4 Ways to Travel Safe For Business

4 Ways to Travel Safe For Business

Working from anywhere is now as simple as accessing the internet on your device.  

Managers, owners, and employees are all embracing the flexibility of working while traveling, making it the new global norm. But while you were in the office, you were protected by professionally designed firewalls, security infrastructure, and robust software. 

As soon as you step away from the building, those protections disappear, leaving your device and the data inside at great risk. 

Cyber attackers love to collect any data they can obtain, often preferring to hack first, assess value later. It doesn’t help that almost all data can be sold, including your personal details, those of your clients and suppliers, as well as your proprietary business data. These days, the information stored on your device is usually worth much more than the device itself. 

Hackers don’t need to own the Wi-Fi network to steal content from it. Data traveling across an unsecure network is visible and available to anyone with the right software. 

It’s okay, you don’t need to lock all employees inside the building or cancel all travel plans. 

1. Make a backup before you travel

Whether your employee left their laptop at a café or a thief stole their phone, the outcome is the same – that device is gone.  

Hackers will take advantage of any opportunity to gain access to a device, including taking them from hotel rooms and even asking to ‘borrow’ them for a few minutes to install spyware, before handing it back. 

In the event your device is lost or damaged, you’ll be able to replace the device with a new one and quickly restore all the data from a backup, all with minimal downtime.  

Your best strategy: develop a disaster recovery plan. 

If you have a business, it’s best practice to make sure all files on your employee’s devices are backed up in the cloud. If you use Microsoft 365, SharePoint is a great way to centralize your data. Staying proactive in storing data on the cloud will help you never worry about losing important information. 

2. Don’t use public Wi-Fi (use a VPN) 

We’ve all come to expect free Wi-Fi networks wherever we go. Hackers will take advantage of this trust to create their own free, unsecure network, just waiting for a traveler to check a quick email.  

Wait until you have access to a secure network before going online – even just to check your email. One way you can do this is by getting a VPN (Virtual Private Network) 

A VPN hides your computer, network, and in-house business applications. So you can browse your apps and the internet knowing you’re safe and secure from hackers. When you use a VPN, you can rest easy that you’re on a protected network. 

3. Have strong passwords and encryption 

At a minimum, make sure you have a password on your device, or even better, have full drive encryption. That way, even if your data storage is removed from the device, the contents are inaccessible. Some password laws to live by: 

  • 8 characters minimum 
  • Don’t use your profile or personal name in the password 
  • Use special characters (e.g. $!_123) 

Passwords are becoming progressively easier for hackers to breach. So the stronger you can make it the better. It’s also helpful to implement 2-Factor Authentication. 

4. Act fast after loss

Criminals are always looking for ways to steal your data for their own gain.  

If your device is lost or stolen, immediately notify the right people. This might include your IT provider so they can change passwords, your bank so they can lock down accounts, and any staff who need to be aware of the breach so they aren’t tricked into allowing further breaches.  

If you want to travel safe, these 4 steps are a must-know. Remember, your data is your business and customers. Keeping it safe, secure, and proactive will help you sleep better at night. 

Want to start taking control of your security? Consider reaching out to learn more about ways your business can stay safe remote and in the office. 

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5 Reasons to Centralize Your Tech Stack

5 Reasons to Centralize Your Tech Stack

After working with several businesses, we always notice a trend: a lack of centralized tools. 

Most businesses have applications like Zoom, Slack, Google Drive, etc.— all these tools are great on their own, but you end up having to track tons of licenses. This makes your tools way harder than they need to be (and more expensive). 

So, here’s 5 benefits of centralizing your tech stack into a single suite: 

1. Reduces Redundancy

What if: instead of hopping from app to app, you could just have all your tools and documents in one place? You end up allowing yourself more time for task management by consolidating your workflow into one system. This helps you manage files easier for you and your team. 

Microsoft 365 has risen in popularity due to its comprehensive toolkit for teams. You get messaging, video calls, document collaboration, and more with it. Teams across the world are progressively making the switch to a centralized stack instead of spending so much on multiple licenses. 

2. Information Sharing

Collaboration is key. Especially in today’s remote work environment. 

We all know the feeling- you consistently reach out to team members to edit a document. Once they share it with you, you make edits and send it back. This slows down your workflow and it becomes an outdated way of collaboration 

A central tech stack gives you the ability to work on projects or tasks due and make live edits (such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs). Rather than storing data on someone’s computer or in a silo, use tools that enable your team to work at maximum efficiency.  

3. Eliminates Downtime

Lost a device? Did your computer get hacked? Whatever the case be, losing your data slows down your business and puts you at risk.  

When you centralize your tech stack, you never worry about losing your data since it’s stored in the cloud. The Microsoft Suite lets you store all your documents and tools on a protected cloud-based software. 

