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Cyber threats you don’t know about (but you absolutely should)

The reality is that cyber crime is everywhere. It’s one of the top concerns your organization faces – information theft is now overwhelmingly the most common crime committed against a business. Even more worryingly, hackers are attacking computers at the rate of one attack every 39 seconds, which means your IT infrastructure faces countless hacking attempts each day.

While ransomware and malware are still among the most common tools used by hackers to target organizations, there are other threats emerging that every business should know about.

5 less commonly known cyber threats

Although new cyber threats are emerging all the time, there are some which you’re less likely to have heard of. But, they can be just as dangerous. Here are our top 5 obscure cyber threats that you should know about.

1. Denial of service

Denial of service is when hackers use a number of computers and devices to direct huge volumes of traffic to a single database or service. The traffic volume overwhelms the target and it goes offline.

Denial of service attacks cause serious damage to businesses because they can’t provide their service while they’re under attack, which in turn affects their bottom line.

2. Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is all about bitcoin. With cryptojacking, hackers use someone else’s device to generate bitcoin for them. The process is known as mining. They do this by planting a malware-type program on the computer and running it in the background where the other person won’t notice it. 

3. Zero-day exploits

Zero-day exploits are an ever-growing problem. Put simply, zero-days are software vulnerabilities that haven’t been fixed yet. When a developer releases a patch to fix the problem, users soon download and install the fix. Hackers then have a limited window of opportunity for exploiting the vulnerability, hence the name “zero-day”.

4. Attack on IoT devices

IoT devices are everywhere, which makes them a prime target for hackers. They can be manipulated and taken over by hackers who might use them as part of a larger orchestrated cyber attack, or cyber criminals can harvest information from their owners. IoT devices are particularly vulnerable because they’re often running outdated software and security.

5. Man in the middle

Man in the middle, or MitM, is an alarming new threat that’s often very hard to spot. Here, a hacker positions themselves between the sender and the recipient of an electronic message. They don’t just receive the messages – they can change them, too.

While the sender and recipient think they’re corresponding directly with each other, they’re connecting through this hacker who intercepts every correspondence.

MitM is a technique often used by military and political hackers, but it can be used by hackers to target anyone, whatever sector you’re operating in.

How to protect your business from the latest in cyber crime

The good news is, there are a few steps you can take to limit your exposure to cyber criminals.

  • Partner with a managed services provider for up-to-date security information and custom cybersecurity packages tailored to your business.
  • Stay suspicious of emails and unsolicited correspondence encouraging you to click on links or provide information.
  • Back up your key business data.
  • Train your staff on how to spot common threats such as phishing and spearing attacks.

Conclusion

As hackers become increasingly sophisticated, it’s highly unlikely that rates of cyber crime will fall any time soon. For more information on protecting yourself against cyber threats and bolstering your cybersecurity, contact us now.

The 4 elements of a solid disaster recovery plan

Data loss is something that will affect most businesses at some point. Although it’s wise to have a prevention strategy in place, you also need to embrace the inevitable and create a disaster recovery plan.

The aim of a disaster recovery plan is to mitigate the harms that come with massive data loss. If you’re trying to create one that’s solid, you need to incorporate the following elements:

A detailed inventory

Across the United States, small and medium-sized businesses are set to spend $684 billion on IT in 2021. Most of that expenditure will come from hardware, although that’s set to change in the future.

With that in mind, there’s a chance that your business is doing some serious spending and will continue to do so. As a result, one of the best ways to prepare for a disaster is to have a detailed inventory.

From physical servers and power supply equipment to VoIP and phones, make sure you include it all. Creating a detailed inventory of what you have and how it’s configured gives you a better chance of repairing or replacing it in the event of a disaster.

Identify responses to disasters

Around 98% of organizations say an hour of downtime can cost them $100,000. It’s much easier to waste precious minutes when you haven’t clearly defined your responses to disasters. In contrast, knowing what they are in advance will prevent you from wasting time thinking of solutions.

For example, if you’re aware that IT downtime could bring certain essential processes to a halt, is it worth hosting some of them in the cloud?

