Newsletter 2.0

What Kind of Network Would Best Serve Your Business?

The way your business uses and accesses data is changing. A short time ago, you couldn’t imagine that you would have a comprehensive strategy to keep data secure when sending and receiving it wirelessly, but today wireless transmission methods have become more secure, reliable, and fast. This month, we’ll take a look at the difference between wired and wireless connections in the modern business.

A Wireless Connection

The Pros

There is one obvious benefit to the wireless network: No wires! It is a big benefit not having to run cable, and being able to access resources anywhere within range on nearly any device makes a big difference. In giving your team access to network resources wirelessly, your business will be better suited for collaboration and enhanced productivity.

What’s more, with a strong wireless network in place, you can promote some strategies that can work to improve your operational effectiveness. One of those strategies is a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. Many of your employees bring their smartphones with them when they come to work and if you don’t have a BYOD policy, they are absolutely a risk. By enacting a BYOD strategy, your staff firmly understands that while their phones can be a positive for the company, they can also be a problem and that the company has steps it can take if that negative reality comes to fruition. 

The Cons

With the convenience of a wireless network, the speed and security aren’t what they would be with a wired connection.

You see, wireless connections are more vulnerable than wired ones. It’s easier for unauthorized individuals to hijack the signal of a wireless connection and can provide a third-party with access to the critical information that is transmitted wirelessly. 

The Wired Connection

The Pros

When dealing with wired networks, IT administrators maintain a higher degree of control over what devices can connect to the network. This presents value is multiple ways, none more important than the degree of security wired connections promote. 

Additionally, wired networks are usually much faster than wireless networks. This speed boost is magnified if there are walls, floors, ceilings, or any other potential interference to seeing optimal speeds over Wi-Fi.

The Cons

The biggest drawback to a wired Internet network is the act of wiring the network. The cost and time are higher than it would be to set up a wireless network, and it can also be a hindrance for maintenance if a cable fails or hardware has to be moved around due to business growth or restructuring. 

Another detriment to the business is that a wired connection doesn’t allow for the type of mobility many businesses are looking for nowadays. With a wireless connection, meetings are faster, more to the point, and collaborative work can be fluid.

If your business is looking to build a powerhouse wireless network, or if you prefer a wired network and need help networking your office, give the IT professionals at Jackson Thornton Technologies a call at 334-834-7660. 

 

 

Switching to VoIP Can Be Good for Your Business

There aren’t many technological assets as important for the modern business than its communications solutions. The telephone, while being one of the oldest currently utilized communications systems available, is still the most utilized. Today, we will look at business telephone systems and why choosing Voice over Internet Protocol simply makes sense for your business. 

VoIP, either hosted locally or in the cloud, can bring any business a solid ROI because you use a resource that your company already has in place, your Internet connection to send and receive calls. 

Antiquated Strategies and Technologies

If you’re still relying on the traditional telephone system of yesteryear, you could be making your job more difficult than it needs to be. Businesses that still use traditional telephone systems have limited ability to grow and expand. Adding new users can mean adding new telephone lines and extensions, a process that’s not necessarily easy.

The most logical course of action is to figure out how your business can get away from traditional telephone providers. After all, these are the same organizations that are known to provide bundles filled with services you don’t need. Plus, running telephone wires and adding new users or phone numbers can be quite the hassle, one that you don’t have to worry about with a more dynamic solution.

Get a Cutting-Edge Telephone System

With great new features that put traditional telephony to shame, VoIP is a sustainable and investment-worthy technology for any business, small or large. VoIP uses your Internet connection rather than a traditional telephone line to function, giving any device with a VoIP application and an Internet connection the ability to work like a phone. Since VoIP only needs your Internet connection, you’re essentially eliminating mobile expenses from your budget.

To learn more about how else your organization can benefit from VoIP, reach out to us at 334-834-7660.

 

Security Best Practices that Get Overlooked

Security is a major part of any business, and if there isn’t a diligent approach to the implementation of it, you can be left with huge holes in your network. This month, we thought we would discuss some of the best practices you can take to make sure that your organization’s security is in the best possible position to protect your digital resources. 