Someone loses their device? No problem—it’s all on the cloud. 

4. Standardizes Your Internal Operations

More efficient and standardized processes should always be a goal for your business. When all of your applications are in a central stack, you decrease guesswork and increase productivity. 

The more simple the better. 

5. Reduces Your Costs

Tools like Microsoft 365 and the Google Suite make it easy for you to have a plethora of tools (documents, video calling, chats) without paying for tons of licenses. 

More productivity means you can take on more projects. 

Better efficiency means paying less for more. 

All your expenses are condensed and cost-effective. 

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Can Data Analytics Solve Your Nonprofit’s Problems?

Can Data Analytics Solve Your Nonprofit’s Problems?

 
You want to improve the processes of budgeting, forecasting, and fundraising for your nonprofit; however, you are having a hard time identifying problems and solutions.

 Data analytics can help.

This type of business intelligence is already considered indispensable in the for-profit realm. It can be just as critical for nonprofits and associations. 

Informed decision making

As businesses and nonprofits have become more reliant on computers, data has become more captive and more segregated among disparate departments and functions. Data analytics is the science of collecting and analyzing sets of data to develop useful insights, connections, and patterns that can lead to more informed decision-making. It produces such metrics as program efficacy, outcomes vs. efforts, and membership renewal that can reflect past and current performance and, in turn, predict and guide future performance. 

The data usually comes from two sources: 

1. Internal: Examples include your organization’s databases of detailed information on donors, beneficiaries, or members.

2. External: This type of information can be obtained from government databases, social media, and other organizations, both nonprofit and for-profit.

Applied advantages

Data analytics can help your organization validate trends, uncover root causes and improve transparency. For example, analysis of certain fundraising data makes it easier to target those individuals most likely to contribute to your nonprofit. 

It typically facilitates fact-based discussions and planning, which is helpful when considering new initiatives or cost-cutting measures that stir political or emotional waters. The ability to predict outcomes can support sensitive programming decisions by considering data on a wide range of factors — such as at-risk populations, funding restrictions, offerings available from other organizations, and grantmaker priorities. 

Needs dictate your purchase

Your organization’s informational needs should dictate the data analytics package you buy. Thousands of potential performance metrics can be produced, but not all of them will be useful. Keeping in mind your most important programs, identify those metrics that matter most to stakeholders and that truly drive decisions. Also ensure that the technology solution you choose complies with any applicable privacy and security regulations, as well as your organization’s ethical standards. 

You can adopt the most cutting-edge software, but if your staff aren’t on board, data analytics will be of little benefit. Note that you may need to hire or develop qualified staff to conduct data analytics and convert the results into actionable intelligence. 

Make the most of it

Before you choose a technology, make sure your organization, including your staff, is ready to make the most of it. We can help steer you in the right direction. Consider reaching out to us at 800-297-8293.

Edward D. Warren

Edward D. Warren

Business Development Director, ITonDemand

Ed is an accomplished sales executive with over 15 years of professional services sales and marketing experience. He’s worked for Allinial Global and RSM Alliance member firms and serves on the board of the Association of Accounting Marketing

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 Identifying how hackers target businesses can help you gain a deeper understanding of protecting yourself from these threats.  

Keeping up to date and following best practices is a great step in the right direction in protecting your assets and your reputation. Remember, your business is your customers. So here are some common ways hackers target small businesses and how you can protect yourself:  |

  • Ransomware Extortion 
  • Targeting Customer Records 
  • Targeting Financial Information 
  • Social Engineering 

Ransomware Extortion 

Attacks rise and fall in popularity.  

Fifteen years ago, computer worms were the most common attack that businesses faced. Security software wasn’t as advanced or as widely used at it is today. Computer worms were, at the time, an exceptionally low-cost and efficient way to inflict the maximum amount of damage for minimum cost.  

Today ransomware has seen an unfortunate boom in popularity.  

This technology aims to encrypt the target’s files on their personal computer. This technique denies the victim access to their own information and are charged a large fee in exchange for the key to retrieve the victim’s own data.  

The attack has worked so often because it requires minimal effort and can be used again and again. Many businesses have no option but to pay because the data is worth far more than the ransom demand the hackers have made. 

The best defense against these ransomware attacks: up-to-date offsite backup. One that is tested and examined by professional help. We help businesses develop a disaster recovery plan that way you are 

Targeting Customer Records 

One if not the most important thing you can do for your customers is take extra measures to protect their data.  

Records which include names, dates of birth, and other personally identifying details. These details are extremely valuable to hackers or criminals who, either use them personally or sell them on to someone who will.  

This is why you must be compliant. 

Many regions have strict laws and guidelines (compliance) about how this information must be stored, accessed and protected. Failing to follow these can result in severe penalties that could devastate any company.  

