No business owner expects their company to face a major crisis. They’re optimistic that their company can overcome any problem. But when disaster strikes, your company needs more than just optimism. You need to be ready with a business continuity plan.
If you don’t already have a plan in place, here’s why you need one and what it should include.
What is Business Continuity Planning?
A business continuity plan is an outline detailing the procedures and instructions a company needs to follow to get up and running after a disaster. These disasters may come in many forms, such as your office building catching fire, a natural disaster (flooding, hurricane or tornado) or a cybersecurity attack.
Business continuity plans are different from disaster recovery plans, which tend to focus solely on recovering the company’s IT system following a crisis. Business continuity plans contain outlines and contingencies for all aspects of your business, such as business processes, assets, human resources, etc.
Why Do You Need a Business Continuity Plan?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom-and-pop business or a large corporation, you have no time for downtime. Not having a plan can be financially devastating. For example, IT downtime costs a company an average of $5,600 per minute, according to Gartner. When you have a business continuity plan in place, the key stakeholders know what they need to do to get your company running with minimal downtime.
What’s in a Business Continuity Plan?
Now that you understand why business continuity planning is vital, where do you begin? According to Ready, developing a business continuity plan includes four steps: the business impact analysis, recovery, plan development and testing. Here’s what you need to know for each step:
- Business Impact Analysis — The first step is identifying the effects of a disruption of business. This is also the time to determine which business functions take priority and the resources needed to get the company running again. FEMA provides a Business Impact Analysis Worksheet for free.
- Recovery — After completing the business impact analysis, and addressing any potential plan gaps, it’s time to develop recovery strategies. Recovery strategies are alternate means to return business operations to minimum levels. For example, this may mean developing a plan to operate out of a secondary facility, having the staff work remotely or using third-party contractors to keep production moving.
- Plan Development — The next step is to assemble a continuity team. This team will create the framework of the continuity plan and implement it during the crisis.
- Training — Once the plan is in place, the continuity team needs to test it. This means training the staff, so they know their roles during the crisis. During testing, you’ll be able to uncover any gaps and update the plan accordingly.
How We Can Help
Now that you understand what you need in a business continuity plan, are you able to create one? If you have no idea where to begin, let us help. We understand that small to medium-sized businesses don’t have the time, manpower or experience developing plans. That’s why we work with you and your staff to make this process painless and help your team understand their roles in the event of a disaster.
Contact us today to get started.
Let’s face it; accidents happen. If it can go wrong, it might. That is why every business, from the mom-and-pop shop around the corner to the Fortune 500 company in the downtown high-rise, needs a backup and disaster recovery plan.
According to Forbes, one in three businesses is unprepared for a disaster because their plan is outdated, or they don’t have one in place. Of those that don’t have a proper plan, 90 percent of businesses fail following a disaster, reports FEMA. With that in mind, here are four disasters that can derail your business, and how you can prevent that from happening:
Over the last year, we’ve seen companies across the U.S. receive the brunt of nasty natural disasters. Some notable natural disasters included wildfires in California, hurricanes along the Atlantic coast and flooding in the Carolinas. Businesses in those areas were devastated, with buildings and equipment damaged or destroyed.
Building & Hardware Failures
As the temperature outside rises, so do the number of building fires. Summertime is a peak time for commercial structure fires as the summer heat, overworked air conditioning units and lightning strikes increase the risk of fires.
In addition to the risk of your building going up in smoke, there is also the chance that your hardware may fail. Hardware failure is the #1 cause of data loss, contributing to 45 percent of all unplanned downtime, according to Dynamic Technologies.
Cyber Attacks & Data Breaches
Hackers and cybercriminals are starting to view small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as prime targets as many continue going digital. According to Verizon’s “2019 Data Breach Investigations Report,” 43 percent of breaches involved small businesses. Here are some of the ways cybercriminals attack:
Malware — malicious software such as spyware, viruses and ransomware. Once in your computer, the malware can block access to your computer, covertly transmit data or destroy the system from the inside.
Phishing — the act of sending fraudulent communications such as emails or attachments which grant hacker the ability to access your sensitive data.
