Category: IT Management

Laptop, Mouse, Stethoscope, Notebook, Keyboard

What Are the Best Ways to Give an Older PC New Life?

Purchasing a new computer is a big investment. Many small businesses and home PC owners end up struggling with older systems because they want to get as many years out of them as possible.

Have you found yourself banging on your keyboard in frustration? Have you tried every tip and trick you found online, only to still struggle with a slow PC? 

There are some promising upgrades you can do that will cost much less than the price of a new computer, while making your PC feel like new again. 

Here are some of the options you can try to improve the performance of an older computer.

Upgrade to a Solid-State Drive (SSD)

Prices for solid-state drives have come down quite a bit in the past few years, making them an affordable upgrade that can breathe life back into an older PC that might be slowing down.

Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs do not have any moving parts and use a flash memory that allows for a quicker response time. You can improve your time to boot and your experience when searching files, opening applications, and other activities. 

Some of the advantages of upgrading your computer’s hard drive to SSD include:

  • SSD read/write speeds up to 2500 MB/second compared to HDD at up to 200 MB/second
  • SSD access time of 0.1ms as compared to HDD at 5.5-8.0ms
  • SSDs use between 2-5 watts of energy compared to HDD at 6-15 watts

Increase the RAM (Memory)

One upgrade that is very low-cost and can mean a significant increase in performance is a memory upgrade. If your PC was one of the cheaper ones that only had 4GB of RAM when you bought it, you likely have trouble opening too many tabs in your browser or using any graphics-heavy program.

Upgrading your RAM, if your PC has available memory slots, to 8GB or 12GB can make it seem like you have an entirely new computer due to the big increase in speed.

Upgrade the Graphics Card

If you play computer games or work in any type of video, imaging, or 3D software, an outdated graphics card can ruin your experience. 

Instead of replacing your entire computer, just upgrading the graphics card to a more robust model can improve your PC’s performance and give you several more useful years from it.

Replace Your PC Cooling System

Heat is an enemy of your computer’s internal parts. If your cooling system is getting worn out and not working the way it should be, then excess heat can be building up inside your device.

When this happens things can get strange, with programs crashing or your system rebooting on its own.

If you suspect excess heat may be an issue, have your computer’s fan and cooling system checked out to see if it needs replacing.

Connect an External Monitor to a Laptop

If you’re working on a laptop and having a hard time multi-tasking due to limited screen real estate, consider getting an external monitor rather than replacing your entire PC.

Monitors are just a fraction of the cost of computers, and having a screen twice the size of the one on your laptop can make all the difference in the world and improve productivity due to the additional screen space.

Replace Your Keyboard

Older keywords can stick, lose keys, and have the writing rubbed off the keys, making it more difficult to tell a “prt screen” from a “delete” button. If the performance of your PC is hampered by a frustrating keyboard, an upgrade can be a very inexpensive way to improve your equipment.

Get an External Hard Drive

Computers can slow down and be more difficult to use when the hard drive fills up with data. Over the years, files build up, and many users never take the time to go through and delete those that are unnecessary.

Buying an external hard drive can allow you to offload files that may be slowing you down, while still keeping them easily accessible.

Another benefit of an external hard drive is that it’s portable and can easily be carried between home and work and used in both places.

Get a Professional Computer Tune-Up

Those free PC cleaner tools you find online aren’t going to give you the type of tune-up that a professional IT provider can give. We will go through things like the Windows Registry, duplicate system files, internal errors, and more to clean up your system and remove all the “junk” that has built up over the years.

We can also do a maintenance check for things like failing parts, and provide expert guidance on your most impactful upgrade options. 

Get Help Improving Your Computer’s Performance Today!

Don’t struggle with an older PC! We can help you with cost-effective upgrade options that will fit your system and budget perfectly.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Is Updating From Windows 10 to 11 Worth It? Here Are the New Features in the OS (And Some Missing Ones)

Getting used to Windows 11 shouldn’t be too challenging. On the contrary, the OS comes with several intuitive features to enhance productivity.

Microsoft recently introduced Windows 11 as the company’s latest operating system. And compared to Windows 10, this OS has various features that can increase your productivity and provide a better user experience.

As soon as you start using Windows 11, you’ll see a marked improvement over its predecessors.

For example, it has refined several household features, such as video conferencing and video management. You also get enhanced note-taking, data input, and a user-friendly interface that should help you complete your duties more efficiently.

Many other features can help boost your productivity, and this article will talk about them in detail. We’ll also look at some features Microsoft didn’t include in the new version.

WINDOWS 11 – WHAT’S NEW?

FEATURE #1. NEW TASKBAR

Previous Windows versions feature an iconic taskbar, but it can sometimes get clunky. Windows 11 deals with the cruft and provides a streamlined solution.

The new taskbar is perfect for expediting work, as it can contain a list of recent cloud and local files. You can also pin various apps to improve access and utilize a search bar that allows for convenient web browsing.

Another highlight of the taskbar is clean lines and widgets that display essential information (e.g., weather, photos, and news).

This should be a tremendous upgrade from the busy display of Windows 10.

FEATURE #2. WINDOWS GROUPING AND SNAPPING

The enhanced Snap Group and Snap Layout features allow you to resize and manage windows more easily. You also get to keep essential apps grouped to maintain high productivity.