Security Steps

Let’s face it, your business’ cybersecurity starts and ends with your staff. They need simple, practical directions to follow or they simply won’t pay any mind to it. You don’t want to be the business that deals with significant turnover because security tasks are so demanding that their employees would rather work elsewhere. You will want to take the time to go through every part of your IT and brainstorm potential problems. You will address situations such as:

● What qualifies as confidential data, when and how this data is to be shared, best practices and requirements for storage and access credentials

● How devices used for work are to be maintained and handled, which devices may be approved for use, how to get a device approved

● How employees are required to go about transferring data, remote work policies, threat reporting processes

Understanding the potential problems your business faces can go a long way toward dictating where you need to invest capital on the security side. 

Prioritize Training

Many businesses are still not training their employees even though up to 94 percent of all cyberthreats that come in are due to employee error, negligence, or sabotage. As a result, it’s extremely important to have a comprehensive security training platform in place. You need to teach your employees about phishing, about social engineering tactics, and about data care.

Use Innovative Tools

There are a lot of businesses that have a lot of security measures that they use to mitigate problems such as data theft, intrusion, and especially malware deployment. These solutions can be had in a comprehensive security suite that includes firewall, antivirus, content filtering, spam blocker and more.

To learn more about the powerful security tools your business can implement to keep malware and other threats off your network, call the IT security experts at Jackson Thornton Technologies today at 334-834-7660.

 

Where Mobility Gets Shaky

Business is more mobile now than it has ever been. For the most part, this uptick in mobility has helped sustain some business at a time when many would be expected to fail, but mobility isn’t all good. This month we thought we would take a long look at mobility and how it can be a problem for modern businesses

We all know the advantages of mobile devices, but what isn’t always discussed are the negatives of using mobile platforms for your business.

Let’s start with security. Mobile devices are susceptible to many of the same problems that PCs can have. Users will visit scam websites and click on links and attachments that they shouldn’t be clicking on, jeopardizing the mobile device and any computer network it comes into contact with. Cybercriminals also work to intercept wireless communications and can steal data and gain access to secure accounts in this manner. 

These are not the only ways mobile can bring problems into your organization. Sometimes it can be a corrupted application that can be the culprit, and if mobile apps aren’t patched and updated, vulnerabilities in these platforms can give hackers the opportunity they need. 

There is no bigger problem with mobile devices than the fact that there are simply more endpoints to manage. An organization that once had 25 workstations, now has 25 workstations and 25 mobile devices to manage. Add in the consideration that most of the mobile devices that are being used for work belong to the user and not the company, with multiple operating systems to consider, and it creates a complex, often convoluted situation for IT admins. 

Bring Your Own Device

Most businesses, especially SMBs, don’t have the available capital to outfit their whole workforce with company-owned mobile devices. Some will subsidize the purchase of one or pay the worker’s monthly bill, but by-in-large, the purchase of a mobile device is left to the user. As a result, most businesses today have had no choice but to make contingencies for their employees’ smartphones. For a while, businesses tried to implement policies reducing smartphone use in the office, but over time it became clear that the more connected a worker is, the more likely they would be willing to do more work, more often. ‘

To support all these employee smartphones—and, to a lesser extent, wearable technology—businesses started implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. Instead of outlawing the use of mobile devices in the workplace, now users could bring their devices to work so long as they used them according to a set of rules created by the organization. Opting into the BYOD policy would allow employees to access certain company-hosted data and applications while granting the organization’s IT administrators access to the mobile device. 

Mobile Management

Once the employee opts into the BYOD policy, mobile management begins. People tend to have bits of their entire lives on their phones, so opting into a platform that gives other people access to its contents is no small ask. Fortunately, there have been developments that provide some assurances to both the company and the mobile device’s owner, who likely forked over a couple of weeks’ worth of pay to purchase that device. Today’s mobile management platforms are feature-rich, allowing administrators to manage the security of data and applications, manage access to company-hosted software and resources, track the device, remotely troubleshoot or wipe the device, and more. 

Additionally, for organizations that have to consider how their data moves to keep in line with any compliance regulations, a mobile device management platform provides assurances that employees aren’t playing fast and loose with sensitive information. Compliance standards like PCI DSS and HIPAA have very clear security requirements, and if data is not handled properly, mobile platforms could spark a costly compliance audit. 

