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6 IT Best Practices for Your Business

When it comes to the growth and long-term success of your business, you must actively address your IT needs. Although each organization is unique, there are basic IT best practices that every business should know.

The best way to approach these best practices is to break them up into specific areas so that they become more manageable.

From cybersecurity to an effective disaster recovery plan, it is imperative that you follow these suggested best practices in order to protect your business.

Cybersecurity

IT best practice #1: Create and promote a cybersecurity culture

It is imperative that you create a modern security culture within your workplace. The best way to do this is to educate your employees by holding regular meetings. Whether you’d like to discuss the threats associated with phishing emails, insecure networks, or password sharing, this the first step when aiming to protect your company from cyber attacks — many of which are continuously evolving.

IT best practice #2: Develop procedures to prevent ransomware attacks

It is critical that you develop an in-depth cybersecurity policy, ensuring additional levels of security. Whether that means running scans on a quarterly basis, maintaining an up-to-date inventory of your devices, or automating software updates, you need to sit down and create a preventative plan. This helps prevent ransomware attacks as you develop proactive cybersecurity habits.

Data backup

IT Best practice #3: Implement the 3-2-1 backup rule

The strategy is rather simple. Regardless of the size of your business, you should keep three files of your data. In addition to the original data, it is recommended that you keep a minimum of two backups (two locally and one off-site). You can read more about the 3-2-1 backup rule here.

IT best practice #4: Use the cloud as a backup solution

The cloud will allow you to back up your data on a remote or off-site server. In turn, your most critical data will be better protected. This storage solution is also highly flexible and allows for a more rapid, reliable recovery process in the case of a disaster.

Please note: Best practices in regards to cloud backups include frequent backups, backup testing, and encrypting your most critical data. To avoid downtime, remain compliant, and gain greater peace-of-mind, learn about how you can craft an effective cloud backup plan here.

Hardware/software maintenance

IT best practice #5: Ensure your hardware and software is up-to-date

If you leave your server unpatched, do not install the latest firmware, or avoid fixing the latest software bugs, you could become vulnerable to attacks and/or lost productivity.

Last but certainly not least, whether you are concerned with your company’s current cybersecurity strategy, are unsure how to effectively perform backups, or would simply like to enhance the overall productivity of your business, this leads us to the final best practice.

IT best practice #6: Outsource your IT needs

If you do not currently have an internal IT team, or there are components of your IT support that you’d like to take off-site, managed IT services can handle all of your needs.

Not sure if you’re ready to partner with a managed service provider? Here are 5 signs that will help you determine if it’s time to make this crucial transition. For more information, you can also reference the following — 5 Ways Managed It Services Help Growing Businesses.

Looking for further support? Have questions about how you can take your business to new heights? If so, please contact us today!

Common Technology Problems Solved By an MSP

In today’s digital world, technology plays a big part in driving business growth. However, many companies are facing technology challenges that they aren’t always prepared to address on their own. That’s where a Managed Services Provider (MSP) can be a gateway to increased growth, revenue, and profitability.

What is a managed services provider?

A managed services provider remotely manages your IT and end-user systems. It is a term that encompasses many IT services that focus on providing the best IT support possible. At the same time, working with an MSP can solve many of the common technology problems facing businesses today.

Security lock

The Problem: A need for improved security

Cybersecurity is a high-priority issue for every company today due to the increase in the number and severity of recent cyberattacks. No company is exempt – and the impact can be devastating. In 2017, cyberattacks cost SMBs an average of $2,235,000.

Company leaders are looking for cost effective ways to protect themselves to increase their peace of mind, avoid downtime, and to comply with regulatory requirements.

Working with an MSP gives you:

  • Access to more sophisticated cloud security systems
  • Access to highly-trained security specialists
  • Complete cloud backup services
  • Proactive services designed to protect you from cyberthreats

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The Problem: Backup and disaster recovery

As companies depend more on technology to complete normal business processes, the thought of extended downtime or losing all of your data is frightening. Therefore, developing an effective disaster recovery plan is a high priority for many companies.

Your data is arguably your most critical asset. The results of losing access to that data can be devastating. According to the experts, approximately 25% of businesses won’t reopen after a significant disaster. The statistics get worse for companies that experience a disaster, but don’t have a recovery plan. Forty-three percent of those businesses won’t survive.

