not personally see the environmental impact of your decision to buy refurbished, rest assured the planet appreciates it!

Are they reliable?

Some people think that refurbished computers are more likely to break, when in truth, in some cases they’re actually more reliable than brand new. Manufacturers have an expected failure rate, a percentage of computers that go straight from the factory to buyers who discover their expensive new system is dead-on-arrival or breaks within weeks. A refurbished computer has already stood the test of time and it performed without missing a beat. By the time it’s gone through our checks and repairs (both required and pre-emptive), a refurbished computer is better than new.

If you need a better computer on a tight budget, give us a call at 319-227-7000.

17 04, 2018

4 Advantages of Managed IT over In-House IT

2018-04-16T20:37:55+00:00 April 17th, 2018|Managed Services|0 Comments

4 Advantages of Managed IT over In-House ITManaged IT

It’s tempting to hire an in-house IT technician to take care of your network and set them up with a cozy office just down the hall, but is it the right decision for your business? If you’re like most businesses, you’re always on the lookout for ways to save money while improving results. Sometimes this means expanding your staff to include a team of tech specialists at your beck and call, but this can often be an unnecessary expense that leaves you with highly paid employees twiddling their thumbs all day. For SMEs who are looking for the best of both worlds, we recommend Managed IT services.

Put simply, Managed IT is our solution which gives you that team of specialist technicians and network experts, without the ‘quick, look busy’ element – and at a fraction of the cost. Naturally, you’d rather see your IT budget working to support your growth and kept as low as possible. That’s our focus too, and why we don’t simply maintain and repair your systems, we proactively monitor to avoid downtime and work with you to ensure your IT increases productivity and efficiency. Whether you already have in-house IT and are auditing the value, or are curious about what having IT support might be like for your business, we’ve put together a few factors to consider before making your choice:

Availability: Most employees work 9-5, but what happens if something goes wrong with your systems outside these hours? Your in-house technician won’t appreciate being woken at 1am and called in for emergency repairs. It’s more likely that they simply won’t answer the call (or hear it), or if they do, expect some hefty contract renegotiation come 9am. Managed IT is very different as we expect problems after hours and have support technicians ready. We know that every minute of downtime is affecting your revenue, plus your business reputation, so we prioritize getting your systems up and running asap. As a bonus, with our Managed IT these types of disasters are rarer as we’re constantly monitoring and correcting problems before they occur.

Total cost: One of the things that may have attracted you to having an in-house technician is the cost. But while you may be able to pay them a lower hourly rate, there are extra costs like hiring, training, ongoing training, healthcare and retirement. Once you start adding up the cost of an in-house technician, you might find it’s eating up your IT budget and leaving you scrambling to fill gaps you didn’t expect. Upgrades get delayed, opportunities missed, and IT expenses become a sore point. In comparison, Managed IT is one fixed monthly rate delivering enormous value, including access to specialists across all software applications and technology.

Ongoing Training: Putting aside the fact your technician will often spend entire weeks away upgrading their skills and leaving you scrambling for support while they’re gone, those training costs quickly add up. With a salaried technician, you’ll have to pay all ongoing training and certification costs, plus travel costs for industry conferences. We know how important it is to remain current, certified and skilled in new technologies, so we spend the money to invest in ourselves so we can serve you better. We’re part of industry related communities and attend multiple conferences each year, all at our own expense.

Different goals: For most employees, a higher wage is the goal and many will job-hop to achieve that. A salaried tech may be looking for the first opportunity to leave and get paid more, often leveraging all the training you’ve just provided. In these modern times, switching jobs regularly is expected, with an average of only 3 years in each position. Considering how much it cost your business to acquire, train and upskill your technician, 3 years is an unreasonable ROI. Our goals couldn’t be more different – we only aim to keep you a happy customer for as long as we can!

In the end, your business needs to find the right balance between profit and expertise. When you partner with our Managed IT, you’re securing availability, ever-increasing expertise and commitment to your success. We work closely with you to provide the very best support and protect you costly disasters, taking preemptive action to keep you safe and operational. There’s no doubt Managed IT is a better decision than hiring an in-house technician, and we’d be delighted to prove it to you.

Talk to us about Managed IT for your business. Call us at 319-227-7000

3 04, 2018

3 Essential Steps Before You Fire an Employee

2018-04-02T23:18:27+00:00 April 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

3 Essential Steps Before You Fire an Employee

Your employees need access to your various business accounts so they can do their job, but what happens to those passwords when you fire them? Nobody likes to think of firing their employees, or why you’d need to, but nonetheless, it’s a responsibility every business owner must face at some point. While your accounts team will no doubt be on top of stopping their paychecks, it’s important to take the same proactive stance to strip their system access.

Most of the time, the former employee leaves under good terms and you’ll wish them well. If you’re lucky, they’ll even manage hand-over to their replacement so your productivity losses are minimal. Other employees may leave your business reluctantly or in a storm of anger and suspicion. While you’ll have very different feelings about the two scenarios, the risk to your business remains high until action is taken. Here are 3 steps you can take to protect your business from retaliation and other password-related disasters.

Limit access to a need-to-know basis

You might be surprised how often a new employee is presented the entire business on a platter when their actual job requires little more than a computer login. Accounts, strategy, customer details, industry secrets…all those sensitive aspects of your business that have made it a success – exposed. A better policy is to limit access to only what the employee needs to do their job. Rather than view it as a lack of trust, your employees will appreciate the care you’ve taken to protect your business (and their job). It also helps keeps them from being overwhelmed, confused or tempted if the situation ever turns sour. Likewise, take a few moments to delete old or temporary accounts that are no longer required, as you never know when a hacker or disgruntled employee will squeeze through the gaps.

Change passwords fast

On average, it takes at least a week before passwords are changed after an employee is fired, if at all. Unfortunately, this is the one type of delay your business can’t afford. In 2017, an ex-employee from the American College of Education held their entire email system to ransom for $200,000 after an unhappy exit. Stories of others stealing client databases are also common, especially as they leave to start their own business or work for a competitor. It’s not just full-time employees either, contract and part-time employees such as social media managers and customer support email specialists often have access to more of your business than you might imagine. Recent rulings make it easier for business owners to prosecute former employees who access their systems, however as we know, it only takes seconds to login and wreak absolute havoc. Knowing you can force those bad eggs into a lengthy court case is poor comfort considering the extent of damage you’ll likely endure. The best option is to change passwords fast – even before your employee knows they’re fired. This lessens the chance of revenge attacks and opportunistic access.

Use a password manager

If you have good password manager like LastPass, reducing your risk becomes mostly automated. You’ll be able to keep your logins in a central vault that only you can see, and share based on business roles/need. There’s even an option to share passwords without letting employees see them in plain-text. Instead of writing passwords down somewhere and manually entering them each time, they’ll be able to connect securely with a click. Plus, you can revoke the share at any time. If their role changes or they’re fired, you can use the dashboard to see who is having access to what and add/revoke at will. If you’re not sure what that employee has been up to, you can also generate reports of their history.

We can help you set up password management and lock down your network. Call us at 319-227-7000