Using the feature is relatively straightforward: Just hover the mouse over the maximize button on the desired app to reveal your layout options. You can choose between several arrangements, such as four-app grids and side-by-side layouts.

And if your team needs to perform basic window management, they can still grab and pull windows to the edge of their screen.

This feature improves desktop organization, which is especially useful for people working with two or more monitors. They can reduce clutter rapidly, enabling them to focus on their tasks.

FEATURE #3. IMPROVED ACCESSIBILITY OPTIONS

Windows 11 follows in the footsteps of many smartphones to simplify setting changes and make them easily accessible. Pulling up your control panel now only requires one tap or click in the taskbar coroner, replicating Apple’s Control Centre.

Furthermore, Windows 11 apps feature aesthetic, curved corners, and your Settings incorporate more options you can tweak. For instance, blind or vision impaired users can take advantage of cutting-edge audio cues. There are also desktop themes to help reduce eye strain, which is essential if you work long hours.

On top of that, the new operating system has revamped voice typing. You can activate this with a simple keyboard shortcut. This feature supports most major languages, including English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and Portuguese.

Windows 11’s better accessibility means your team will no longer have to keep relying on your IT service provider to set things up for them.

FEATURE #4. BETTER APP STORE

Many apps can enhance workplace productivity, but you’ll first need to find them on your PC’s app store. Fortunately, Windows 11 came up with an organized and coherent platform to make the search easier. 

Besides universal apps, you can check out the applications compatible with your devices. The platform can also handle programs from third-party stores and manage app installation on the internet. 

FEATURE #5. SMOOTH NOTETAKING

If you’re using a touchscreen device, taking notes in Windows 11 should now be highly satisfying. This feature offers haptic feedback to generate physical sensations when drawing lines on the screen or checking boxes with your pen. 

Moreover, the Ink Workspace allows you to add preferred apps instead of using the standard snipping tool and Whiteboard. It gives you easy access to creativity tools the moment you pull out your pen.

WHICH FEATURES WERE LEFT BEHIND? 

Overall, Windows 11 should work great for your business. But bear in mind that Microsoft left out some features that were a staple in previous versions:

EXCLUDED FEATURE #1. TASKBAR CUSTOMISATION

Windows 10 users can move their taskbar from the horizontal position to the left, right, or upper part of their screen. In contrast, the Windows 11 taskbar is fixed at the bottom of the display, and you can’t customize the dimensions. 

The taskbar customization feature would have been helpful because it would let you use space more efficiently. 

Another significant change is that you can no longer move the Time and Date on your taskbar. Windows 10 didn’t have this problem since you could toggle off the Clock feature in your Settings. 

The default taskbar layout might be fine, but some users prefer higher customizability than what Windows 11 offers.

EXCLUDED FEATURE #2. DRAG-AND-DROP FEATURES

Windows 10 and some earlier versions allowed you to drag several items to change their position. For example, you could drag a Word document onto your Word icon on the taskbar to open it. 

This function is disabled in Windows 11. There’s no way to drag and drop or save any program or file onto your taskbar.

EXCLUDED FEATURE #3. CORTANA 

Cortana is a voice assistant counterpart of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Many people are used to it and may be disappointed to hear that it’s not a part of the Windows 11 system setup. You can’t even locate it in your start menu. 

The good news is that the Cortana application can still be found – it’s just hidden away. And you can enable it by visiting Settings and navigating to Apps & Features.

A WISE INVESTMENT

While Windows 11 isn’t perfect since it removed many valuable features, it’s still an excellent platform to help increase your productivity.

 Whether you need to organize your desktop more conveniently or take enjoyable notes, the OS won’t let you down. Plus, you get a revamped taskbar and powerful Voice Typing compatible with most major languages. 

Overall, Windows 11 can be a terrific asset for your business.

If you want to find out more about incorporating this new OS to boost productivity in your organization, contact us today. We can have a 10-15-minute chat to help you address key productivity issues in your company with the help of Windows 11.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

What Is an MSP (And How to Choose the Right One for Your Business)

Managing data and IT solutions in-house can be challenging and expensive. That’s why many organizations turn to MSPs.

Digitalization has forced businesses to alter their operations and make IT a huge part of their day-to-day affairs. Still, some owners can’t cope with the change effectively, so they hire a managed service provider, or MSP, to take care of the work. 

But what exactly is an MSP? 

Simply put, this is a third-party company you can collaborate with to help manage parts of your business, such as your IT or cloud needs. It provides technology and expertise to boost your organization’s scalability. 

Working with MSPs can have tremendous benefits for your enterprise. 

For instance, their profound understanding of cutting-edge technology can help you improve performance, operations, and security while reducing overheads. In addition, they can offer several creative solutions to help you navigate the evolving landscape of the big data world. 

But the strongest suit of any MSP is usually their ability to deliver tailor-made solutions that fit your company perfectly. 

Their expertise allows them to analyze your business thoroughly and render their services according to your strengths and weaknesses. Plus, they consider the regulatory environment and compliance to safeguard against legal issues. 

Another great thing about MSPs is that they can support your business even after hours. 

They offer support measures and staff to maintain and protect your organization 24/7. MSPs can even tap into your system to resolve issues and deploy updates without going to your office using remote technology. 

Overall, MSPs can help take your company to the next level. However, you can’t work with just any service provider. You need to select the right team for your enterprise, and this article will show you how.

