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Technology Training

Harden Employees Against Ransomware With KnowBe4

Are you curious to see who in your company is most likely to download a virus on your network? Well now you can find out and the best part is, its free. With KnowBe4 you can administer a range of free tools that will allow you to see which of your users is most likely fall for phishing emails.

The sad truth is that some people will click on anything that comes across their email inbox. This is how most network infections start. Till more recently, there hasn’t been a lot anyone could do to prevent this. KnowBe4 allows you to find those trouble users and train them so that this major hole in your network can be filled.

From a compliance standpoint, KnowBe4 offers actionable data that will allow you to show your HIPAA or PCI compliance officer that you are taking actions toward due diligence.

As an IT company, we do our best to prevent major disasters with layered security involving anti-virus, managed firewalls, Office 365 spam filtering, security permissions and most important, great backups. Even with all of these security measures in place, there isn’t a foolproof method to ensuring that a few phishing emails won’t slip by unnoticed. We rely on backups to get our clients up an running quickly but even under the best of conditions, it is still better for the virus to have never been clicked on to begin with.

For a small investment in time, you can’t afford to not use these great free tools from KnowBe4. Take a few minutes to watch our new video on how to get started with KnowBe4 and harder you users against malicious emails.

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Technology

Data Backup Verification Audit

You’ve likely heard more than enough times that you need to backup your data. This is what every software vendor and IT partner will preach to you from day one. They’re right, of course, but there could still be potential problems. How do you really know that you have backups? You may have a backup appliance, and you may be under the impression that you have all of your data in the cloud, but do you really? How can you know for sure?

data backup verification

Making the assumption that your data is backed up just because you have an attached storage, or because you are paying for a hosted backup solution, has gotten many businesses into trouble. The truth is that backups fail, and they fail frequently. Backups are a service that requires attention and maintenance, and if you neglect it, it will fail you. This is a risk that you cannot afford to take.

As an IT company, we work with many new customers who come to us because they have lost data, even though they were under the impression that their data was backed up. As a result of this, we offer free data verification audits that will show you exactly where your data is and what to do if it is not backed up. If you can say that you don’t know where your data is, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a free data backup verification audit.

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Technology Training

How to use Relative and Absolute Cell References in Microsoft Excel 2016

When working with a Microsoft Excel 2016 data table you may find that it is useful to define a constant outside of the data table rather than repeating it in every cell. Suppose you are trying to apply three different tax rates to a data table and you need to be able to adjust those tax rates without having to change them in every cell. Learning how to use cell references will allow you to do this by changing the reference rather than changing every row or column.

First, you will need to know the difference between defining a reference as relative or absolute. If for example, you are trying to add two columns together and you are using the SUM tool, you will take the first two number sets from each column and add the two together in a third column. This will automatically create an equation that you can extend to the rest of the numbers in the remaining column simply by placing your cursor over the sum of the first two numbers and dragging down the third column. This will extend the SUM equation to the rest of the numbers in the first two columns providing you the sum for the remaining number sets. This equation is using a relative constant because it changes with every set of numbers.

For the purpose of this video, we are going to focus on how to use an absolute constant. This is the equivalent of giving an equation an address to reference and whatever information you enter into that address will be reflected in the equation. In this case, the address is the X and Y access of the cell that you choose to use as your absolute cell reference. In our previous example, you would need to set up three cell references to correlate with the three tax rates. By labeling each tax rate A, B and C you can reference the tax rate in the data table allowing Excel to know which absolute constant to use in each equation.

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Technology

How to prepare for ransomware

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about ransomware: a type of computer virus that encrypts your files and holds them for ransom. Worse yet, there is no guarantee that your data will be released if you pay the ransom fee. In light of the most recent ransomware attack called “WannaCry” that infected a substantial number of businesses in Europe, it is important that you are taking measures to ensure that your business is safe.

Antivirus and firewall concept with businessman protected with umbrella

If you are not familiar with the statistics, ransomware was a billion dollar industry in 2016, and every cyber criminal knows it. There is exceptional financial motivation for these scams to be produced indefinitely, and they become increasingly sophisticated every day. As a business owner, ransomware is a constant threat that cannot be ignored.

