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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.

What are the 5 most compelling reasons for managed IT services?

What is it about managed IT services that make them so appealing to businesses?

For starters, they allow businesses to shed the tedious (and challenging) task of managing technology and put it in the hands of experts. Many companies are already working with a “reactive” IT provider to some degree – that is, someone who been coming in to fix things only after they’ve broken.

But managed IT services changes the break/fix dynamic by putting proactive care of technology first.

It’s a win-win for both customers and IT service providers alike. IT service providers get to build partnerships that help them grow and sustain their business. Similarly, business owners get to unlock multiple benefits that they’d otherwise never get.

Let’s take a look at 5 of those benefits.

1. Reduced costs

Here’s a core business truth – broken technology quickly racks up a hefty bill. Managed services give you access to a team of IT experts whenever you need them for a flat monthly rate. The costs are far less than an in-house team with similar experience or a break-fix provider that charges by the hour.

2. Improved security

It’s not always about keeping things operational. Managed service providers also take great care to keep both your hardware and your software secure from dangerous cyberthreats that could cost you dearly.

The average cost of a single cyberattack sits around $5 million, with $1.25 million – a quarter of the total – attributed to system downtime and another $1.5 million (30%) to IT and end-user productivity loss.

3. Expedited growth

Partnering with a managed service provider gives you access to tools that enable better growth and scalability. Having a technology partner that understands your business lets you gain a CIO that can roadmap and plan your technology to support your growth with ample documentation along the way.

Helpful: 5 Server Maintenance Tips and Tricks to Better Support Your Business

4. Expert collaboration

Many organizations assume that outsourced IT providers “take over” everything IT. In reality, that’s not always the case. Managed services agreements are built to customize offerings to the unique needs of each company.

“Co-managed IT services can provide businesses with a broad range of experience and deep bench of experts beyond that of the existing in-house staff.” – The Business Journals

Of course, while that can mean taking over every aspect of IT, it can also mean working with an established in-house team to complete projects and upgrades together.

5. Functional technology

There’s little worse than subjecting your staff to the tortures of working with old and outdated hardware. Managed service partners ensure that your office is using technology that fits within your budget … while being conducive to a productive and functional environment … and not one that incites rage.

Related: Common Technology Problems Solved By an MSP

Finding the right IT partner

Locating the right partner doesn’t have to be hard. It’s simply a matter of talking to a managed service provider and seeing how they can help you run your business better.

Of course, before you go seeking all the IT people in the Tri-State Area, you could always give us a shot. We can help you turn your technology into a powerful asset for your business growth.

Looking for more to read? Check out the 6 IT Best Practices for Your Business.

An Introduction to the Management Suites of Acumatica

Technology provider Acumatica offers a flexible platform that can adapt for various small and medium-sized businesses. If your business is in manufacturing, distribution, service or even a technology startup, the news gets even better ─ Acumatica has programs specifically for your enterprise resource planning needs.

Since it’s been integrated from the start, it works seamlessly with your current systems. In fact, Acumatica serves up so many benefits that its offerings may seem overwhelming to some. Fortunately, this chart may give your business a good idea of what’s available to companies of varying sizes. 

Who is Acumatica for?

Virtually any type of business, small to large mid-size, can use Acumatica once it has outgrown basic accounting needs. From the Cloud ERP Small Business Edition, usually for the smallest clients, to the Cloud ERP Enterprise Edition, for larger companies, each has the business process monitoring and automation along with advanced financial management you need. Optional add-ons include advanced inventory management, order management, customer relationship management, and fixed assets.

  • Start with just the basics and add the optional modules when your business needs them
  • Offers dashboards and up-to-date data
  • Full mobility for smartphones and other devices
  • Coverage of full-function accounting, including purchase order processing, cash management and inventory management
  • Customer relationship management module offered

No matter how much or how fast you grow, Acumatica has an ERP package for every stage or your business growth plan. Acumatica offers multi-company, multilingual and multicurrency support for retail, field service, project accounting, manufacturing, distribution and tech startups.

Pricing based on resource consumption

Cost savings

Rather unusually, Acumatica doesn’t charge license fees based on per-seat figures (the number of users who can access the product). Instead, it bills on the number of resources your business consumes. That means small business conducting a moderate number of transactions should expect to pay less than a larger company conducting more transactions. 

You can also get a private cloud for a subscription billed monthly. Alternatively, you have the option to purchase a perpetual license. Acumatica provides multiple pricing tiers so you can choose what works best for you.

For sure, it’s a different way to do pricing but can be really welcome for growing businesses, seasonal companies or companies that have a constantly shrinking or growing user base.

Focus on manufacturing, distribution and service

Acumatica’s products do have a focus on manufacturing, distribution and service operations ─ for example, supporting lot and serial numbering as well as bill of materials and routing functions. However, if you’re not in these industries, Acumatica can still be extremely effective and user-friendly. You may need more third-party add-ons, but Acumatica will still get the job done well.

On its website, you can hear success stories from companies in diverse industries like farming, healthcare, e-commerce, hospitality and software.

Whatever your goals for ERP success, Acumatica stands out for several notable reasons, including ease of scalability, customized solutions for many industries and pay-what-you-use pricing.

Talk to your managed IT services provider about possibly adding Acumatica as another weapon in your business’s toolkit ─ especially if you’re looking to enhance your marketing operations or to improve enterprise resource management.

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

Server

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!