Exploiting Outdated Software — Hackers taking advantage of weaknesses in older versions of computer programs. There was a patch available for Windows computers months before the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack, but the people affected put off downloading the update, according to CSO.
Unfortunately, if there is going to be a data disaster, we — the user — will most likely be the cause. Roughly 90 percent of cybersecurity issues are the result of human behavior, according to Chief Executive. These behaviors can include clicking on suspicious links, not downloading software patches and updates, accidentally deleting important files, or a disgruntled employee abusing privileges.
How We Can Help
For SMBs, it’s not a matter of “if” you’ll be affected by hardware failure, a data breach or some natural disaster — it’s a matter of “when.” With on-site and off-site servers, automated cloud backups and enhanced security features, your business won’t miss a beat when the worst happens.
Let us help by designing a backup and disaster recovery plan customized for your business. Contact us to get started.
A great business leader knows they have to play by the rules before they can change the game. This is why being well-versed in compliance is so imperative. Compliance has become the new house rules for how businesses conduct themselves on the board. To ensure all of your pieces stay in play, here are the compliance regulations you should know.
GDPR: Playing by the EU’s House Rules
The European Union rolled doubles on protecting the information of its citizens with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While you and your business may reside stateside, any entity that processes and stores the personal data of EU citizens must follow this compliance.
These guidelines must be followed unless otherwise consented by individual citizens. Visitors retain the right to withdraw their information at any time and companies must respect the individual’s right to be forgotten. Essentially, an EU citizen will allow some of your house rules until they want to change up the game, then you must respect their decision – no rage-flipping the board.
You can successfully conduct business in European markets with a qualified technology partner as your chance card to help you understand the transition to GDPR compliance. They ensure that you are properly meeting regulatory compliance and help you avoid fines of four percent of your global annual turnover or up to $22.4m (whichever is larger).
PCI DSS: A Safe Strategy
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance creates an additional level of protection for credit, debit and cash card transactions. It guarantees that your customers’ card information is kept safe when it’s stored, processed and transmitted.
A great technology partner can make all the difference in your regulatory status by building a secure network and maintaining crucial systems throughout the year. You’ll be able to avoid risky noncompliance fines and ensure you stay in the game.
Got any, SOX?
In the legendary and hallowed battle of wits known as Go Fish, strict penalties fall upon the deceitful when they are caught lying about not having a certain card. This is similar to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).
SOX maintains a level of transparency among entities that publicly trade within the US. It holds company officers responsible for accurate reporting and requires a number of auditing measures to show how much capital a company has, as well as where it is being spent.
With intuitive IT services, you will keep the faith of investors, remain transparent and discover the streamlining benefits that SOX can provide. Not to mention, you’ll avoid hefty fines and jailtime so you can pass go and collect your profit.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects the storage of an individual’s medical records. Like the Operation board holding various ailments, companies known as Business Associates (BA) hold the medical, insurance, and payment records of individuals. Your company is considered a BA if it creates, receives, maintains or transmits protected health information and compliance pertains not only to the primary data handlers, but also their subcontractors.
To safeguard this information from top to bottom, a technology partner becomes the red light and buzzer on the patient’s nose, a safeguard against anyone trying to remove the “water on the knee” of information from your client’s records. Working with tech services provide the necessary solutions so you and your partners transmit data securely.
Consider Us Your Game’s Master
Partnering with a managed services provider is the easiest way to ensure you’re meeting and exceeding compliance standards. Contact us today to be your guide in the IT business game, and we’ll help you become a seasoned player.
Improving the way your team works together is one of the easiest ways to increase ROI and improve output. The McKinsey Institute found that teams improved productivity up to 25 percent through increased collaboration. That’s why the cloud provides hundreds of tools and applications designed to enhance communications and connections.
Cloud-based collaboration tools are ideal for teams that work on the go or remotely, allowing users to work on the same documents in almost real-time and stay connected through video and other chat forms. Whether you’re looking to improve the way your team communicates or need to eliminate wait times between versions of a project, there is a cloud-based solution that can help.
Not sure where to start? Here are three to consider, based on widespread adoption by businesses like yours.