CHOOSING AN MSP – WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Hiring an MSP shouldn’t be a hasty decision. Instead, you want to take a variety of factors into account.

Here are the six important factors to keep in mind: 

FACTOR #1. THE MSP’S TRACK RECORD

Prospective MSPs should provide case studies and success stories to demonstrate they’re suitable for your business. You can also look for testimonials, references, and endorsements. These will help you determine if the team has been operating for a while and if their reputation is solid. 

Working with a reputable MSP can give you peace of mind with the knowledge that your system will be appropriately managed. Moreover, you’ll feel confident that the MSP will do all in its power to preserve its name. 

The MSP’s success hinges on yours in some respect, which is why they’ll view you as a valuable partner. 

FACTOR #2. THE RANGE OF SERVICES IT PROVIDES

MSPs offer a wide array of services. Some teams are full-service companies, meaning they address your cloud and IT needs comprehensively. In contrast, others may help you with different pieces of your tech puzzle. 

Therefore, consider your needs carefully and ensure your MSP can meet them. 

Regardless of your service package, the MSP needs to keep up with the latest technology trends. Otherwise, numerous security issues may compromise your company and allow the competition to prevail over you.

FACTOR #3. SUPPORT

As previously indicated, MSPs can work round the clock to ensure your business is compliant and maintained adequately. However, they should also increase their support quickly and adjust staff schedules as your company grows. 

That’s why you should consider an MSP that offers training for your employees.

It lets them understand the necessary changes and encourages them to train other team members as they join your business. But if your employees are too busy, you can instruct the MSP to carry out all the training.

FACTOR #4. RESPONSE TIME

Your network can go down for any number of reasons, preventing your employees from working and your clients from reaching you. This situation can even cripple your reputation, customer base, and revenue. In the worst-case scenario, it can even make you shut down your business. 

Fortunately, a high-quality MSP can help you avoid this scenario. They can identify threats to your system and neutralize them before hurting your company. 

Moreover, if an incident takes place, they should respond immediately. They need to mitigate the risks as soon as possible to keep your organization from crumbling.

FACTOR #5. SECURITY AND BACKUP

One of the most important duties your MSP should perform is to shield your data from cyberattacks. This is critical to protecting your company and customers. Besides, safe data storage might be mandatory in your industry, which is why your IT department could use all the help they can get. 

Once you work with an MSP, they should recommend robust security solutions and endpoint protection to combat harmful software. And throughout their engagement, they should consider compliance to help prevent legal issues. 

Another major part of their mission should be the implementation of backup software. It enables you to retrieve your data in case of a breach. Such implementation may involve automation, a restoration plan, and a no-downtime policy. 

With a failproof backup and security strategy in place, you should be able to run your company more confidently. The risk of downtime will be drastically lower, allowing you to operate smoothly, maintain high sales, retain customers, and preserve your brand.

FACTOR #6. GUIDANCE ON WORKFLOW OPTIONS 

Your MSP shouldn’t just deal with cybersecurity – they should also suggest adopting the best practices across the entire tech landscape. 

For example, they should advise you on various CRM solutions and project management applications. They should also help you revamp your approach to workflow and data to create efficiency in all departments. 

The fact is, you can yield tremendous results from their guidance. Your team can work faster, collaborate in real-time, and be more tech-savvy. 

RECRUIT YOUR MSP CAREFULLY

While price is important when selecting an MSP, it pales in comparison to all the factors listed above. Be sure they’re a perfect fit for your enterprise, even if you need to pay more. 

With high expertise, customized services, and an understanding of threats, a reputable team can help you stay ahead of your competitors. 

If you need more assistance choosing your MSP, get in touch with our experienced team. Let’s schedule a quick 15-minute chat and figure out the ideal MSP for your company.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Explaining Cybersecurity Audits (And the Three Tips for Running One)

You need more than the latest antivirus software to ensure your company’s network is secure. A cybersecurity audit helps you create a complete picture of your security strategy.

Cybercrime has grown into one of the epidemics of modern times. 

In 2018 alone, we saw 812.67 million instances of malware infection. Meanwhile, 2020 brought with it a 600% increase in cybercrime. And estimates state that ransomware attacks will cost companies over $6 trillion per year by 2021.

If you don’t prioritize cybersecurity, you place yourself and your company at risk of attack.

Now, it’s likely that you already have some strategies in place to combat hackers and other malicious cyber forces. However, you also need to feel sure that the measures you have in place are sufficient.

That’s where cybersecurity audits become important.

In this article, we examine what cybersecurity audits are and share some crucial tips for running one in your company.

WHAT IS A CYBERSECURITY AUDIT?

Think of an audit as a comprehensive examination of every cybersecurity strategy you’ve put in place. You have two goals with the audit:

  • Identify any gaps in your system so you can fill them.
  • Create an in-depth report that you can use to demonstrate your readiness to defend against cyber threats.

A typical audit contains three phases:

  1. Assessment
  2. Assignment
  3. Audit

In the assessment phase, you examine the existing system. 

This involves checking your company’s computers, servers, software, and databases. You’ll also review how you assign access rights and examine any hardware or software you currently have in place to defend against attacks.

The assessment phase will likely highlight some security gaps that you need to act upon. And once that’s done, you move into the assignment. 