With mobile being so important for almost everyone, your organization is going to need to consider what that means for you. If you would like to discuss how to fill in the gaps of your mobile device management plan, or if you can see the massive benefits of mobile and want to shore up your strategy, call the IT experts at Jackson Thornton Technologies today at 334-834-7660.

 

 

 

There’s No Disaster Recovery Without Data Backup

It doesn’t take a deep thinker to know that your business is extremely limited without its data. There are dozens of antivirus solutions on the market for this very reason. One of the best ways to protect your digital assets is to back up data using a reliable backup platform. In today’s blog, we’ll go over a few basic considerations to make if you want a data backup that you can trust.

Secure Your Data with Multiple Backups

Your backup is more than just an insurance policy for your business operations. In the case of a disaster or other cause of data loss, your backup essentially takes your business’ place, allowing you to recover more quickly with fewer consequences. This means that your backup needs to be kept safe. The first step to doing so is to make sure your data backup is stored separately from your primary data storage. We suggest using the 3-2-1 rule, which is three total copies of your data, with two available onsite and one stored offsite. This will help you avoid a situation where the same disaster that damaged the original data wipes out your backup too. Cloud-based backups are especially effective at preserving your data in a major disaster.

Create a Disaster Recovery Strategy

How quickly could your business return to full operation after undergoing a disaster? While establishing an off-site backup to preserve your data is a good start, you also need to have a plan in place that will allow you to put that data to use as quickly as possible. This is where it is useful to have a disaster recovery strategy, as it allows you to proactively prepare for circumstances that would otherwise lead to data loss and wasted time and productivity.

Make Sure Your Backup is Working

Imagine what it would be like to go through the entire process of establishing an offsite backup, only to have it fail when you’re relying on it. Fortunately, this can be avoided through some simple tests to ensure that the backup works effectively. You’ll be happy you did if you ever find yourself in the position that you need to restore from a backup and it works.

If you can’t trust your data backup, it needs to be modified. Jackson Thornton Technologies can help. Reach out to us at 334-834-7660.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Basics of Business Continuity Planning

Situations happen all the time to businesses that can really put a lot of stress on their ability to sustain operations. These situations don’t often remediate themselves. Simply put, every business needs a business continuity plan; and one-in-five don’t have one. This month, we thought we would break down a successful plan into its components to try to give businesses that may not have a plan, the basics needed to establish one.

Variables of a Successful Continuity Plan

Threat Identification/Remediation

Using what is called a threat matrix, you should work to Identify all the threats that could railroad your business. You will want to include any situation that could cause your business to stop. Examples can be as simple as a power outage to major calamities like a tornado ripping your building apart. Your business’ threat matrix should list threats (from most to least likely) and what your response would be to each. 

Mission-Critical Processes

Each business has mission-critical processes that need to be working fluidly in order to do business as usual. These should all be found in a comprehensive continuity plan. 

Chain of Command

Every business has a leader, management, and subordinates. Knowing who oversees what is crucial when looking to get your business back up and running after an event that knocks continuity out. 

Evacuation Plan for Employee Safety

Your business’ continuity plan should outline a strategy to safely get your people out of harm’s way should some disaster strike your business.  

Communication Hierarchy

If continuity is broken, people need to know about it. There should be a point of contact for every department on your staff, so that they can contact employees, vendors, and customers if the need arises.  

Disaster Recovery

Clearly, you’ll need your data if you want your business to continue after an event. Having a disaster recovery plan that includes comprehensive data backup is a major part of getting your technology up and running, should something happen to your business’ information systems.  

Inventory of Your IT Infrastructure

Concordantly, if a situation arises where your IT is knocked out, having an inventory of everything that you have can also be used to procure resources should you need to rebuild.

When Is It Over?

You will want to have a process in place that signals the end of an incident, and that all “I”s are dotted and “T”s are crossed. This will allow managers and employees to know that they can get back to business without worrying about residual negative circumstances.

There are no guarantees that the breach of your business’ continuity will have a happy ending. What is true is that with a dedicated plan in place, you will have a fighting chance. If you need help putting together the technology resources to support your disaster recovery initiatives, or if you would just like to discuss business continuity with one of our experts, give us a call at 334-834-7660.