Microsoft Office 365
Pros: Office 365 gives your team full access to Microsoft’s most powerful collaboration tools from any desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device – making remote teams as productive and connected as their on-premises counterparts. Error-proofing tools even allow you to revert documents to previous versions.
Cons: Because Office 365 can be accessed from any endpoint, your risk of breaches increases. Most team members use personal devices outside of work to access confidential files, and these devices aren’t always protected by the same security as your company-issued laptops or desktops. With a multi-layered solution from a reliable partner, you can ensure your endpoints are protected and eliminate any risk of breaches.
Pros: Slack provides an enriched environment for real-time communications. Set up channels based on teams, departments or projects. Using different Slack channels, you can discuss open tasks, create strategies, get feedback from clients and deliberate more quickly than an email conversation.
Cons: Slack is a great tool when used appropriately, but the platform becomes a security risk when abused. Anyone with admin access can create new channels and take away access from other admins. Usually, this poses no threat, but when a disgruntled employee feels provoked, they could remove admin privileges and start a channel consisting of all your clients. By keeping admin access restricted and putting in fail-safes you can keep your risks at an all-time low.
Pros: Cisco provides crystal-clear quality and uninterrupted streaming with their Webex video chatting service. Converse with teammates and clients around the world and leverage presentation features to keep the entire audience engaged and informed. Eliminate the majority of communication barriers with video feeds that show reactions and nonverbal cues.
Cons: While Webex has a variety of powerful features, those aspects come with a higher price than some competitors. To leverage unlimited cloud recording storage and other benefits, you’ll have to pay more than what comes out-of-the-box. If you’re on a strict budget, you’ll need to pay attention to what features you will and won’t use.
Cloud-based collaboration tools help improve productivity and increase ROI, but you have to find which solution works best for your business. Whether the right solutions for you include Office 365, Webex or something else, we keep your business safe with multi-layered security solutions and proactive support.
For more information on cloud-based collaboration tools and how we can help you improve your productivity and ROI, contact us today.
When shopping for holiday gifts on behalf of your business, keep in mind that tech gifts are always appreciated. Finding tech gifts that recipients will appreciate that are also in your price range can be a challenge, so we’ve put together a menu of hot tech gifts for 2018 in a variety of price ranges for you.
Less than $10
NUBWO Portable Bluetooth Speakers with HD Audio and Enhanced Bass
This handy speaker is not only small (3.8×3.8×3 inches) and light (8 ounces), it also connects with most Bluetooth audio devices in three seconds and provides room-filling sound. It can be used to make hands-free calls from smartphones, tablets and more.
Less than $50
Blue is the hottest name in microphones today. Whether used for recording, streaming, Skype, Twitch, conference calls or any other way a computer microphone can be used, whoever you give a Blue microphone to will be heard loud and clear.
Less than $100
Ring WiFi Smart Video Doorbell
The Ring video doorbell is a tech gift that lets the home resident get up-close-and-personal with whoever rings their doorbell – even if they are on the other side of the country. The doorbell is connected via WiFi, which enables use of the Ring app on iOS and Android.
Less than $150
Beats by Dre Solo2 Luxe Edition Wireless Headphones
Solo2 headphones look like a sports car, feel like they were made for whoever is wearing them and sound totally awesome. Includes HD audio and enhanced bass. Plus, depending on the device you use, the RemoteTalk cable lets the user change songs, adjust volume and make calls without getting up.
Less than $300
4K UHD TV
You can spend $3,000 or more for a Smart 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV with High Dynamic Range (HDR), but you can also find a selection for less than $300. 4K UHD TV with HDR is the new standard for Smart TV because the picture has double the pixels in each direction and looks incredible.
Less than $400
Apple Watch Series 4
Perfect for the Apple enthusiast, the Apple Watch Series 4 is bigger, better and more affordable than its predecessor, and one of the hottest gifts available. Displays are 30 percent larger. Sound is 50 percent louder. There’s a built-in GPS as well as potentially life-saving electrical and optical heart sensors. It’s also a true marker of success.