Here, you assign appropriate solutions to the issues identified. This may also involve assigning internal professionals to the task of implementing those solutions. However, you may also find that you need to bring external contractors on board to help with implementation.

Finally, you conclude with an audit. 

This takes place after you’ve implemented your proposed solution and is intended as a final check of your new system before you release it back into the company. This audit will primarily focus on ensuring that all installations, upgrades, and patches operate as expected.

THE THREE TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CYBERSECURITY AUDIT

Now that you understand the phases of a cybersecurity audit, you need to know how to run an audit effectively such that it provides the information you need. After all, a poorly conducted audit may miss crucial security gaps, leaving your systems vulnerable to attack.

These three tips will help you conduct an effective cybersecurity audit in your company.

TIP #1 – ALWAYS CHECK FOR THE AGE OF EXISTING SECURITY SYSTEMS

There is no such thing as an evergreen security solution.

Cyber threats evolve constantly, with hackers and the like continually coming up with new ways to breach existing security protocols. Any system you’ve already implemented has an expiration date. Eventually, it will become ineffective against the new wave of cyber threats.

This means you always need to check the age of your company’s existing cybersecurity solutions.

Make sure to update your company’s systems whenever the manufacturer releases an update. But if the manufacturer no longer supports the software you’re using, this is a sign that you need to make a change.

TIP #2 – IDENTIFY YOUR THREATS

As you conduct your company’s cybersecurity audit, continuously ask yourself where you’re likely to experience the most significant threat.

For example, when auditing a system that contains a lot of customer information, data privacy is a crucial concern. In this situation, threats arise from weak passwords, phishing attacks, and malware. 

More threats can come internally, be they from malicious employees or through the mistaken provision of access rights to employees who shouldn’t be able to see specific data.

And sometimes, employees can leak data unknowingly.

For example, allowing employees to connect their own devices to your company network creates risk because you have no control over the security of those external devices.

The point is that you need to understand the potential threats you face before you can focus on implementing any solutions.

TIP #3 – CONSIDER HOW YOU WILL EDUCATE EMPLOYEES

You’ve identified the threats and have created plans to respond.

However, those plans mean little if employees do not know how to implement them. 

If you face an emergency, such as a data breach, and your employees don’t know how to respond, the cybersecurity audit is essentially useless.

To avoid this situation, you need to educate your employees on what to look out for and how to respond to cybersecurity threats. This often involves the creation of a plan that incorporates the following details:

  • The various threat types you’ve identified and how to look out for them
  • Where the employee can go to access additional information about a threat
  • Who the employee should contact if they identify a threat
  • How long it should take to rectify the threat
  • Any rules you have in place about using external devices or accessing data stored on secure servers.

Remember, cybersecurity is not the IT department’s domain alone. It’s an ongoing concern that everybody within an organization must remain vigilant of. 

By educating employees about the threats present, and how to respond to them, you create a more robust defense against future attacks.

Audits Improve Security

Cybersecurity audits offer you a chance to evaluate your security protocols. 

They help you to identify issues and ensure that you’re up-to-date in regards to the latest cybersecurity threats. And without them, a business runs the risk of using outdated software to protect itself against ever-evolving attacks.

The need to stay up-to-date highlights the importance of cybersecurity audits.

However, your security solutions are not one-and-done. They require regular updating and re-examination to ensure they’re still fit for the purposes you’re using them for. As soon as they’re not, there will be vulnerabilities to your business that others can exploit.

Audits improve cybersecurity.

And improved cybersecurity means you and your customers can feel more confident.

If you’d like to conduct a cybersecurity audit but you’re unsure about whether you have the skills required to do so correctly, we can help. We’d love to have a quick 15-minute no-obligation chat to discuss your existing systems and how we may be able to help you to improve them.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Creating an IT Compliance Policy – The 7 Things You Need to Consider

Conducting business operations in the digital world is prone to security risks. Mitigating them would be impossible if you don’t have an IT compliance policy.

Setting up a robust IT compliance policy in your business is more important now than ever. And it’s because most organizations now depend on digitized services. 

Online companies rely on e-commerce websites to do business by taking orders and receiving payments. Even brick-and-mortar organizations utilize software to perform various activities, such as order management and back-office accounting. 

In such tech-driven environments, a lack of proper security measures jeopardizes the business leader’s position. Their IT systems get abused, and their technology often becomes a source of scandals. 

The only way to avoid this possibility is to create a strong IT compliance policy. 

This article will cover key considerations when developing your system of IT compliance.

WHAT YOU NEED TO CONSIDER FOR IT COMPLIANCE POLICIES

FACTOR #1 – PEOPLE, PROCESSES, AND HOW THEY ALIGN TO TECH

IT compliance isn’t just about technology – it also involves people and processes. And the reality is that many organizations focus heavily on their tech, resulting in failed audits due to their failure to consider the other two aspects. This makes the compliance world more complex. 

Taking the correct approach can help ensure your enterprise abides by the necessary standards. 

FACTOR #2 – RELEVANT LAWS AND REGULATIONS

Laws and regulations stipulate the policies that govern IT compliance requirements. Here are the most common ones: 

  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act – regulating financial reporting
  • The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act – governing non-public personal information and financial data
  • The Health Insurance and Accountability ACT – regulating health information that healthcare organizations process

Ultimately, you can’t start your compliance process without understanding the laws and regulations applicable to your organization.