In doing so, you could give your employees the chance to work on some processes remotely, which prevents you from losing too much money.

Create a clear outline of roles

According to some statistics, around 57% of employees feel as though they’re not given clear directions. Although that’s easy to rectify during everyday processes, it soon results in a crisis when you’re in the middle of a disaster.

While creating your disaster recovery plan, clearly identify who is going to take on what role. Make sure everyone is familiar with each others’ roles too so there’s no ambiguity about who needs to formulate a response. As a part of this, create a sheet of contact details, roles, and list who may need to communicate with each other.

If you’re going to be really thorough, you’ll also need to assign a person for each crucial role as you don’t want sickness or vacation to impede the success of your disaster recovery plan.

Refresh your disaster recovery plan

Your disaster recovery plan shouldn’t remain inflexible. In addition to personnel changes, technology is a constantly evolving area. You may acquire new equipment and new processes, which means your plan will need updates.

The average employee turnover rate in North America is around 23%. That’s a significant proportion of your workforce, especially when you’re relying on continuity in terms of IT disaster recovery. This doesn’t mean you need to refresh your plan every time someone leaves or joins your business.

Instead, assess the impact of every employee loss or gain on the disaster recovery plan and form an appropriate response. Provide a full refresh only when it’s necessary to do so and focus on educating new team members the rest of the time.

Overall, your disaster recovery plan should exist as a living document. Ensure it evolves as your business does and make sure it contains plenty of detail. Always make sure key stakeholders can pitch in their contributions and you should be able to form a solid plan that minimizes losses.

Need guidance with disaster recovery planning?

If you’d like a second pair of experienced eyes on your disaster recovery plan, you can always count on the AppSolute team. Contact us today and we can help ensure your plan is airtight – and we can even help you create one from scratch.

The 6 basic components of a modern ERP

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can be a significant benefit to your business. Most systems have a large selection of features and functionality. ERP software has the ability to help you manage finances, customers, projects, service, commerce, and more. With an ERP system, you’ll have the ability to adapt and change, improve processes, reduce errors, and track and manage assets.

ERP’s are fast becoming a sought after platform for businesses, with the market expected to hit $47 billion in revenue by 2022. However, there are certain key components your ERP software should have for it to be effective in your organization. Let’s look at the six basic components of a modern ERP.

When selecting and implementing an ERP, there are many considerations. Those considerations will be influenced by the major components that every system should have. When you have functionality that aligns with your business goals, you are more likely to see results. In fact, 95% of businesses that implemented an ERP saw an improvement in their processes. Another study found that the top three benefits of ERP usage were reduced process time, increased collaboration, and centralization of enterprise-wide data.

Top components your ERP needs

Human resources

Managing employees is critical to your success so your ERP system should do this job well, handling the entire spectrum of employee administration. This includes onboarding, offboarding, benefits, and time tracking.

The most important feature you need within the HR capabilities is payroll software. You don’t want your HR staff doing this manually as it’s time-consuming and can lead to human error. An HR component can automate payments in addition to tax and benefit deductions. With an integrated time tracking system, hourly employees can be paid automatically, with no need to manually input timesheet information.

Customer relationship management

Another high priority for any business is managing customers and leads. Every company needs a highly functional customer relationship management (CRM) platform as part of its ERP. The insights you’ll gain from a central hub will enable you to sell and market better to your target audiences.

Use a CRM to track buying behaviors, conversation histories, or interactions to determine how to best communicate with customers and leads to generate more revenue.

Business intelligence

When using a cloud ERP, you’ll want to make sure it has business intelligence functionality. This component can collect and analyze data, providing your team with actionable insights. Look for a system that provides reports on valuable business intelligence insights so you can have a clear view as to what actions to take.

Supply chain management

Having an efficient supply chain is imperative, and with the right ERP system, it can be easier to accomplish this. With powerful features, you can optimize your supply chain and collect data in real-time. This allows you to respond immediately when there is a problem.