 

Has COVID-19 Pushed Your Organization Apart?

This year hasn’t been easy for anyone. Many businesses have closed, some have reduced their workforces, some have pushed their employees to work long hours from home. Regardless of your current position, you have to make efforts to keep the lifeblood of your business, your staff, engaged to keep turnover from becoming a major problem. This month, we thought we would look at the current situation and give a couple of examples of how you can keep from alienating your employees.

Firstly, business owners and decision makers must do what’s right for their business, that much is typically understood by most people. The problem is that in lean times, the first cuts are made to payroll, as it can free up large chunks of capital that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Everyone that works for someone has to know that when times get tough that they could lose their job. On the other hand, no employer wants to furlough or lay off anyone. People are hired to handle the workload, if they are let go, other people will have to pick up the slack. The more a business tries to do with less, the less things they’ll do well.

Secondly, most businesses have some very dedicated staff, so letting people go isn’t only difficult, it’s heartbreaking. This holds especially true for the small business. If you only have a handful of workers, and you are forced to make the unenviable decision to lay some off, it can have a major negative effect on company morale.

Lastly, it’s been proven that turnover in human resources costs businesses a lot of money. A study undertaken by the Society for Human Resources found that the average cost to hire a new employee is a whopping $4,129. Not only that, it takes an average of 42 days to fill the position. Other organizations find similar costs, but some find it to be substantially more expensive. It stands to reason that if someone is to be let go, they may not be able to make ends meet on the employment insurance alone and will need to start to look for a job elsewhere almost immediately. 

The State of Employment

With so much uncertainty in the current economy, it’s hard for businesses to properly forecast how the next 12-to-18 months will go. After all, businesses are dying by the thousands, up nearly five percent over 2019. One thing is certain, every business owner will need to be flexible to keep business moving forward. They will need to scale their business to demand, and unfortunately, that pragmatism can make some jobs dispensable.

For others who are still working, but doing so from their own homes, things are a little more optimistic. By-in-large employees that can do their job from home are happier and more productive than if they are forced to go into an office. Remote work does have its drawbacks, but compared with their neighbors who have lost work because their company shuttered their doors, being asked to be productive while working from home is a godsend.

What Can You Do to Engage Your Employees?

It has become evident that businesses of all sizes, despite what the reality suggests, need to engage with their employees to give them both the peace of mind they need and to keep them productive as they navigate their remote workplace. Here are a few.

       Set Expectations Up Front - Nothing is worse for an employee’s morale than thinking they did a job proficiently only to find out that they didn’t hit the mark at all. This typically comes from not having clear paths of communication. It’s important to set your expectations for everything up front. One way to do this is to make a remote work playbook. This can help every employee know exactly what is expected of them.

       Regular Virtual Meetings - Whether you decide to have collaboration meetings or simple virtual coffee breaks, managers should be actively engaging with their teams to ensure that people are on the same page and that everyone is doing okay. Working from home for long stretches of time, especially for people who rely on their work for their social outlet, can be pretty isolating. Having simple chats can go a long way toward keeping an employee who otherwise wouldn’t be engaged in his or her work.

       Knowledge Sharing - Most people are pretty busy with their work that they don’t have a lot of time to waste with idle chit chat. Who says it has to be idle? One really neat idea is to have different chat groups that meet once or twice a week for a defined period of time and discuss one topic. It could be work related or it could be about video games or WWII or riding horses, or any other topic that interests multiple people. This is a great way to have employees engage each other, while also getting away from their weekly grind for a short period of time.

       Employee Recognition - Most employees want to be recognized for their good work. The funny thing, it may not seem like it’s a major incentive, but it is, and you’ll likely find that workers that aren’t recognized hold it against their employer. Additionally, businesses that pass praise around see a lot higher percentages of employee retention. People want to feel good at work, and by taking some time out and recognizing your team’s successes you can avoid alienating employees that are already working remotely.

If your business could benefit from a conversation with one of our consultants, give us a call at 334-834-7660. We can help you with any remote technology issue you may have.

Hackers are Going Phishing for Your Money

When people talk about cybersecurity nowadays, there certainly seems to be a lot of emphasis put on phishing attacks and ransomware. This is for good reason. Not only can either of these attack vectors create significant difficulties for a business, they are often used in tandem. Let’s discuss why these threats are so potent, and why they so often show up together.