You should also ascertain the controls that apply to these laws and regulations. They are process-oriented and technical means to adhere to your policies. 

There are various industry and government standards that specify them, including: 

  • Control Objectives for Information and Related IT 
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology 
  • Payment Card Industry Data 

These can have a massive bearing on your sector. Therefore, make sure to familiarize yourself with all relevant controls.

FACTOR #3 – RAISING EMPLOYEE AWARENESS OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE POLICY

One of the biggest threats to your data security is having untrained employees. Their actions can have a huge impact on cybersecurity. For instance, improper software upload, sharing, download, and storing can jeopardize critical information.

The reality is, many employees opt for insecure data transfer methods due to their convenience. Some of the tools they use are personal emails, consumer-grade collaboration apps, and instant messaging. All of these are ideal targets for cybercriminals. 

To prevent your business from becoming a victim, your users must learn and understand where various threats originate from. They should especially understand the actions that can give rise to vulnerabilities. 

Making file sharing a top priority and investing in proper education demonstrates the significance of IT compliance. Your efforts can help team members willing to adopt the best practices in this field. 

When developing your training plan, make sure to include several key topics: 

  • How insecure file transfer methods expose your company to risks 
  • Avoiding phishing scams
  • Precautions to exercise before using or downloading unsanctioned applications
  • The conditions for using and creating strong passwords.

FACTOR #4 – HOW YOUR IT POLICY ALIGNS WITH THE COMPANY’S SECURITY POLICIES

Aligning IT compliance with your business operations involves understanding the culture of your organization. For example, your environment can revolve around either processes or ad-hoc ways of doing things. 

Enterprises aligning with the former are best off issuing in-depth policies to ensure compliance. 

By contrast, companies that match the latter require detective and preventive controls. They need to address specific risks associated with your policy. It helps various auditors understand why you’ve deployed a particular control or decided to face certain risks. 

FACTOR #5 – UNDERSTANDING OF THE IT ENVIRONMENT

IT environments directly affect your IT policy compliance design. That said, there are two main kinds of environments: 

  • Homogeneous environments – These consist of standardized vendors, configurations, and models. They’re largely consistent with your IT deployment. 
  • Heterogeneous environments – The other type uses a wide range of security and compliance applications, versions, and technologies. 

Generally, compliance costs are lower in homogeneous environments. Fewer vendors and technology add-ons provide less complexity and fewer policies. As a result, the price of security and compliance per system isn’t as high as with heterogeneous solutions.

Regardless of your environment, your policy needs to appropriately tackle new technologies, including virtualization and cloud computing. 

FACTOR #6 – ESTABLISHMENT OF ACCOUNTABILITY

IT policy compliance doesn’t function without accountability. It entails defining organizational responsibilities and roles that determine the assets individuals need to protect. It also establishes who has the power to make crucial decisions. 

Accountability begins from the top and encompasses executives. And the best way to guarantee involvement is to cast IT policy compliance programs in terms of risks instead of technology. 

As for your IT providers, they have two pivotal roles: 

  • Data/system owners – The owner is part of your management team that’s responsible for data usage and care. Plus, they’re accountable for protecting and managing information. 
  • Data/system custodians – Custodial roles can entail several duties, such as system administration, security analysis, legal counseling, and internal auditing. 

These responsibilities are essential for IT policy compliance. For example, auditors need to carefully verify compliance activity execution. Otherwise, there’s no way to ensure the implementation is going according to plan.

FACTOR #7 – AUTOMATION OF THE COMPLIANCE PROCESS

Your IT continually evolves and grows. Internal auditors can only review a small number of user accounts and system configurations. 

Automation is the only way to ensure you can evaluate enough systems regularly. 

BREEZE THROUGH YOUR BUSINESS’S IT COMPLIANCE

Setting up well-designed IT compliance may be a long process, but it can make a world of difference in terms of business security. It keeps your business reputation intact and allows you to avoid penalties and fines. 

However, you’ll need to pay special attention to several aspects. And one of the most significant ones is your IT provider. 

If your IT isn’t living up to its potential, you’re bound to face compliance issues. This can cause tremendous stress and halt your operations. 

Luckily, there might be an easy way out of your predicament. Schedule a quick chat with us to discuss your IT problems and find out how to get more out of your provider.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Is Your Data Secure? 8 Best Practices for Vetting Cybersecurity Vendors

An effective way to bolster your business’s data security is to work with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or I.T. Service Provider (ITSP). They address network vulnerabilities to prevent cybercriminals from exploiting them.

Besides monitoring and organizing your servers, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or I.T. Service Provider (ITSP) plays a pivotal role in the cybersecurity program of your business. They implement several strategies to shield your network from attacks and protect your data. 

For instance, many providers use email authentication protocols to monitor your server’s vulnerabilities. They can keep users from accidentally accessing malicious websites by determining spam emails containing malware or viruses. This results in enhanced system security. 

Another common practice is training your employees to ensure they follow the highest security standards. This is especially important if you have remote team members since there’s no way to keep track of their activities. To tackle this issue, an MSP or ITSP teaches your staff how to operate safely to avoid harm to your company’s infrastructure and reputation. 

On top of that, an MSP or ITSP can neutralize various threats due to their proactive approach. They offer several tools such as firewalls and endpoint detection to control the traffic and stave off cyberattacks. Also, they can install antivirus software and email security to stop intrusion attempts. 