Inventory management system

Inventory management goes hand-in-hand with the supply chain management piece. It will also help you manage other processes like fulfillment and stocking. You’ll want to find a system that enables this tracking to be automated, reducing manual practices.

Financial management

All the other data from your ERP feeds into financial management, as basically, every business process involves money. You can have a clear view of all your financial data and see spending trends that could help you reduce costs.

Choosing the right ERP system can be tricky. There are lots of options. We can help. We offer an ERP system that has all these components and more. Contact us today to learn more.

The top 7 ways data backup builds a better business

Could you imagine business life without data? From your clients’ information to files on the latest projects, all your data plays a central role in helping your business move forward. It’s often the case that businesses don’t realize how important data is until it’s gone. Because of this, it’s hard to understate just how necessary data backup is. If it hasn’t been one of your primary concerns recently, now’s the time to learn about how it builds a better business.

Your business becomes more reliable    

Although local data storage comes with its perks, it’s also risky in the event of a complete hard drive failure. Losing the contents of your hard drive means that your data is gone forever. The exception to this is if you use an additional form of local storage, although there’s always a chance that could fail too.

If you want to avoid the perils of a hard drive failure, consider using cloud storage as a backup. When your data enters the cloud, you don’t need to worry about what will happen if your hard drive fails. You can continue using local storage but your business becomes more reliable because of your contingency plan.

You reduce the cost of downtime

According to some studies, data downtime can cost as much as $1 million dollars per incident. Let’s say your data becomes inaccessible for some reason. Said reason could be anything from an electrical failure to having to move offices due to an adverse weather event. When this happens, not having a data backup plan results in you having to close your business until the problem is over.

When you consider that some adverse weather events can last for days at a time, closing your business is less than ideal. In extreme cases, the recovery period following severe weather events lasts for weeks. This could mean a significant loss of revenue, which you become responsible for.

Having a managed backup plan means you can access your data, even when the worst happens. Although you won’t always be able to run your business at full capacity, having access to the essentials prevents a complete shutdown and helps you continue with as much normality as you can manage.

Employees enjoying their teamwork.

Your IT team has an easier workload

IT teams dedicate a startling amount of time to frontline tasks such as data recovery. From small lost files through to significant wipeouts, it’s almost as though they’re firefighting in a digital world.

Of course, your IT team’s job isn’t all about managing data losses. They have other tasks to tend to too, but they may not have enough time to tackle them. By using a data backup service, you ensure that your IT team can do more than just tackle file losses. They’ll also have the chance to focus on tasks such as network security and other important elements of IT management.

You’ll find that data backup is easy

Local backup comes with a draining downside: everything is manual. Transferring files to your hard drive is a lengthy process and if you lose power in the middle of it, you need to start all over again.

In contrast, data backup using a remote facility requires little more than a few clicks. Depending on the type of plan you choose, you may also find that it’s automatic. When you and your IT team don’t need to dedicate as much time to backing up data, you can direct your processes to other areas of your business and help it thrive.

You get professional input from a tech team

In most cases, using a data backup service means you’re turning to an external team of tech professionals. They’ll oversee the backup process and they’ll manage any problems that come with it.

Having a team of professionals on your side also means someone’s there to manage any security problems. This means there are fewer drains on your business’s resources and your data backup takes place without you having to give it a second thought.

Your business is globally ready

If you want to do business internationally, you need to ensure your business is globally ready. The use of cloud storage allows you to achieve this in a couple of ways.

First, your data is available no matter where you are. This makes you incredibly flexible as you’ll no longer need to take external hard drives with you.

Second, cloud backup usually comes with super-tough encryption. As different countries have different security policies, the use of a cloud facility increases the likelihood that you’re compliant with the regulations of the country you’re doing business in. As a result, you may not need to make major adjustments to your processes to guarantee that you can press ahead with your plans.

Your data is more secure overall

On the topic of security, using a data backup service means your information is more secure overall. As the per-record cost of a data breach is between $120 and $600, it’s clear that most businesses cannot afford major failures in this area.