Less than $1,000
HP Spectre X360 Laptop
For the PC user who admires everything about a MacBook Pro (except that it’s a Mac), the HP Spectre X360 is the perfect gift. At 2.78 lb. with a full HD screen (or higher resolution), the Spectre X360 runs Windows 10 and is a business computing powerhouse.
Every item on this list is a business-appropriate gift the recipient will use and enjoy. Holiday gifts let people know they are appreciated and help solidify business relationships. Of course, you’ll want to remember the people who do the work in your organization.
And what about the organization itself? An IT infrastructure that works the way it’s supposed to and drives growth by maximizing productivity is about the best gift you can give your organization. Contact us today to discuss how much more your technology could be doing for your organization.
Taxes can overwhelm the best of us – but if you’re the owner of a small or medium-sized business, Section 179 is well worth the extra effort this tax season. If you’ve put off looking into this bottom-line-boosting provision, let us break it down:
What is the Section 179 tax deduction?
Instead of gradually depreciating technology over several years, Section 179 allows you to deduct the full price of any qualifying equipment or software purchased or leased during the year. It’s meant to encourage businesses to stay competitive by purchasing the equipment they need while benefiting their bottom line. Depreciating assets in the first year also helps reduce overall profit, which is the figure that ultimately determines your tax payment.
Will it benefit me?
No matter your industry or the size of your business, you rely heavily on technology to service your customers, make your job easier and capture your share of the market. Section 179 allows you to upgrade to the newest technologies without the blow of a huge upfront cost. Even businesses with a net loss are qualified to deduct some of the cost of new equipment and carry forward the loss.
- Purchased, financed or leased business equipment
- Computers and “off-the-shelf” software (productive, anti-virus, administrative, etc.)
- Office equipment and machinery (e.g. servers and printers, routers, network switches, network security appliances)
- Commercial use vehicles
- Improvements to nonresidential property
What do I need to do?
- Purchase, finance or lease equipment and put it into use by midnight on Dec. 31, 2018
- Use it for business purposes more than 50% of the time
- Consult with your accountant to determine your eligibility
What are my limits?
- $1M – Maximum total amount you can write off in 2018
- $2.5M – Maximum total amount of equipment purchased in 2018 eligible for full deduction
How can I take advantage of the Section 179 deduction?
- Simply make the purchase and use Form 4562 to claim your deduction
- The full deduction can be claimed until you’ve reached $2.5M in equipment or software purchases
- Past the $2.5M point, the deduction decreases on a dollar for dollar basis and disappears once $3.5M worth of equipment is purchased
Stop making excuses not to invest in yourself and get a powerful edge over your competition by taking advantage of Section 179. Not sure where to start? Contact us today to talk about upgrading your technology infrastructure.
If you have plans to expand your business, your technology needs to scale with you and support your growth. But, your IT team is too busy with day-to-day tasks to perform comprehensive assessments, research the newest tech innovations and create a strategic roadmap for the future. Hiring a costly executive to oversee your IT might be out of the question, but you’re not out of options. Enter a virtual CIO, or vCIO – an expert or team of experts focused on managing your high-level IT needs, for a fraction of the cost of an in-house CIO.
Here are four reasons your business needs a vCIO to succeed:
Creating a Plan for the Future
Your IT might be keeping pace with your needs today – but, without a strategic plan for growth, the technology underpinning your business gives you headaches or fails altogether. A vCIO assesses your current technology infrastructure and consults with you about your business goals to develop a detailed roadmap for the future. This ensures that your hardware, software, applications and other technology solutions align with your needs, and that you’re not wasting time and money on technology that won’t bring you closer to your goals.
Ensuring Business Continuity
Do you have a backup and disaster recovery plan in place? Do you know where your data is stored and how to access it if your primary systems fail due to a natural disaster, cyber attack or employee error? A vCIO designs a disaster recovery strategy tailored to your business, so you’re protected from every angle. They monitor your network 24/7 for potential disruptions and resolve them before they impact your business. Additionally, a vCIO mitigates the risk of downtime and data loss while updating or migrating systems.