Working with an MSP, you’ll tap the expertise you need to:

  • Identify all the possible threats you face
  • Identify an emergency communication plan and a recovery team
  • Develop an evacuation strategy
  • Develop a business continuity plan

Once your disaster recovery plan is in place, an MSP can provide the capacity for backing up your data, the resources to implement your recovery plan, and help you stay in business if a disaster does strike.

Stopwatch

The Problem: Avoiding downtime

Downtime is always a threat. The result may be the postponement of an important client presentation, or a delay in filling orders.

Equipment failures happen to everyone. Networks go down, and a hard drive crashes every 15 seconds. Besides that, almost 40% of SMBs don’t back up their data. There is no option for switching over to a redundant system, and many SMBs don’t have the budget to put a redundant system in place to begin with.

Working with an MSP, you’ll have highly-trained technicians who make sure your systems are operating at peak efficiency. An MSP can offer the type of redundancy that will keep you working even if technical failures occur.

MSPs will also quote guaranteed uptimes. With the resources at their disposal, they have the horsepower they need to meet those guarantees.

Code programming network

The Problem: Need to get better at identifying root causes

It’s not always possible for SMBs to develop an IT department with the resources to take care of regular maintenance, support users, and spend the time to analyze a system problem and identify the root cause.

The result is that the unsolved root cause continues to cause problems repeatedly. Users get frustrated and the IT staff waste time correcting symptoms of the same problem.

An MSP has the resources and knowledge required to take the time to drill down into a symptom to find the root cause and fix it.

Team work

The Problem: IT staff doesn’t have time for strategic work

Since technology is so integral to a company’s growth, it’s critical that the IT staff focuses on driving innovation. Unfortunately, for many SMBs, that’s nothing more than a pipe dream. The day-to-day requirements that keep your systems running and your users happy don’t allow the staff to spend a great deal of time on value-added projects.

MSPs offer an easy way to resolve that problem. With an MSP managing your systems, your staff will have the time they need to continue innovating. In fact, industry experts have found that of those businesses that work with an MSP, only six percent eliminated its IT staff. Fifty-three percent of those businesses kept its IT department as it was originally.

Cost savings

The Problem: Finding ways to reduce IT costs

Every business wants to reduce costs, but it’s often more important for SMBs. A lean SMB doesn’t have many places where cost cutting is reasonable.

Working with an MSP is one way to reduce costs without reducing the benefits the business gets from using technology. An MSP can achieve economies of scale in terms of acquiring software, hardware, and experienced IT staffers.

The fees paid to an MSP are typically fixed, which provides you with predictable monthly costs. And, those fees are typically accounted for as operating expenses vs. capital expenditures.

In the end …

These are just some of the problems an MSP can solve for you. In the process, you’ll be able to redirect internal resources to continue the growth and profitability of your business.

If you would like to explore the specifics of how an MSP could contribute to the long-term health of your business, contact us today for more information.

2018 Cybersecurity Trends: What Your Business Needs to Know

SMBs usually place cybersecurity a few places down on their list of important issues, mainly because they think hackers target the big guys: those corporations that bring in billions of dollars every year.

This belief is a myth.

Those big businesses routinely spend millions on cybersecurity, making them much more difficult to breach. Hackers often turn to companies that do not focus on these security issues, which is why half of the 28 million small businesses in the United States have already been hacked. Medium-sized businesses are also in danger of the same fate.

No matter the size, your business needs to focus on these 2018 cybersecurity trends to keep your data safe from thieves.

Password Policy Updates

CSO: 63% of confirmed data breaches involved leveraging weak, stolen or default passwords.

You and your employees have heard the following password warnings for years:

If you are like many people, you have often ignored this advice, making it incredibly simple for hacking software to determine your password, often in seconds. Your company needs to enforce these password rules to keep your data safe.

Related: Include These Key Steps and Elements to Create a Solid Cybersecurity Strategy

Since almost no one can memorize passwords for each of their accounts, you should install a password manager app for every employee. Your data will be safer, and your staff won’t have daily password breakdowns.

Employee Education

WeLiveSecurity: 70% of employees in some industries lack awareness to stop preventable cybersecurity attacks.

Every business needs to teach basic cybersecurity classes.