Unlike local hard drives, cloud backup benefits from security that’s near-impossible to break through. That doesn’t mean that breaches don’t happen but they’re far less likely to happen when compared with local storage.

In exchange for your increased security, you prevent a potentially significant loss of revenue. Additionally, you avoid a catastrophe that could harm your business’s reputation. Even large businesses struggle to recover from data breaches. Worryingly, data loss can slow your revenue growth by 22%. Arguably, it’s harder to bounce back when you’re running a small or medium-sized organization.

There are many business benefits to data backup. You can reassure your clients that you’re reliable, continue managing your business during a power loss, and reduce the likelihood of a big fine following a data loss.

What to consider when selecting and implementing an ERP system

Selecting and implementing a new enterprise resource planning (aka ERP) software is a huge pain for many businesses. That’s largely because of the inherent costs and logistical challenges that it poses.

You’ve got to consider all of the licensing dollars, maintenance, training, time, and more that goes into making the switch. It’s a common concern for business. Nearly 50% of companies are soon planning (or have already started) to acquire and upgrade their ERP system.

To make the implementation as painless as possible, you’ll want to ensure that you do your homework on selecting the right software ahead of time.

Lucky for you, you’re reading something that can help you out.

Here’s what you need to know before you implement your new ERP system.

Consider your organization’s needs

ERP software can vary greatly in terms of software capabilities.

Keep in mind your needs, both in the present and the future. The last thing you’d want to do is spend on a system that is a bad fit for your business. That goes for both overkill (too many features that cost a lot and aren’t relevant to your business) and underkill (limited features that save money, but can’t fulfill your needs).

Did you know? According to Panorama’s ERP report, the most common reason to implement ERP was to improve business performance.

Additionally, you’ll want to look into ERP software that’s relevant to your industry and company needs. It’s always a plus if you’ve got the tools that are custom-crafted to answer your unique issues.

Key takeaways:

  • Define the scope of the project and your organizational needs
  • Study the capabilities of potential ERP software to prevent a bad fit
  • Seek out a system that works within your vertical

Consider the flexibility and ease of use

You’ll be relying on your ERP software a whole lot. Choose a system that both has the features you need AND offers an intuitive user interface that works for your staff.

Pragmatically, that means having customization options that present the exact data that specific people need to see – and nothing else. If you need to create weird workarounds and frustrating loopholes to get work done within the ERP system, you should look for a better fit.

Additionally, make sure that your ERP system fits the needs of the modern business. It’s extremely beneficial to get a system that’s cloud accessible so you can work from wherever you are. That’s also true for mobile compatibility, which is quickly growing in adoption and usage in the ERP space.

Key takeaways:

  • Test out the ERP software first to see if it’s easy to use and intuitive
  • Ensure that it’s customizable to your needs
  • (Optional) See if it’s mobile and cloud-friendly and accessible

Consider the long-term ROI

Remember that ERP software is a means to an end – that is, growing your business and becoming more profitable than before.

While the immediate costs are something you should definitely consider, also keep the total cost of ownership (TCO) in the back of your mind. If your ERP system can evolve to fit your growing needs, you’ll find that the TCO is well worth it overall.

It’s easy to go overboard with costs. In fact, 64% of ERP projects go over budget.  That’s why it’s important to calculate the tangible ROI math of your ERP software. We like Acumatica’s calulator for that purpose.

Key takeaways:

  • Determine not just the initial costs, but the overall costs of the ERP software
  • Partner with an expert to help you determine ROI and TCO

To help with understanding the costs and implementation feasibility, it’s always a smart move to partner with an ERP systems expert. The value that they add comes in handy when determining which ERP platform is best for you in terms of capabilities, costs, implementation, and more.

Everything a Good Business Continuity Plan MUST Have

One of the biggest buzzwords in the business world is continuity. But if that means that business continuity is on your radar, that’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, buzzwords (or phrases) are a double-edged sword. They become so common that you start to ignore them. Ignoring business continuity will be to your detriment.

So, let’s spend a few minutes exploring business continuity, how it’s different from disaster recovery, what could happen if you don’t have a continuity plan, and six essential things your plan should contain.