Making Smart Investments
New products and services always sound good – but, how do you know if they’ll actually provide a strong return on investment? Virtual CIOs stay up-to-date on tech innovations and understand which ones will support your business now and into the future. Your vCIO can also help you prepare for aspects of the transition that would otherwise cause unexpected hiccups. Make decisions with confidence, knowing that you’re choosing the best investments for your business.
Meeting Industry Requirements
Whether you’re in healthcare, retail, financial services or another industry, you face a long list of regulations – and failing to comply results in crippling fines. Virtual CIOs develop industry-specific experience, so they can help you meet regulations such as HIPAA and PCI, stay current with standards and protect your customers’ data – and your reputation. They can also make recommendations on the best software programs and applications for your specialized business needs.
Virtual CIOs help you achieve success by adding value to your operations – without the full-time salary, benefits and office space of an in-house CIO. Interested in learning how a vCIO can impact your business? Contact us today to find out.
As technology progresses, we’re finding new ways to keep all of our devices connected for a seamless user experience. This idea is called the Internet of Things (IoT), and it works for more than just computing devices – it also includes mechanical and digital objects.
From microwaves, washing machines and lamps to televisions, projectors and security systems, connecting your technologies is a powerful concept. Gartner predicts that IoT will be a $1.9 trillion industry by 2020. So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this trend to grow your business?
The IoT helps you track behavior in real-time and enhances situational awareness, but what does that actually mean for you? Imagine it’s 6 pm, and you’re cooking dinner while listening to music. You connect your mobile device to your surround-sound television. Your technology keeps track of your activity, and IoT uses that information to analyze what you’re doing, viewing or listening to in real-time. Using that data, you’ll gain a customized experience. You skip a slower song, and your devices react by adjusting algorithms to produce fewer slow-tempo songs. Now, imagine how you can use IoT to enhance your customer’s experience. You can use the data you collected to figure out when their technology needs updated or to identify breaches based on location and trends.
It’s important to note that the more devices connected to the Internet, the more vulnerable your information is to unauthorized users. By connecting your mobile device to your home security system, your business’s Wi-Fi, your email and more, you open up a variety of entry points for hackers and other cyber criminals to access and manipulate your systems. But, even the bad isn’t all bad – a reliable IT partner can keep your endpoints protected by multiple layers of security.
When considering an IoT approach, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What are the goals of my business?
- What is my realistic budget?
- Which solutions make the most sense for my business?
- Should I integrate technology all at once or in stages?
A managed service provider can help you answer these questions while ensuring IoT devices are properly integrated and secured. Integration begins with identifying your needs, determining which solutions work best for your business needs, then deploying those solutions, testing services post-deployment and protecting your endpoints.
Adopting the IoT approach impacts your business significantly. The vast amount of data and services available can shape your daily workflow. For more information on how IoT can affect your business, or to start implementing IoT, contact us today. We’ll help you work through the good, the bad and the integration.
We can look back on 2017 as the worst of times – when it came to disasters, at least. Severe weather, data breaches and global hacking attempts affected thousands of businesses, costing them an estimated $926 to $17,244 for every minute of unplanned downtime. Instead of letting the unthinkable damage your business, fight back with these five strategies:
- Back Up Your Data to the Cloud
Following Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, hundreds of businesses found their physical equipment and servers submerged in water. Storing data on-site is convenient, but an unexpected disaster can wipe away years of information in the blink of an eye. Migrating your data to the cloud means your information is protected and readily available – and you’ll never have to start from scratch.
- Prepare for a Remote Workforce
Even after the Thomas wildfire in California was contained, smoke and poor air conditions made it impossible for many employees to return to their offices. Anything from a severe storm to surprise pest control treatments can force employees out of their workspaces, so have a plan in place that will allow your team to access necessary tools from any Internet-enabled location.
- Monitor for Breaches and Respond Quickly
A massive breach of data from Equifax – one of the three largest credit agencies in the US – lasted from May to July and wasn’t reported publicly until September. The Social Security, credit card and driver’s license numbers of more than 145 million consumers were compromised, and victims rushed to protect themselves against potential identity thieves. Avoid losing your customers’ trust by proactively monitoring for breaches, shutting them down promptly and providing a full inventory of the damage to those affected.