Many viruses and ransomware attacks come through email attachments that are carelessly opened by innocent employees. No one should ever open an attachment from an unknown source – in fact, your employees should check with the sender of an attachment before opening it to make certain it is a valid document.

Related: Bad Security Practices that Hackers Love

Some email providers automatically scan attachments for viruses. Make certain that your email provides this service. If it doesn’t, see if they have a procedure for downloading documents so that they can be safely scanned that way.

Stay up-to-date on current virus and phishing schemes and alert your employees to them. Simply being cautious can save the company thousands or even millions of dollars.

Secure Devices and Networks Through the Cloud

Gartner: Cloud-delivered security products are more agile and can implement new detection methods and services faster than on-site solutions.

You need to inventory all of your company’s endpoints and devices and know exactly where they are and who is using them. Someone can easily take home a company laptop or tablet and let their family members have access to it. Sensitive company data can easily be shared in that instance, which can lead to serious problems for the company.

Also, no one should do company business on an unsecured WiFi connection. First, check that your company’s firewall, virus protection, and internet connection are all up-to-date and secure. Then make certain that no one is using company computing devices on a open connection at a coffee shop or similar location. Hackers commonly use these security lapses to steal important data.

Related: 6 Cybersecurity Myths That Are Hurting Your Business

You should use cloud protection platforms to monitor the status of your organization’s security. It allows for anytime, anywhere access that can save you a lot of trouble in the event of a cyberattack.

Final Thoughts on 2018 Cybersecurity Trends

SMBs are popular targets for hackers who can steal company and customer data, leaving everyone involved exposed to financial loss. These internet thieves consider smaller businesses easy marks because… they usually are.

You can protect your company from serious cybersecurity problems by partnering with an SMB security specialist that can handle your security for you. We’ve got experience in protecting organizations like yours.

We’ll make sure that no matter what comes your way, your data will stay your own.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today to get more information or to get started.

Bad Security Practices That Hackers Love

When you think about hackers and security breaches, you often associate these attacks with large corporations. Although major security attacks do impact large businesses, small-to-medium businesses tend to be the easiest targets for hackers.

Unfortunately, smaller companies often don’t have a dedicated IT team to enforce digital best practices, leaving them vulnerable to criminals.

Luckily, even if you do not have a deep understanding of IT practices, you can still protect your company through good due diligence — all while avoiding common pitfalls that hackers love.

Be Mindful of These Bad Security Practices

You have likely heard about security best practices. However, it’s also important that you take a proactive approach in regards to bad practices. After all, only around 14% of small companies rate their ability to reduce cyber risks and attacks as highly effective.

Address the following bad practices as soon as possible in order to mitigate cyber-security risks.

Bad practice #1: Only implementing an “all-in-one” antivirus scanner

Back in the early 90s, all-in-one antivirus scanners were effective, as they were able to detect the dozens of worms and viruses lurking out there. Unfortunately, times have changed. Thousands (if not millions) of malware programs are released monthly, many of which will go undetected.

To protect your business, you need a combination of tools in a unified platform that is easy to manage. This platform should take care of things like file sharing security, email security, routine system scans, and more.

Bad practice #2: Reusing passwords

Many people have a “go-to” password, often using it across multiple online accounts. This has led to some major data breaches in the past, as hackers are able to easily steal a copious amount of information by just knowing a single password.

Each account needs to have a strong, unique password. Make sure each password is at least six characters (but the more the better) and that it includes a combination of numbers, letters (both lowercase and uppercase), and symbols.

Bad practice #3: A lack of training

One of the biggest issues associated with cybersecurity is human error. Whether your staff ignore security updates or is unaware of phishing scams, poor training and a lack of awareness are incredibly dangerous for your business.

Many companies do not make cybersecurity training a priority until it’s too late. Be sure to meet with your staff on a regular basis to discuss the latest techniques and methods, as well as recent trends and dangers (especially in relation to malware email attachments).

Related: The 3-2-1 Backup Rule — Why It’s Important

Bad practice #4: Not performing regular tests

You may have implemented security measures in the past, but that does not mean they’re up-to-date. This is where regular testing or “fire drills” come into play. If you created a security response plan within the last year, you should run a hypothetical drill.

Ideally, you should be revisiting your security plans quarterly — but many businesses are now opting to run drills monthly. This also applies to your disaster recovery plan (as hackers are not the only risk involved).