Business continuity vs. disaster recovery

At first glance, it can seem like business continuity and disaster recovery are the same thing. However, disaster recovery is a part of business continuity. As it’s only a part, you need a complete business continuity plan that moves beyond just disaster recovery.

Disaster recovery is mostly concerned with backing up your data. The thinking is simple enough. When disaster strikes, the negative impact on your business will be far greater if you lose all your critical data. So, disaster recovery plans give you a way to protect that data by making sure there’s a backup copy.

Business continuity, on the other hand, aims to address all the ways your business will be affected in the wake of a disaster. In addition to data backup, it includes factors such as maintaining communication, ensuring critical business processes stay online, continuing to provide your employees with the tools they need to do their jobs, and enabling your customers to contact you as needed.

You need both kinds of plans.

Internal Meeting about planning.

“An effective business continuity plan lays out the instructions and procedures an organization must undergo when some kind of disaster occurs.”
– TechRepublic

What if you don’t have a business continuity plan? 

Instead of looking at all the bad things that may happen, reflect on all the good things you’ll miss out on. For example, work won’t be completed, revenue-generating activities will stop, and your ability to communicate internally and externally will come to a grinding halt. You’ll start to lose ground at the moment of disaster and you won’t regain any ground until you identify a way to get things up and running again.

Unfortunately, getting things up and running again or securing business continuity is tough without a plan. As a result of all these consequences, your reputation will take a considerable hit. Even worse, if your competitors appear prepared and you don’t, you may lose business to them.

The 6 essential elements of business continuity

If you’re ready to start building out your own business continuity plan, the best option is to contact your managed IT services provider. They’re already familiar with your business and will be ideally situated to help you put together a solid BC plan.

But if you’re planning to take a DIY approach, here are the things your plan should include.

1. A literal, written plan

This may seem obvious, but not everyone thinks about it. Your business continuity plan should be written down. If you lack thorough documentation, you don’t have a complete business continuity plan.

2. Arrangements for addressing critical operations

Some processes are more critical than others. You need to decide what the most critical operations are for your company and then build out plans for maintaining or restoring them in the event of a disaster.

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Related: Data backup and security best practices 

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3. Clear documentation of who’s responsible for what

It’s not enough to have a plan for maintaining and restoring critical processes. You also need to know who is responsible for each part of each plan. Making sure these details are crystal clear reduces the risk of everything falling apart in the event of an emergency.

4. An emergency communications strategy

What will you do if all the cell phone towers are down? How will your team stay in contact with each other? You need to think about communications strategies that address worst-case scenarios.

Off-site backup example.

5. Off-site backup

Data backup is important. But to really protect your data, you need to do more than back it up. You need to back it up off-site. Doing so ensures that even if your office is literally destroyed, your data will remain intact.

“Putting in the advance groundwork during quieter times not only leads to cooler heads during more turbulent times, but will also make a tremendous difference to your customers, employees and future business performance.”
-CIO

6. An alternate work location

Finally, you need a plan for moving business operations to another location in the event that your office can’t be used. When this happens, can your staff do everything remotely? Is there another office in a neighboring city that could handle things for a while? Be prepared for this possibility so your business operations flow smoothly.

Making business continuity happen

Business continuity is always going to feel like something you’ll have time to do later. The problem is, if you don’t already have a plan before you need it, you may find yourself in hot water.

We strongly recommend that you put a business continuity plan together, now. Trust us—if the day comes that you need it, you’ll be glad you did.

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Keep reading: Cyber Threats in 2019

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Why your IT strategy should align with your business strategy

When you think about it, the title of this article seems unnecessary. Of course IT strategy should align with business strategy. As a business leader, you almost certainly agree.

But knowing that intuitively and knowing how to make it a reality are two different things. And that’s what we’re going to focus on here. Why is IT strategy so integral to business strategy, and how do you align the two?

The challenge of getting strategic with your IT

For many SMBs, a lack of IT strategy isn’t by design. SMB leaders frequently wear multiple hats, with way more on their plates than seems humanly possible. Not to mention the fact that small businesses don’t typically have a vast cash surplus just sitting around waiting to be spent.