Targeting Financial Information  

Like personal information, a small business must take extreme care when storing customer financial information.  

This falls in line with compliance guidelines. Sensitive details such as credit card or banking information are a key target for hackers looking to steal money fast.  

The impact on your business reputation following a breach of financial data will be severe and devastating. Even a simple mistake can require years of advertising and great PR to repair. Many firms fail to recover after losing the trust of their customers.    

Social Engineering 

Most firms today run good IT security packages to protect against online attacks and other forms of malware. Attackers often know to take their methods offline to achieve the best results.  

Whether posing as a supplier, customer, or interested party; attackers can seek to gain information that you may be less than willing to hand over to a stranger. Keeping your staff properly trained is a great line of defense. 

Be particularly cautious of the information you provide when discussing business with individuals you haven’t spoken to before.   

Keeping Your Small Business Safe  

Each of these targets and attacks are just some of the most popular and hard-hitting attacks out there now. The list is forever changing, and the methods we use to protect against them always needs to change too.  

Some can be defended against with great security, backups, and software. Others, such as social engineering, need you and your staff to stay up-to-date and remain vigilant about the major attacks affecting small business today.  

If you need help tightening your businesses security, give us a call at (800) 2978293. 

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6 Ways to Reduce IT Costs

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Your business is always looking to reduce costs. Looking at the information technology budget line items is headache-inducing. So much money spent in one area, and there’s so little you can do about it! But is that really true? IT expenses may not be as fixed as you think. Take a look at these target areas where you might reduce costs.  

Your business should try to reduce costs without losing value

Looking at your information technology budget is stressful for a lot of owners. So much money spent in one area, and there’s so little you can do about it!  But is that true? 

IT expenses may not be as fixed as you think.  

1. Software

Your business likely pays to license software such as Microsoft Office 365 or Adobe Photoshop. Reviewing these software agreements, you can often find cost savings:   

  • See if you can renegotiate a subscription if the provider wants to move you onto a new offering.   
     
  • Are you paying for software that isn’t in use? Try to see if you can reduce or remove it.   
     
  • Has the pricing has changed? Are there now better plan options available? 
     
  • There may be an open-source software alternative to save acquisition and maintenance costs. 

2. Hardware

Your current hardware may be underused, need refreshing, or have lost productivity. Find ways to run applications on less expensive devices. One way to do this is by linking together several computers to replace expensive server equipment. Standardizing platforms can also significantly reduce IT costs while providing consistency. 

3. Cloud Computing

One way to cut IT infrastructure costs is to move to the cloud. You can run software on the cloud for a fraction of the cost. Moving data backup to the cloud to replace an on-premises server can also cut costs. Rather than losing all your data on a singular device, it can be stored in one location in the cloud.  

Even if you’re already in the cloud, you can explore whether you are on the best available plan for you and consider:  

  • Are you paying for more storage or resources than you need?  
  • Are you taking full advantage of mobility and scalability features? 
  • Are you duplicating on-premise and cloud-based services?  

4. Internet Services

Your employees need to be online. You’re not going to cut out internet services. However, you may be able to control costs:  

Should you buy modems or routers instead of renting them from your provider?  

  • Consider the internet speed in your plan. Do you need that level of service?  
  • Is slow internet speed costing your company money when, in fact, you’ll be more efficient with an upgrade?  
  • Are you able to bundle services to find cost savings?  
  • Are you in a position to renegotiate your plan?  

5. IT Staff and Services

Avoid infrastructure costs and the hiring expenses of onsite IT staff by outsourcing. Chances are, you’re probably not an expert in IT. Managed Services Providers (MSPs) end up saving you money in the long-term by taking care of your IT. Often your business can pay a set monthly fee or go on a pay-per-use model to gain services such as:  

  • IT help desk support  
  • security  
  • disaster recovery  
  • backup  

6. Utilities

Don’t overlook the costs involved in powering your IT components. Review your utility bills to identify trends. Can you save money by turning off equipment? Is there a better plan available with a competing service? Should you renegotiate the terms of your existing plan?  

Time for a Technology Audit

The best way to identify specific areas to cut your IT budget is a technology audit.  

Your IT needs are always changing, and the technology does too. Many businesses add expensive components or systems with “room to grow.” New tools get added on as needs arise. Your use of certain technologies can fluctuate.  

An IT expert can be your best case of action. 

They can provide you all the software and services you use, and bills related to your IT budget to find areas to streamline or cut altogether. It may seem counterintuitive to pay money in an attempt to save money. However, an outsider’s perspective can provide fresh insight into the “way things have always been done” and help you see new opportunities for consolidation.  

We can help you meet your budget goals. Contact us today at (800) 297-8293! 

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