Bad practice #5: Ignoring the dangers of mobile devices

Since many companies are transitioning towards a “bring your own device” arrangement, business owners need to consider where critical data is being stored and accessed. This is because mobile devices are typically easy to crack.

If you currently have mobile device management (MDM) or enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions in place, know that these do not protect you against hackers and malware. This is something that you can discuss with a managed service provider.

Create a Better Cybersecurity Strategy Today

Beginning today, it is imperative that you take a proactive approach, focusing on your company’s future. After all, cybersecurity entrepreneur and IT security futurist, Neil Rerup, said it best, “True cybersecurity is preparing for what’s next, not what was last.”

Now is the time to create a solid cybersecurity strategy and if you require assistance, please feel free to contact our team our team today!

6 Cybersecurity Myths That Are Hurting Your Business

Every company is wrestling with cybersecurity. The number of breaches makes it impossible to ignore the issue. One of the biggest challenges that companies face when addressing cybersecurity is the number of myths and misconceptions that surround it.

These are some of the cybersecurity myths hurting your ability to protect your business.

A Security Breach is a Source of Embarrassment

An important prerequisite to fighting security breaches is the company’s mindset. It’s difficult (if not impossible) for any company to eliminate the opportunity for a hacker to breach their system. If you believe that being hacked is something better swept under the rug, you’re limiting your ability to prevent breaches and handle the situation if hackers attack your company.

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Related: 3 Data Loss Horror Stories

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All companies benefit from pooling their knowledge with others. Keeping cybersecurity concerns and experiences a secret will only make everyone more vulnerable. In addition, trying to hide a breach will result in more damage over the long term.

After all, would you trust a company that didn’t tell you if your data was at risk?

Using Antivirus Software is Enough

Antivirus software was a blessing 20 years ago. Today, however, it will only protect against an unenthusiastic hacker. Most hackers have found ways around antivirus software and can easily hide an attack from an unsuspecting user.

Antivirus icon

In other words, today’s sophisticated and quick attacks are no match for antivirus software.

A cybersecurity strategy must include preventing access, but it’s also necessary to recognize that you need a more proactive stance. You must protect against the known threats that antivirus software can spot.

But, it may be even more important to have the ability to spot unusual and unauthorized activity on a network and initiate appropriate action. If you can’t stop all attacks, at a minimum, your security system should work toward minimizing the damage.

My Company Will Never be Interesting to a Hacker

Anyone who believes it will never happen to them is almost guaranteeing that it will. For example, many small businesses think they’re immune to cyberattacks. That’s a prime cybersecurity myth, as research shows quite the opposite:

Hacker Icon

Another issue to consider is that companies of every size store data that shouldn’t become public, or fall into a hacker’s hands. Whether it’s confidential customer information or trade secrets, there’s a hacker out there who would be interested.

You need to protect your network and your servers, but you also need to protect local PCs, mobile phones and other devices that access your network. Any device that connects to your network is a potential doorway for hackers to breach your systems.

It’s Just an IT Problem

It’s true that your IT department has the technical knowledge needed to implement security strategies. However, the users of your IT systems present the biggest internal threat – one that IT can’t control.

The problem isn’t an employee planning to steal sensitive information. The biggest threat the users present is an innocent action that has unintended consequences. For example, ransomware attacks usually start with a malicious email sent to one of your employees with a file attached.

Hackers are becoming very creative in making an email look like it’s coming from a reasonable source, and that its attachment contains an order, invoice, or some other important document. When the employee opens the attachment, they realize that it’s not real. By then, it’s far too late.

Did you know?

Training employees on cybersecurity, and educating them in how to spot a suspicious email is critical. It’s also important to have senior management support to make cybersecurity awareness part of the company’s culture.

Furthermore, the impact of a security breach takes it out of the realm of a technical problem. The financial damage makes the potential of a security breach a problem that the most senior management in the company needs to address.

Addressing Cybersecurity is Just Too Expensive

Every company faces the challenge to encourage growth as they allocate funds internally. However, if funds become limited, cybersecurity may fall down the list of priorities. This big mistake is often the result of a mindset that considers cybersecurity spending to be something a company should do after funding all other “important” programs – programs that are considered critical for success.