These practical concerns—time and money—lead a lot of small business leaders to a simple (albeit unfortunate) solution: Make do with the tech tools you have, piecing together something that mostly works even if it’s not ideal.

That’s not much of an IT strategy. Frankly, you deserve better.

IT strategy is business strategy

Before we get to the tips, there’s a foundational statement worth making. IT strategy matters not because it helps with business strategy but because it is business strategy.

It’s practically unthinkable to do business in today’s world without the appropriate tech tools. And the solutions you choose will literally contribute to (or get in the way of) every single business process that keeps your company going.

If you don’t currently have an IT strategy, you’re missing a key part of your overall business strategy.

“Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of SMBs indicate technology is a primary factor in pursuing their business objectives . . .” – CompTIA

How to develop your own IT strategy

Now that all the philosophical stuff is out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you go about building an IT strategy?

Below are 6 steps to get you started.

1. Know your business objectives

First and foremost, you need to know what your current business targets are. Do you have an annual revenue goal? A different metric for growth? A geographical region you want to break into? A headcount you’re aiming for?

Whatever your goals as an organization, you need to know those first. Your strategy—business and IT—should align with your goals.

“ . . . this process of alignment requires you to educate others and yourself to deep dive into the business.” – CIO

2. Make it about people

This may sound counterintuitive since we’re talking about IT strategy, but the best approach possible is one that puts people first.

That’s why technology exists—to serve people. Always think about how your business technology affects both customers and employees. If it’s inconvenient, confusing, disruptive or unnecessarily time-consuming, it’s time to rethink your tech solutions.

3. Write it down

As you begin to sort through your business goals, the impact you have (and want to have) on customers and employees, and possible changes to your current IT structure, be sure to take thorough notes. Write down every single detail. Seriously.

A plan you can reference, build on and come back to isn’t going to be of much practical value if the details aren’t specific to your business goals.

4. Be prepared to be flexible

Technology is constantly changing. The tools that are best-in-class today will be forgotten tomorrow. (Remember when Yahoo! was the go-to search engine? Or when everyone had a BlackBerry?)

Your IT strategy isn’t going to be a one-and-done kind of thing. You’ll need to remain agile, ready to re-evaluate and make changes as needed. Never get too attached to any one way of working with tech.

5. Take your business to the cloud

One thing that helps a great deal with flexibility is cloud computing. Cloud solutions are more fluid by nature. As general business needs change, cloud app providers have no choice but to keep up—and you benefit.

Just make sure you do your homework before going all in on any single cloud solution.

“. . . cloud computing has become an integral part of the overall information technology strategy for many enterprises.” – TechRepublic

6. Don’t forget about cybersecurity

Finally, keep cybersecurity in mind at all times. There are all kinds of inexpensive tech options out there, but not all of them are security-focused.

Before you decide on a cloud storage option or a new ERP solution, be sure to ask some serious questions about the security measures in place. Efficiency and convenience at the cost of data security is hardly a smart trade.

Next-level IT strategy

We have one more tip for when you’re ready to take your IT strategic planning to the next level. Find a managed IT services provider you can trust to assist.

An MSP can provide a level of guidance and support you’ll almost certainly benefit from. In the meantime, use the above tips to get more strategic with your IT solutions right now.

Your step-by-step guide to running a complete network audit

Running a complete internal network audit may sound intimidating, but it is something you can do right now to protect your network against data breaches. In fact, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you take it a step at a time it can be both manageable and affordable.

We have put together this simple guide to help walk you through the network audit process. Each step can and should be completed on its own, before moving on to the next step in the process:

  1. Define the scope
  2. Assess threats
  3. Evaluate security performance
  4. Prioritize risks
  5. Formulate solutions

You can’t do any harm to your system through the assessment process, but you can always call in a professional for assistance if you feel unsure about how to proceed or think you are in over your head at any point.