- Don’t Underestimate Human Error
People are unpredictable – that’s why 90 percent of cyber security issues stem from human behavior. Employee negligence is the number one cause of data breaches at small to medium-sized businesses. Comprehensive training can close the gap, but it’s not foolproof. Combine your team’s efforts with strong cyber security policies.
- Update Outdated Software Programs
The WannaCry Ransomware Attack, which resulted in hackers taking control of more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, targeted a weakness in outdated software for which a patch was already available. Hospitals, airlines, police departments and more were brought to a halt, and paying the ransom did not result in the return of data. Update your software regularly to fix vulnerabilities and avoid becoming an easy target for hackers.
Don’t panic. A solid IT disaster recovery plan will protect your business and get you back up and running with minimal – if any – hassle and downtime. Unsure where to start? We learn the ins and outs of your business to develop and implement a customized recovery plan. Contact us today to get started.
We hear a lot about the cloud and cloud computing lately. Some businesses don’t actually know what the cloud is, what it can do for them or where they can even find it – let alone start using it. The cloud isn’t just a passing fad – cloud computing is here to stay and it’s quickly become the best way to future-proof your business.
So what is the cloud, exactly? At its intrinsic level, it’s a collection of computers, servers, and databases that are connected together in a powerful way that users can lease access to share their combined power. Cloud computing is scalable so that buyers can choose to increase or decrease the amount of computing power they need.
Sounds a bit intangible, doesn’t it? Send your company’s precious data up to this “cloud” in the sky, and then what? “Is it worth it?” “Will it help my business grow?” “Is it safe?”
Yes, yes and yes. Major business owners are comfortable enough with cloud computing to future-proof their business, and the impact is global. Media giant Forbes, whose focus is business and IT, has projected that cloud computing will be a $162 billion industry by the year 2020. As it stands now, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is at 19% meaning more and more industries are making the cloud business-critical. Their report also stated that 74% of IT CFOs attribute the most measurable growth to cloud computing.
So what does this mean to you and your company? If you’re looking to ensure your business has longevity in this economy – no matter your niche – then you need to seriously consider making the move to cloud services. Here are five ways that cloud computing will future-proof your business:
- Security for your data – The cloud’s security architecture is multi-layered, and safeguards against the weaknesses that allow cyber attacks to occur. There are different types of security controls employed: deterrent controls, preventative controls, detective controls and corrective controls. All of these things work in tandem to protect your sensitive information and intellectual property, especially where federal compliance regulations are an issue.
- Unlimited mobility – Self-hosting your legacy software and platforms for years places a major stressor on already overworked network servers. The time spent maintaining your hardware and its performance can cost you both productivity and dollars. Application hosting in the cloud gives users the real-time ability to access data from any device, anywhere and at any time. Your staff could be spread across the globe and still collaborate in real-time on projects.
- Scalability – The cloud grows with you. The combined computing power of users in the cloud is scalable so that buyers can dynamically increase – or decrease – the amount of computing power they lease. That flexibility is quite a cost-saver when you consider the impact on your IT budget if you have to upgrade your on-premises servers after you have outgrown your old network.
- Cost reduction – Given the speed of cloud growth and accessibility, it’s been easier, faster and less expensive for software developers to roll out applications as compared to traditional onsite platform development. That cost savings gets passed on to users. You don’t have to buy hardware until you need it, and you don’t have to plan for peak capacity, since most traditional servers are only used at 15% of their capacity. You only pay for what you use.
Lost production hours are a killer when you’re trying to migrate data from one network to another. Firms that handle their own migration on average take 2 months and up to $3,000 to do it. Partnering with a managed IT services provider (MSP) to handle your move to the cloud reduces – and even eliminates – downtime and speeds up deployment by managing your data with new integrated tech solutions, upgrading your performance seamlessly. That’s where we come in.
Moving to the cloud is power. Power to give your company future longevity. And the best way to harness that power is by partnering up with a great MSP, one whose expert team can handle the entire process from start to finish. Give us a call and let us help move you into the future with cloud computing.