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Helpful: A Guide for Crafting a Small Business Data Backup Strategy

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It’s easy to dispel this myth by looking at the impact of a cybersecurity attack. As stated earlier, SMBs have a 50/50 chance that a hacker will attack. Besides that, the financial burden that follows a successful attack can cripple or put your company out of business. In light of those facts, funding cybersecurity projects will always be the most cost effective approach.

I Don’t Need Anything Else Because I Have Great Security

This may be the biggest cybersecurity myth of all.

In fact, 35% of SMEs believe that they don’t need to fund cybersecurity because they have great security. That may be true in the moment, but consider that hackers are creating new ways to breach your security every day.

Establishing an active and ongoing cybersecurity strategy is the only way to do everything possible to protect your systems.

Cybersecurity Myths, Dispelled

The importance of addressing cybersecurity isn’t a trend that will fade away over time. If anything, it will become more important to the future of your company as time goes on.

If you have questions about the effectiveness of your cybersecurity strategy, you don’t want to wait until you’re faced with a breach. We can help you evaluate and update your security systems. Contact us today for more information.

Data Backup and Security Best Practices

Thanks to automation and convenience, data breaches are becoming more prevalent.

Hackers are becoming savvier by using tools to infiltrate entire infrastructures. They’re exploiting cryptocurrency to circumvent identification. And, of course, they’re targeting ransomware attacks to procure funds with some added social engineering to divulge vital information from unsuspecting employees.

In other words, there’s a lot of different ways they want to get to your data.

These efforts often lead to costly data breaches, which cost U.S. businesses an average of $7.91 million in 2018. Without protected data backups, you can risk losing trade secrets and risk exposing sensitive and private customer data, such as Social Security numbers and addresses.

It’s vital to have data backup as part of your security strategy. Luckily, there are several ways to keep your data secure.

Here’s how you can get it done.

1. Have an Actual Plan

Having a data backup plan is the essential first step to ensuring the security of your data. You must develop a data backup plan that takes into account each step of the recovery process.

It should include a variety of elements, including:

  • The full process of how your data backups work (cloud-based, offsite, etc)
  • The plan for recovery from the backup site to your systems
  • The timeframe for getting your systems back up and running

Without a data backup plan, you’re putting your company at financial risk. Remember – planning for the worst is a whole lot easier to do before the disasters strike. Otherwise, you’ll be struggling to put pieces together from a broken infrastructure.

Related: Disaster Recovery Planning vs. Business Continuity Plans

2. Test and Audit the Data Backup Plan

Your data backup plan needs to be tested and audited so that you can quickly identify any vulnerabilities within it. With proper testing, you can ensure that your systems do not overlook critical updates and patches that hackers can easily exploit.

After all, there’s no better way to see how it works than to actually test the plan.

You should also audit your data backup strategy to ensure it’s up-to-date with the latest technology and best practices. In practice, this include reviewing user permissions, ensuring you’ve enabled multi-factor authentication, double-checking the proper encryption on your data backups, etc.

Related: The Critical Elements of an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan

By taking the time to test and audit your data back and security practices, you can reduce the chances of a data breach happening. And, if one does, you can boost your recovery speed dramatically.

3. Look to the Cloud

With any data breach, you’re bound to experience data loss.

That’s why it’s crucial to take advantage of cloud backup storage services. With cloud backup storage, you can easily access your data from secure remote servers that hackers will have a hard time accessing.

Related: 3 Data Loss Horror Stories

In the event of a disaster, cloud backup data also becomes crucial for providing access to your data. There are several options for cloud backup services, so ensure you choose services that align with your data backup strategy and recovery plans. You can also leverage the help of experts in data backup recovery to ensure that you’re using the best cloud backup services.

4. Prepare Your Team

From spear phishing to social engineering, hackers come up with several different techniques to infiltrate IT infrastructures. That’s why part of preventing data loss calls for ample staff education practices.

You should facilitate security best practices training and include it as a part of your data backup strategy. Though not strictly related to backup and recovery, the proper training in place allows your team to better identify vulnerabilities and plots by hackers to procure vital information.

With a security-minded team at the helm of your data, you can significantly reduce incidents that put your business in jeopardy.

Here’s Some Helpful Content: A Guide for Crafting a Small Business Data Backup Strategy

9 Things You Can Do to Outsmart Ransomware Attacks

It won’t matter if you consider your company an unlikely target for ransomware attacks. If just one ransomware attack hits your network, it will still cripple your business.