1. Define the scope

The first step in the auditing process is to define the scope of your audit. To do this you will need to make a list of all your assets. For the purposes of this audit, you should include all devices that may handle or secure data (both on-site and off-site). This would include computers, firewalls, servers, mobile devices, and more.

Next consider things that would require time and/or money to fix, such as data, equipment, and facilities. Give yourself plenty of time to compile this list, and consider bringing in another team member to help you avoid overlooking anything important.

Once you have your list you must decide the actual scope of the audit. It is not reasonable to expect that can audit all of these things at once. Create two more lists: things you will audit and things you won’t. Choose your most valuable assets to put into the audit list. These items will receive your focus for the remainder of the audit.

Related reading: 10 ways your failing at IT audits[1] 

2. Assess threats

Next, take your audit list – the list of valuable assets that you decided on in step 1 – and begin to make a corresponding list of threats and potential threats. You may have multiple threats for each asset item on the list, and some threats may be duplicated. The important thing is to be thorough.

3. Evaluate security performance

Now that you have your lists of assets and corresponding threats, it is time to think about how your security performs. Look at each of the threats on the list and consider your current cybersecurity setup. You need to evaluate your company’s ability to respond to each of these threats.

This is where some external help can be very helpful. Bringing in an outside provider to do penetration testing or otherwise assess your security performance is highly recommended to give you an honest, unbiased assessment of the state of your network security.

Related reading: Take back your company with our AppSolute care[2] 

4. Prioritize risks

Once you know where your network’s weaknesses are and what the biggest threats are to your infrastructure, you need to prioritize the risks. This is a crucial step.

Take your list of threats and any information gleaned from your security performance assessment and consider how much damage each item can cause, as well as the likelihood of occurrence and the cost of recovery. Using this risk information, re-prioritize your list. Consider taking into account your organization’s history, industry trends, compliance requirements, customer relationships, and staff needs.

5. Formulate solutions

The final step is the most straightforward. Now that you have the critical details, direct insight and a list of priorities, it is time to act on that information.

Starting at the top of your priority list, begin working through what security adjustments or improvements you need to address the assessed risks. Don’t overlook the value of “basic” fixes like employee education, strong password policies, and regularly backing up your files.

Take action

Your managed services provider can offer expert insight, advice and support in determining how best to act on the results of your network audit to keep your business moving securely ahead.

4 strategic benefits of working with a managed IT services provider

Growing small and mid-sized businesses face many challenges that stand in between them and success. IT is the largest obstacle of all. SMBs without strong IT support and services are at a competitive disadvantage. Additionally, these firms are also far more vulnerable to everything from cyber attacks to natural disasters.

Working with a trusted managed IT services provider ensures SMBs can stay ahead of the game. If you’re a company with no on-site IT, enlisting a partner provides peace of mind when it comes to your technology and frees you to focus on more pressing issues.  

Even if you already have an IT department in place, a managed IT services provider can still help. For example, current staff can be allowed to pursue larger projects designed to spur business growth while the managed IT services provider focuses on day-to-day operations.

Whatever the case may be, SMBs can take advantage of several strategic benefits when working with a managed IT services provider.

Stay productive

As an SMB grows, issues such as downtime become more noticeable. Inefficiency is something that can stunt the progress of many SMBs, and there is nothing more inefficient than paying staff not to work.  

ITIC’s 2017 Reliability and Hourly Cost of Downtime Trends Survey found 47 percent of SMBs, companies with up to 150 employees, estimated that a single hour of downtime would cost their business $100,000 in lost revenue and end-user productivity. And according to research from the Aberdeen Group, businesses experience 14.1 hours of IT downtime annually.  

The cost of this downtime is significant for most SMBs even if it falls under these averages. This cost is why partnering with a managed IT services provider can make a huge difference. With proactive IT support along with constant monitoring, potential issues can be identified and eliminated. The money that would have been lost due to downtime can instead be re-invested into the company.

Your technology umbrella

Unpredictable weather can bring with it dire consequences for SMBs that are unprepared. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors after a disaster such as a hurricane or tropical storm. While these events used to be rare in New York City, strong storms with flooding are becoming a more common occurrence.   