Needless to say, an MSP or ITSP can shield you from a wide array of cybersecurity issues. But it’s vital to work with the right provider. 

To ensure this happens, you should look for and abide by the best practices for an MSP or ITSP in the cybersecurity space. This article will examine what they are. 

THE 8 BEST PRACTICES

PRACTICE #1 – ENFORCE MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION (MFA)

Cybercriminals are becoming proficient at accessing your credentials, so it’s critical to enable MFA for all your users. 

It consists of three elements: a password, security token, and biometric verification. Consequently, if attackers breach one security layer, they’ll still have to do a lot of digging to access your information.

PRACTICE #2 – MAKE PATCHING A PRIORITY

Application and operating system exploits are common. Hackers target them to access your system and compromise your data, but you can prevent this through regular patching. 

Making sure your system is up to date with the latest security standards decreases the risk of exploitation. 

PRACTICE #3 – CONDUCT REGULAR CYBERSECURITY AUDITS

An MSP or ITSP must be aware of onboarding, offboarding, and lateral movements within an organization. This warrants frequent cybersecurity audits to assess the competency of your team. 

Many MSPs or ITSPs hire third-party companies to perform their security audits. They can detect if a person who no longer needs access to the network still has it. It’s something that can endanger the client’s information, especially if the individual is a former employee. 

Conducting regular audits mitigates this risk. It enables an MSP or ITSP to implement some of the most effective access privilege limitations: 

  • IP restrictions – These security measures ensure that only users who can access your local network can utilize remote administration tools. 
  • RMM software updates – Software vendors typically dispatch updates to fix vulnerabilities and patch numerous security gaps. 
  • RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) Security – This Windows native administration tool reduces the chances of ransomware attacks in your organization. 

PRACTICE #4 – HAVE AN OFF-SITE BACKUP

Backups are crucial for tackling malicious activities and ensuring operational continuity after cyberattacks. 

They also help address whether the company and its clients can access the latest version of their data and applications. This feature is vital for enterprises that must adhere to compliance requirements, including PCI-DSS and HIPAA. 

But besides implementing on-site backups, your MSP or ITSP should also set up off-site versions. If attackers compromise your RMM software, they can most likely reach on-site backups, too. 

So, to avoid disasters, businesses should have an off-site backup accessible to only a few people. It should also be offline for greater security. 

PRACTICE #5 – INCORPORATE LOG MONITORING

Log monitoring is analyzing your logs for potential glitches. As an MSP or ITSP scrutinizes your records, they can detect traffic from harmful sources and provide a clear idea of threat patterns. And over time, they can deploy countermeasures to seal these gaps. 

For example, cybersecurity experts use reliable security information and event management (SIEM) tools. They facilitate scanning through piles of information to enable faster threat detection.

PRACTICE #6 – LAUNCH PHISHING CAMPAIGNS

Phishing cybercriminals target your team members with emails or text messages, posing as legitimate institutions to steal your data. Unfortunately, most attacks succeed because of human error, meaning your MSP or ITSP should be aware of and monitor employees’ behavior. 

Setting up fake phishing campaigns is a great way to test your team’s ability to respond to phishing attacks. It allows you to pinpoint and improve inadequate responses, bolstering data security. 

PRACTICE #7 – CHOOSE YOUR SOFTWARE CAREFULLY AND SECURE ENDPOINTS

From small browser plugins to large-scale business systems, be sure your providers take data protection and cybersecurity seriously. Learn about their commitment to these aspects before purchasing their application. 

Furthermore, employ web filtering tools, antivirus software, and email authentication to fend off ransomware attacks through malicious emails. Ensure each endpoint and your virus definition library are secure and up to date with the latest standards. 

PRACTICE #8 – SET ALERTS AND DOCUMENT EVERYTHING

An MSP or ITSP that configures their systems to receive alerts upon system changes can work proactively and tackle threats early on. Many platforms automate this process through rules templates, personalization, and direct tickets to the PSA. This eliminates manual digging, saving precious time. 

Another useful strategy is to document your cybersecurity information, such as your defense mechanisms, emergency guidelines, and disaster recovery plans. You should also review it regularly to help pre-empt cyberattacks.

CYBERSECURITY IS PARAMOUNT

While digitalization has significantly streamlined your operations, it’s also made you more susceptible to data theft. 

To ensure cybercriminals don’t get their hands on valuable information and ruin your reputation, your MSP or ITSP needs to adopt well-established security practices. 

But if your provider hasn’t introduced off-site backups, regular patches, and employee training, you’re not getting your money’s worth. Hence, you may be frustrated since your provider isn’t delivering the necessary results. 

This makes you a sitting duck for cybercriminals. You need to resolve the issue as soon as possible. 

We can help you do so. Reach out to us for a quick 15-minute chat, and our tech experts will do their best to show you a way out of your cybersecurity dead end.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Enhance Your Server Management with These 8 Tips

You may have state-of-the-art servers, but their efficiency can diminish over time. Managing them is key to optimizing your business operations.

Numerous organizations rely on servers for various IT functions, such as applications, emails, hosting websites, and data storage. 

Although many companies have turned to cloud-based services using remote data centers, many enterprises still depend on in-house servers. As such, they need to ensure their devices remain in tip-top condition

That’s where server management comes into play. 