First, it will help to briefly review how each attack works.

How Ransomware Works

Imagine for a second the surprise you would have if you tried to log into your computer and you were presented with a message telling you that your files have been encrypted and that you need to pay $X in Bitcoin before the clock runs out or you will lose those files forever. Then you noticed the clock clicking down. Would you panic? You probably would. That is ransomware, a particularly ugly malware that could cost you everything. 

How Phishing Works

Do you ever get emails that seem to come in randomly from the government, your bank, or your insurance company? Do they want you to take action now and provide links or attachments to make that possible? The truth is most professional organizations that you depend on will never want you using email to do anything other than verify your identity. That means that the emails you get that say you have to act now to avoid going to jail for owing money are as fraudulent as they seem. 

These are phishing messages. They can come in through email, social media, or via SMS or phone call. Unfortunately for the modern user, they are constant, often sophisticated, and can be especially problematic if handled improperly.

Phishing + Ransomware = Major Trouble

Since today’s hackers can’t just hack their way into an account, they use social engineering tactics to do so. If they are able to expose their fraudulent message to someone that is less than vigilant, they may gain access to a computer (or worse yet a computing network), and then deploy their ransomware payload. Not a good situation for any individual; and, a major problem for any business. This is why it is essential that your staff understands phishing tactics and can spot fraudulent emails and messages when they come in. Let’s take a look at some telltale signs that you are dealing with a phishing message.

Identifying Phishing 

Phishing tactics are a lot more sophisticated than they were even a few short years ago, but they can’t do anything for the one variable that matters: legitimacy. Here are a few ways you can tell that you are dealing with a phishing attack.

● The details in the message are suspect - Many people don’t pay much attention to the email address an email is sent from, or if a word here or there, is misspelled. This is how phishing attacks get you. If you receive a message that has spelling or grammatical errors that you wouldn’t find in professional correspondence, you probably are dealing with a scam. You can also look at the email address itself or best yet, mouse over any links found in the text of the email. If it seems fishy, it’s probably phishing. Don’t click on it.

● The tone is desperate - One telltale sign that you are dealing with a phishing attack is that the message written to you seems urgent. No reputable financial institution or government entity is going to demand immediate action from an email. 

● There’s a link or an attachment - Using phishing to deploy ransomware (or any kind of malware), you will typically see an attachment or be asked to follow links in the message. If you have any question of the validity of the message, don’t click on a link or open an attachment. 

Cybersecurity is a constant process. If you would like help getting your staff trained or if you would like some information about other security tools you can use to keep your infrastructure and data safe, call the IT professionals at Jackson Thornton Technologies today at 334-834-7660.

 

What Hardware Do Workers Need in 2020?

The office is in itself a tool designed to improve business. Remember the office? Some long for the day when they can get back there, while a majority of remote workers enjoy it. One thing is certain, many people are still working from home, sent home in March. Many, with no return date in sight. Today, we’ll take a look at a couple pieces of technology that are popular with the remote work crowd. 

When you last were at the office, you had everything that you needed to do your job: your work PC, all the accessories, access to the Internet, printers, and other internal resources. During the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders, you didn’t have access. You may be back at your office today, but if you aren’t you are probably using the mandatory COVID-19 home office technology. Let’s take a look at it.

Laptop

The home office isn’t like the real office. First of all, going into March 2-in-3 people didn’t have a dedicated workspace. If you tried to work from the couch, your favorite chair, or worse yet, your bed, you may have found productivity hard to come by. Once it was clear that nobody was going back to the office for a while, most people made a solid effort to dedicate a small part of their living quarters into a makeshift office. If you are like millions of other people that had to work from home (or are still working from home), having a PC was essential to getting your work done; but, if you don’t have a lot of room, a laptop is perfect. Not only can you take it with you, but many laptops are more powerful than the typical workstation that your company would give you. 