Take the time now to prepare for and take precautions against ransomware attacks.

1. Create a Device Inventory

You need to have an up to date inventory of all devices on your network, and you need to monitor those devices on a regular basis. The list should include all security devices, access points and network devices to ensure that you are tracking every possible place a cybercriminal could access your network.

2. Automate Software Updates

All of your endpoints need the latest software to thwart exploits to the greatest extent possible. Automating software updates and patches is the best way to keep everything current. Your updated device inventory will help you to ensure that all of your endpoints are covered.

3. Segment Your Network

You need to minimize the impact if you do get hit with a ransomware attack. Segmenting your network is one way to close some doors that an attacker would otherwise use to travel throughout your network.

Once you have identified the flows through your network, you can plan segmentation to minimize the number of traffic flows that need to cross segment boundaries.

4. Keep the Network Clean

Develop a policy controlling the devices that anyone adds to the network. Check all devices to ensure that they meet basic security requirements, and will allow you to actively scan for unpatched or infected devices and data flow.

5. Use Access and Application Controls

Controlling access can include limiting admin accounts, and limiting users to only the access they need. For example, if a user only needs read access, don’t allow write access.

From an application standpoint, implement controls that prevent an application from executing from a known ransomware location such as temporary folders related to internet browsers.

6. Create a Dynamic Disaster Recovery Plan

It may be virtually impossible to put enough controls in place to stop any cybercriminal. They change their tactics often and get smarter every time. The best defense is to have a disaster recovery plan that allows you to ignore the demands for ransom and get your systems back up and running quickly.

7. Establish Off-Network Backups

Ransomware attackers count on the fact that you’ll be desperate to get your data back, and will quickly pay the ransom. You can avoid that situation by creating an off-network backup for at least critical systems. Restoring your systems as quickly as possible will definitely frustrate the cybercriminals.

Related: The 3-2-1 Backup Rule: Why It’s Important

8. Get Management Support

The fight against ransomware attacks requires the support of management. Senior executives need to make cybersecurity a priority and communicate that company-wide. In addition, a comprehensive approach to stopping attacks will require the financial support that only a dedicated senior management staff can provide.

9. Train the Staff

Many cyberattacks start from a phishing email that lets an unsuspecting employee introduce a threat. Another common source is the surfing employees do on the internet. That’s where they can inadvertently visit a website or download something that introduces a threat.

Train employees on how to identify and avoid suspect emails. Besides that, educate them about the purpose for their browser identifying suspect websites and the importance of taking the warnings seriously.

Your Organization’s Next Steps

You may find other actions you can take to avoid ransomware attacks. However, if you haven’t addressed the issues listed above, you’re particularly vulnerable.

If you want to get started on making your system more capable of frustrating ransomware attacks, contact us to learn how we can make your organization ransomware-proof.

Include These Key Steps and Elements to Create a Solid Cybersecurity Strategy

Being aware of the most recent cybersecurity trends is imperative when planning for the future. It’s especially true when you take into account the more than 7 in 10 U.S. organizations that were impacted by a data breach over the past few years.

The majority of those affected are small-to-medium sized businesses.

Understanding the associated threats is the first step towards the development of a solid cybersecurity strategy. This will allow you to take a proactive approach, creating a reliable security plan before any issues arise.

SMBs Face Significant Cybersecurity Threats

In the headlines, you often hear of security breaches in regards to large corporations.

Naturally, they’re significant enough – they involve the personal information of thousands (if not millions) of customers. Still, you seldom hear about the more common victims — those who own or operate small businesses.

It makes sense, as from a hacker’s point-of-view. A small business will have more digital assets than a random individual, and they also have fewer security protocols in comparison to larger organizations.

They’re the unfortunate perfect target for these cybercriminals. But all hope is not lost.

In addition to working with a professionally managed service provider, you must be aware of best practices for your business. Start with the basics and continue to invest in vulnerable areas, focusing on firewalls, two-step authentication, data backup solutions, encryption software, etc.

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Related: 8 Business Benefits of Having Managed Services

The Elements in Your Cybersecurity Strategy

When it comes to the current and future success of your business, cybersecurity is a serious issue — and the stakes are higher than ever before. If you are ready to get serious about cybersecurity, be mindful of the following elements and recommended steps.