Managing your servers can streamline the performance of your team by allowing them to complete complex tasks faster. Plus, it can enable them to detect problems early on before they get out of hand and compromise your business. As a result, the risk of experiencing operational setbacks is drastically lower. 

But the only way to make the most of your server management is to perform it correctly. And to help you do so, this article will share nine tips on improving your server management. 

THE 8 TIPS

TIP #1 – MOUNT THE SERVERS PROPERLY

Small businesses often need to prioritize immediate concerns over long-term plans because they need to work on tight budgets. This is particularly evident in terms of server management. 

When you first set up your servers, it might be tempting to connect them near your workstations. However, this can harm your hardware. 

Mounting your servers in racks is a much better solution. It can shield them from accidents in high-traffic areas, tripping hazards, spills, and dirt. 

Furthermore, server racks can help keep the hardware safe by organizing it in an accessible area that facilitates management and cleaning. They also limit the exposure to regular wear and tear in the office. 

Another critical consideration is to plan for the future when installing your servers. 

When selecting a rack mount, be sure there’s enough room to expand your hardware. Unless your office is tiny, having half-empty racks is preferred to tearing them down and redesigning them a few years down the line.

TIP #2 – SEPARATE YOUR SERVERS FROM YOUR MAIN AREA

Depending on the type of servers, they can get quite noisy when in operation. On top of that, they can comprise valuable hardware. So, you’ll want to separate them physically from the working premises. 

If you can’t afford a designated server room, invest in secure rack mounts with integrated sound reduction. 

TIP #3 – TAKE CARE OF YOUR HARDWARE

Hardware maintenance plays a pivotal role in server management. Without dependable hardware, your productivity can plunge. 

To avoid this scenario, you need to monitor the essential components of your server: 

  • CPU (Central Processing Unit) – Your CPU is the core of your servers, performing all calculations for running programs. You need to constantly monitor it to prevent overuse. If it operates near 100% of its power, your team members can’t carry out additional tasks due to slowdowns. It may require chip upgrades or performance tuning to alleviate the stress. 
  • RAM (Random Access Memory) – This is the working memory of your server, as it runs faster than hard disks. The more RAM you have, the higher the performance of your device. Closely monitor its usage and add more memory when it gets close to its full capacity. 
  • Hard drive – The hard drive is the permanent storage of your servers. It saves your data and programs, but its performance can diminish with overuse. Proper hard disk management entails keeping track of the available space, deleting unnecessary files, installing new drives, or including cloud-based solutions.

TIP #4 – EMPLOY FREQUENT COOLING

You expect your servers to perform fast, but the only way to ensure this is to provide optimal conditions. That said, you should primarily focus on cooling the servers. Excess heat can dramatically decrease their lifespan. 

The best practice here is to make sure your cooling device operates outside your building. 

Additionally, if you experience a power outage or central air doesn’t work at night, you need a cooling solution that can run on backup power.

TIP #5 – MANAGE AND MAINTAIN YOUR SOFTWARE

Software used for your server requires regular maintenance, too. The key is to perform regular updates and delete old software to enhance performance. Your servers will operate better, and there will be fewer vulnerabilities cybercriminals can exploit to access your network.

TIP #6 – ARRANGE THE WIRING NEATLY

The amount of wiring in your server setup can be overwhelming, especially if you have no technical experience. Sorting out the mess doesn’t only improve cleanliness, but it can also help boost the performance of your server viability for future upgrades. 

Keep in mind that whenever you’re removing, rearranging, or installing your cables, label and group them neatly. Doing so helps prevent clutter.  

TIP #7 – PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO SECURITY

As previously mentioned, servers can be susceptible to cyberattacks. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain a secure system. Here’s what you should do: 

  • Install and update antivirus software. 
  • Repel unauthorized traffic with firewalls. 
  • Use robust access control software or sound password policies and instruct your users to change them regularly. 
  • Encrypt external networks and data storage. 
  • Incorporate SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tools. 
  • Analyze and implement security logging measures to understand potential threats. 

TIP #8 – BACK UP YOUR DATA

The final part of robust server management is backing up your data regularly. After all, loss of information can be disastrous, harming your reputation and losing your customers. 

Besides backing up server software and hardware, you should also have a backup for your power supply to prevent data losses during power outages. Moreover, you can integrate with various tools to expedite backups, recoveries, and status monitoring. 

Look for software that covers both your IT architecture and operating system. It needs to work across systems and applications you currently have or plan on installing. Additionally, it should diagnose server issues efficiently with powerful analytic capabilities. 

SERVER MANAGEMENT AT ITS FINEST

Managing effective server operation involves several key considerations, from monitoring system temperature to updates and data backups. Even though this can be an arduous process, it’s integral to optimizing your server performance and eliminating security concerns. 

If you need help in optimum server management in your business, we’d love to help you out. Contact us and let’s have a quick, no-obligation chat about it.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Finding the Right IT Provider: Avoid These 8 Mistakes

Your business can benefit a lot from working with an IT provider. However, you need to avoid several key mistakes when choosing your team.

Time spent on trying to figure out the technology you use in your business can be costly. While doing that, you can’t focus on your business needs, which can then result in poor customer satisfaction. 

This is where IT providers come into play. 