Smartphone

For a sudden shift to telework, no piece of technology has been as important as the smartphone. At first, many companies were just trying to figure out if they could run their businesses remotely. The mobility provided by smartphones largely made the shift possible. Not only could the smartphone be used as a business phone (through a VoIP platform and its softphone app), it can be great for collaboration. Today, most smartphones can be configured with work profiles, which provides a dedicated app drawer for all your business apps. This not only allows the company to manage their data better, it also is advantageous for users who can turn access to work on and off with a tap of their finger. 

Collaboration Apps

Software is important for almost every business, but for the business relying on remote workers, it is quite literally a business’ saving grace. With a remote staff, collaboration becomes even more crucial and software of all kinds are adding in cooperative options. Productivity software like Microsoft 365 or Google’s G Suite have collaborative options baked right in; management software like Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), or Professional Services Automation (PSA) provides end-to-end operations management, supply chain management, and support options; and, collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams provide communication options and software integrations to keep teams on-point.

COVID-19 has put a big damper on business, but if you can have the right tools, you can still get your job done. If you would like to talk to one of our expert technicians about getting the right technology to keep your business profitable while the new normal forms, call Jackson Thornton Technologies today at 334-834-7660. 

 

Do You Have a Plan for What's Next?

If you have been running a business for any length of time, you definitely don’t need to be told how important risk management is. One problem you see from business owners today is that while they understand just how many problems there are--and which ones they need to find solutions for first--they want to grow their company fast, and as a result, they overlook potential problems and end up hurting their business as a result. 

One of the major problems a business owner needs to confront is the situation surrounding sustained downtime. Business continuity demands a lot of assessment and a whole lot of action be taken in a short amount of time. After all, downtime is a business killer. The establishment of a continuity plan not only solves the immediate problems (e.g. a server failure), they return your business to a productive state, fast.

All businesses struggle with hiccups of continuity. Something as simple as a cloud application being down for 20 minutes can cost a company a lot of money. When downtime is sustained, however, the costs add up by the second. A business that is forced into stagnation by downtime can fail within days. 

Modern Continuity

Today’s business continuity plan is not much different than it was 50 years ago. The assets have just changed. Today, most of the assets that need to be protected are through reliable digital means. This means that if you want to look for a place to start, look at your organization’s IT. 

 

Like you would have done with established business continuity methods, you will want to make a list of the people who need to know if continuity is broken, and who is in charge of relaying that information down the corporate tree. Typically, there will be one person that is tasked with relaying information to department heads, and they will take it from there. Ensuring that there is a plan in place to mitigate cost in the case of sustained downtime is essential to mitigating problematic situations.

Take Action

In business continuity, action is the name of the game. Depending on the situation, after your people are informed of a breach of continuity, the next step is to mitigate the problem. Some situations are more difficult to rebound from than others, but ultimately a solid business continuity plan is an incremental approach to getting your business back up and running properly. It could take a minute or a couple of weeks, but ensuring that every mission-critical resource is covered under your plan, and that there are defined actions that need to take place will work to return operations to normal more effectively. All continuity tasks should be assigned a specific timeline for completion, with the highest priority tasks coming first.

Customer Relations

Customer care is a big part of a business’ continuity strategy. In fact, if you are dealing with a major outage, keeping your customers supported can work to stem service mutiny. You’ll need to contact your suppliers and vendors to keep other company’s supply chains from grinding to a halt. Keeping your relationships solid will alleviate one big headache if you are dealing with sustained downtime.

Technology and Data

You will want to have identified what hardware and software are essential, as well as have a good idea about how long it will take to restore your data and other systems into working condition. This also applies to any equipment that is necessary to restore operations. You’ll want to make sure that you know exactly what tools you need and the length of time that it will take to get things back up and running.

You will also want to have identified your data needs and have a data backup and recovery platform in place. Business continuity is best when your data backup is bulletproof, as being able to access all of your data quickly, and ensuring that all of your data is always backed up will make a big difference when you need it. While migration to new hardware will extend your timelines, your business can function in an acceptable capacity with the right data backup platform in place. 

Assessment, Testing, and Training

To complete your business continuity process, you will absolutely want to continue to assess and test all aspects of the platform. If you know that your BC practices are solid, you can save your business from a downtime disaster.

If you would like more specific information about business continuity, or if you would like to talk to one of our consultants about having Jackson Thornton Technologies help your business put together a BC platform that works, call us today at 334-834-7660.