Step 1: Get (and Stay) Informed

When it comes to a solid cybersecurity strategy, there is one element you need to be aware of — human error. The human component can significantly weaken your level of security, especially if training is not a key priority.

Within your company, you should assign the role of Chief Information Security Officer. This individual (or team of individuals) will have authority and funding to ensure the protection of company data and the IT infrastructure. Although there should be levels of hierarchy, you should provide training for each person within the organization.

From spotting phishing emails to avoiding possible malware attacks, remember that knowledge is power. The key here is due diligence and overall awareness. In addition, if a breach does occur, team members should already know how to respond.

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Tip: Be sure to hold regular meetings and training sessions in regards to software updates, data backup plans, and overall security measures. When you create a culture of cybersecurity in the workplace, you will be able to implement a more effective, proactive strategy.

Step 2: Create and Implement Your Strategy

In order to create a solid cybersecurity strategy, you need to first be mindful of vulnerabilities.

For example, what threats do you currently face in relation to network security? How can you perform your due diligence in regards to cloud security or application security? Do I have the right hardware and software in place to adequately defend my data?

These are the types of questions you must ask yourself.

These elements will coincide with your disaster recovery plan, which you can read all about here. To ensure best practices, depending on your industry, you can rely on some of the latest industry standards, including ISO/IEC 27001 and HIPAA.

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Tip: It is important that you customize your cybersecurity strategy based on the specific threats and vulnerabilities your company faces. In the latest framework, presented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, you may view key areas to consider (in addition to suggested guidelines).

Step 3: Monitor and Test Your Infrastructure

Creating a cybersecurity strategy is only half the battle. In order to ensure that it’s solid, you must monitor its activity and perform regular tests to ensure that it works. While monitoring your IT infrastructure, be sure to generate incident reports that showcase unusual activity.

By building a threat intelligence base, you will gain greater insight and improve your ongoing strategy. Remember, as technology continues to evolve, new threats will likely surface. Your cybersecurity strategy will need to adapt to these changes, improving overall risk management.

In addition, you must implement a comprehensive response plan — just in case a breach does occur. Once you have developed your disaster plan, you should run a drill to better understand and/or refine your current procedures.

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Tip: If you discover a potential risk, it is important that you have a response checklist prepared. For example, you should record the date and time that the potential breach was discovered, before re-securing the equipment or systems in question. To ensure that no data is lost, always follow the 3-2-1 backup rule prior to any problematic incidents.

AppSolute Protects SMBs Around the Clock

As Neil Rerup, famed cybersecurity architect, once said, “True cybersecurity is preparing for what’s next, not what was last.”

At the end of the day, everyone is at risk when it comes to cybersecurity. As an SMB, it’s imperative that you take action before a problem arises, as a data breach could potentially put you out of business.

If you have any questions regarding your company’s security needs, please contact us today. We can work to protect your data and your clients with next-gen solutions and experience technicians.

Disaster Recovery Planning vs. Business Continuity Plans

Many businesses use the terms ‘disaster recovery plan’ and ‘business continuity plan’ interchangeably. Although both critical components following a disaster, they are independent of one another.

That means that if you have a disaster recovery plan but have failed to complete a business continuity plan (and vice versa), here’s what you need to know.

The Difference Between a Disaster Recovery Plan and a Business Continuity Plan

When a major disaster strikes, more than 40% of all businesses will never recover — and for those who do, only 29% are still operating two years later.

Taking a proactive approach will help ensure that your business not only survives a disaster but is still able to thrive. If you have not taken any action in terms of disaster planning, here’s what you need to know about the following plans (and what they mean for your business).

  • Business continuity plan — If a disaster were to strike, would you be able to continue operating your business? If not, you are significantly reducing your chances of survival. This plan will allow you to re-establish and continue services. That way, you can become fully functional in the shortest amount of time possible. Within this plan, you must think about the most critical operations and processes within your organization. That includes your dependence on equipment, personnel, servers, software, finances, etc.
  • Disaster recovery plan — This will be included within your business continuity plan but should be treated as its own separate entity. Your disaster recovery plan is essentially a subset of your business continuity plan. Disaster recovery is typically more technical, as it mostly focuses on the impact of lost IT services. When developing this plan, you should be aware of the 3-2-1 backup rule.