They enable you to outsource hardware and computing-related services, such as managed IT security and cloud computing. IT providers can also provide a robust IT infrastructure so that you can direct your attention to revenue-generating activities. 

While there are numerous IT providers to choose from, not all of them may accommodate your business’s specific needs. And integrating with the wrong team can raise your spending due to irrelevant services, recurring security issues, data backup problems, and downtime. 

Therefore, you need to be extra careful when selecting your team. The only way to avoid disappointment is to avoid these eight common mistakes when looking for the right IT provider.

THE EIGHT MISTAKES

MISTAKE #1 – INSISTING ON THE NEWEST TECHNOLOGY

Many advertisers want to trick you into believing that the latest technology will resolve all your issues. While the newest virtualization or cloud offerings can boost operations in many enterprises, they might not suit your business. 

Hence, don’t let the hype surrounding new products dazzle you. 

Carefully consider the results your IT provider will help you achieve and determine if the investment enables you to fulfill them. Your provider shouldn’t confuse you with state-of-the-art features – they should guide you and allow for seamless integration. 

<H3>MISTAKE #2 – FAILURE TO CONSIDER THE RESPONSE TIMES</H3>

Determining the response times of your prospective IT providers is essential. You need to ask them how long they usually take to reply to queries and resolve problems. Be sure to gauge their onsite support efficiency, too. 

Not inquiring about their availability is another grave error. Your IT team should provide round-the-clock services, including specialists that will monitor your system. 

Constant monitoring and availability can help ensure you can detect IT issues early. With this, the provider can immediately administer patches and updates to safeguard against disasters. 

Furthermore, your IT provider should offer simple access to their desk support. You should be able to contact them via email, phone, and chat for instant guidance. 

MISTAKE #3 – NEGLECTING THE SECURITY ASPECT

Disregarding the security features of your IT provider might be the most severe mistake. Teams with improper defense mechanisms can’t shield your system from cyber attackers, increasing the risk of losing data and access to resources. 

To avoid this, look for IT providers that can protect you from malware and other threats. They also need to prioritize protecting your business’s confidential data, like trade secrets and customer information. 

When it comes to specific security measures, your IT provider should have features that prevent data intrusions instantly upon detection. The list includes phishing attacks simulations, web content filtering, DNS security, endpoint protection, mobile device management, and dark web protection. 

In addition, responsible teams should eliminate point-of-sale and network intrusions before they compromise your system. Making sure they abide by security compliance and government regulations is also paramount.

MISTAKE #4 – FORGETTING THE BUDGET

Many IT companies operate under pay-as-you-go pricing schemes. Although this helps you minimize upfront investment, adopting a large number of technologies simultaneously without considering the recurring costs can cripple your finances. 

Thus, think twice before signing on the dotted line. 

Research your providers thoroughly and draft your budget with professional assistance. These steps can prevent considerable frustration down the line. 

MISTAKE #5 – NOT DETERMINING SCALABILITY

One of the biggest impediments to growing your company is choosing an IT provider with poor scalability. 

By contrast, scalable IT teams allow your business to evolve and grow. They can continually extend their services to accommodate your company’s goals, even if these goals change.

MISTAKE #6 – OPTING FOR A NON-RESPONSIVE SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT

Service level agreements (SLAs) hold IT providers accountable for their services. It establishes standards for responsibilities, quality, scope, and delivery time in writing. Without it, you’ll have no way of ensuring transparent collaboration. 

When selecting your IT provider, find one with a responsive agreement. It can help guarantee the SLA scales with their services while rendering continual improvement.   

MISTAKE #7 – LACK OF TEAM TRAINING AND FEEDBACK

The story doesn’t end once you’ve found and partnered with a trustworthy IT provider. New technologies won’t magically increase your bottom line and decrease outputs. 

To accomplish your goal, your employees will still need to understand how to use your new tech solutions. But bear in mind that not every team member may be able to grasp new tools easily. Some may even prefer the existing platforms.

Fortunately, you can hire IT experts to train them. These professionals should simplify any complex steps and advise your staff on making the most of your new investment. 

Also, some enterprises set up regular training but fail to monitor their team’s performance. This is a huge mistake, as it keeps you from assessing your employee’s response to new technologies. 

So, conduct questionnaires and other forms of feedback collection to determine and address any weaknesses.

MISTAKE #8 – IGNORING EXPERIENCES WITH PREVIOUS CLIENTS

Choosing an IT provider is similar to buying standard products and services. Failure to check user reviews can lead to disappointment. 

To get a clear picture of your IT team’s capabilities, analyze their current and previous clients from similar industries. Look for reviews, testimonials, and ask the provider for a list of projects and references. 

After doing your due diligence, you should be able to tell whether an IT provider is an ideal match for your company. 

However, keep in mind that every IT team is different. For instance, they might be well-versed in the healthcare industry but have no experience working with retailers. That’s why as mentioned, stick to IT providers servicing your industry to get the best results.

FIND THE RIGHT FIT

Nobody wants to end up with a poor IT provider that can’t deliver great results, leaves your company open to cyberattacks, and causes other vulnerabilities. Your investment goes down the drain, and your operations suffer. 

Luckily, we can show you a way out. 

Let’s arrange a quick, 10-15-minute obligation-free chat. We can discuss more ways on how to find the right IT provider for you and ensure you get your money’s worth.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

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