And while the physical damage can be costly, it is the downtime and loss of data that dooms most SMBs. Without a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery plan in place, it can be difficult to get everything back up and running. This is where a managed IT services provider can be of use. By creating off-site or cloud backups, your data will always be available regardless of what your company faces. With these backups, you can minimize downtime and keep your business going in the face of adversity.   

Gain access to cutting-edge tools

Have you ever seen big businesses using IT devices and programs that you think would be great for your company? Well, partnering with a managed IT services provider can give you access to the same tools the big firms use without needing to make a significant investment. They can help create a proactive plan to ensure your business can utilize IT devices and programs that provide a competitive edge.

Protect yourself from cyber attacks

As an SMB acquires more data, cybersecurity is something that must be taken into consideration. The 2017 State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMB) report from the Ponemon Institute contained some staggering findings. More than 60 percent of SMBs surveyed said they had encountered a cyber attack. Of this group, 54 percent were victims of data breaches involving customer and employee information and the average cost of these attacks was more than $1 million when all factors were taken into consideration.

Strong security is another valuable strategic benefit of working with a managed IT services provider. They utilize virus and spam protection systems that work around the clock searching for threats such as ransomware that can derail your business at a moment’s notice.  

More importantly, you don’t have to worry about constantly upgrading your IT security as the managed IT services provider will be doing that automatically. Instead of cutting corners and possibly endangering your business with strained security measures, you get a robust security partner, allowing you to focus on important business decisions.

Maximize your financial investment with managed IT services

More and more small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are discovering the enormous benefits that come from outsourcing. Technology makes this possible in ways never before feasible. For some SMBs, though, outsourcing IT services may be a new concept. When you find the right managed service provider (MSP) to provide the IT services that best fit your organization’s needs, you will see improvements across the board.

From improved security and expanded resources to reduced costs and downtime – opportunities abound to maximize your return on investment (ROI) with a managed service provider.

Improved security

In its 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, Verizon concluded that 58% of all cyber attacks target small businesses. With an MSP monitoring your network and managing your cybersecurity, you can feel confident your business is fully protected. MSPs take care of keeping all systems and software up to date and patched. They also proactively safeguard your business by assessing your system for vulnerabilities and taking the time to address any concerns.

With an MSP on your team, you can rest easy knowing that the job of defending your data and business operations is in good hands. Many MSPs offer backup and data security options that are scalable, depending on the size of your business and needs. They may even offer assistance with business continuity and disaster recovery planning.

Related reading: The critical elements of a disaster recovery plan

Access to resources

One of the outstanding and sometimes overlooked benefits of partnering with an MSP is access to a wealth of specialized knowledge and expert resources. Many MSPs offer consulting services and other options to share their considerable combined knowledge to support their clients’ technology requirements. Whether you need advice on purchasing a new computer or handling a potential data breach, when you sign with an MSP you gain a whole team of experts to rely on.

Related reading: How to get the most from a managed service provider

Reduced costs

It might seem too good to be true. A whole team of experts, and it’s supposed to save you money, too? It’s true, though. Let’s break it down. If you manage your own IT services on-site, you have to pay for IT staff, servers, equipment, and the cost to maintain the equipment. If you choose to outsource your IT services with an MSP, you pay a monthly fee. You do not need to hire extra staff or purchase and maintain expensive servers.

As your business grows or your needs change you can make changes in your contract with the MSP, and your monthly rate will be adjusted accordingly.

Related reading: Common technology problems solved by an MSP

Reduced downtime

There are few things more frustrating and stressful than dealing with regular bouts of downtime, especially when you are trying to run a business. With so much of day-to-day operations relying on technology and the web, every minute of downtime is costing you money. If downtime has been an issue, a managed service provider can help to address this right away without ever interfering with your operations.

They can identify network and system bottlenecks and upgrade and patch software and hardware, all while you continue mission-critical work.

Overall, smaller organizations can maximize their investment with a managed services provider by taking advantage of the expertise, efficiencies, and gains in extending your team and optimizing business technology.