Bottom line: Your disaster recovery plan is more data-centric. It will allow you to restore and recover lost data following a disaster. In comparison, your business continuity plan is more business-centric. It includes strategies that will minimize downtime following a disaster based on core business operations.

Although different, both plans share the same goal in that they help sustain business operations.

Related: 3 Data Loss Horror Stories

Make Data Protection a Top Priority

As you can imagine, if you developed a business continuity plan but not a disaster recovery plan, it would be challenging to continue operations. Once you lose your data, your company essentially loses its most important asset. This means that it’s not a matter of developing one or the other — but rather how you balance both plans.

Of course, each organization is unique, so you will need to focus on your company’s specific needs. Many small-to-medium businesses benefit from outsourcing these processes, as a third-party can simplify both of these plans. Managed services can also be much more affordable in the long run — especially in terms of productivity.

Related: 5 Signs That It’s Time to Partner with a Managed Service Provider

Also, please be mindful that a disaster recovery plan goes far beyond copying your data. When developing this plan, you will need to outline how often you implement your backups, where you store your copied data, and anything else surrounding data recovery.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity with AppSolute

The takeaway here is that although closely related and in many ways reliant on one another, your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan are not the same. Now is the time to ensure that both of these plans are up-to-date and that your team has been strategically involved.

With the evolution of cloud-based services, companies of all sizes can now easily afford to implement these plans. Don’t wait until disaster hits to develop critical strategies — contact us today to learn more!

The 3-2-1 Backup Rule: Why It’s Important

Your company’s data is one of your greatest assets. However, many businesses do not implement the required tools and systems until a situation occurs. At this point, it may be too late. That is why proactive measures are imperative.

For those currently seeking a backup and recovery solution, the 3-2-1 rule is a concept you should be mindful of. Acting as the best practice for data backup and recovery, it’s important to get into the habit of utilizing this highly effective strategy.

What Is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule?

When broken down, this proactive strategy is rather simple.

The “3-2-1 backup rule” means that you should:

  • Always keep three files of your data, including the original copy in addition to a minimum of two backups (two locally, which will be stored on different devices; as well as one offsite).
  • In relation to data backup, be sure to store your data on two separate storage types.
  • An on-site disaster could quickly wipe locally stored information — even if the data was stored on two separate devices. This is why you must also backup your data to an offsite location.

So, you should essentially store three backups, two locally and one remotely — hence the “3-2-1 rule.” No matter happens, this means that you’ll have a copy of your data.

Why Is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule Relevant?

According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies who lost their data center for 10+ days due to a disaster situation filed for bankruptcy within one year of the initial occurrence (50% filed immediately).

From disaster situations to system failures, security breaches to accidental deletion, there are many causes of data loss. In fact, it’s reported that approximately 70% of all businesses have experienced (or will experience) data loss.

For this reason, the statement, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is incredibly relevant. By implementing the 3-2-1 rule, you can effectively implement preventative measures to avoid future data loss. As discussed, this could be the deciding factor between a company’s failure or long-term success.

How Your Business Can Implement the 3-2-1 Backup Rule Today

To begin, you must first create a backup and recovery plan. In doing so, you’ll not only develop beneficial systems but will also become more mindful of any weak spots within your company’s current security mechanisms and data storage systems.

Could hackers easily get into your systems?

Perhaps you have yet to address your virus-protection programs?

All of these are important to consider moving forward.

In terms of the 3-2-1 rule, this three-step strategy should become an immediate priority.

  • Step 1 – Create a minimum of three copies. Your first copy will be your primary source of data (stored on your internal hard drive), followed by two copies stored on two independent devices.
  • Step 2 – Physically store your two backup copies in two different media sources. For example, you should store your first copy on an external hard drive. The second copy should be stored on another device, such as an SD card or USB drive. You can also store two copies on internal hard drives, as long they’re stored in separate locations.
  • Step 3 – Always create an offsite backup. If your company doesn’t have another branch office, storing to the cloud is an ideal choice. To transfer your backup data offsite much more rapidly, built-in WAN acceleration may be of interest to your company.

Starting today, it’s important to view your data as investment capital. By implementing the 3-2-1 rule, you can gain peace-of-mind while preventing a potentially disastrous situation — the type that could potentially put you out of business.

Stephen Covey said it best, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

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