Playing defense in the ransomware game is a layered approach, with several security methods to prevent ransomware from getting to your network. The first line of defense includes anti-virus, a good firewall, and effective spam filtering. The next important step in any security plan is user training. Ransomware is generally not a problem until someone within your network clicks on the wrong email or web link. The final layer of defense are things like an insurance policy or data backups.

Preferably, investing in each one of these layers is best practice. However, if you have to choose one component over another, backups are the most important investment that you can make. With a good backup system, you may lose some time and a nominal amount of data after an attack, but you will be able to restore your data without the ransomware affecting your business.

In addition to having the data backups in place, it is also essential to ensure that your backups are up-to-date and running properly. Backups have a tendency to face errors that can disrupt a backup schedule. With proper backup monitoring, you may find that your backups were not operating as expected, thus leaving your data vulnerable.

Talk to your IT professional to ensure that you have both preventative security measures and contingencies in place to protect your data in the event of a ransomware attack.

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Technology

Protect Your Company From “Arrive By Date” Fines

Have you ever had to face a fine for late delivery of products or services to major retailers? Recently we had the opportunity to work with a new client that had this unique issue. Due to network downtime, the company wasn’t able to make shipments on time. As a supplier of textile products to a major retailer, this caused a chain of “arrive by date” fines adding up to $10,000 within the course of two days.

Equipment prints dollars. Isolated on white background

When you work with any major retailer, such as Target or Walmart, you can expect to see a fine of 3% of the total cost of the delivery if the load is delivered before or after the “arrive by date.” If you fail to deliver 10% of the total loads on time, you are no longer allowed to deliver to that retailer, which could mean losing a major account. This is a logistical problem that most manufacturers face, and you don’t want to miss your shipping dates because your company network is down.

The technology you use is the backbone of your business. In the event of a major outage, all business operations come to a screeching halt. The effects of this can not only result in lost revenue due to employee downtime but also far more expensive side effects such as these fines. In the worst case, this could result in the loss of customer and a serious impact on your bottom line.

It is worthwhile to assess what it costs when your network goes down. Understanding this will allow you to see how important it is to make appropriate investments into technology and redundancy to ensure that these issues do not impact your business. Lastly, it is important to work with an IT partner that can ensure smooth network operation and can respond immediately when a problem arises.

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Technology

Redundant IT Support

Have you been in a position where your IT network is down and support is nowhere to be found. At this point you are probably scrambling to find anyone who can help bring your network online. This problem usually occurs when your support company consists of one person and they decide to go on vacation without notifying you, or they are helping another customer. This can also happen with internal IT staff as well. If there is a time when your network is going to go down, it will be when your internal IT manager is away on vacation or is out sick.

Handsome cheerful computer engineer repairing open computer in bright office

This brings to light the need for a layered support approach. Business has to operate in spite of vacation plans and not having support in place when things go wrong is not an option. This is an area where a good managed service provider can really save you time, headaches and money. It isn’t enough to have one person looking after your network. You need a team that can have someone there to help you whenever you need it.

As with most issues it is better to set yourself up for success rather then respond to disaster when it strikes. An important way to do this with your IT network is to make sure that your support partner is a big enough company to be there for you when you need it. This will insure that you have not only redundant support but a broad base of experience and skills to keep you up and running. Even if you have an internal IT resource, it is best to partner with a managed service provider as well. There are many ways that we can supplement IT services to fill in the gaps whether it be adding experience and expertise or filling in when your IT manager needs a vacations. For more ways that eTop Technology can help provide layered support, contact us today.

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Technology

The Growing Importance of Business Internet

Sooner rather then later, business IT networks will consist of an internet connection and a light weight computer that acts as a terminal to the internet. There will be no more investing in servers, switches, battery backups, NAS devices etc. in the same way that has been done for the last 15 years. Companies will trade the responsibility of purchasing and maintaining a network for a “network as a service” in a hosted data center. Ultimately, this move will come with many benefits such as increased security, increased up-time, greater redundancy and decreased costs to your company.

landscape view of very large data centre data storage array ** Note: Slight graininess, best at smaller sizes

The catch to all of this wonderful techy business is your connection to the internet. Right now, if your internet connection goes down, it can hurt your company a lot. You will most likely lose access to email, payment processing, search, phones and any other hosted application that you rely on. The up side is that you can still work internally until your connection comes online. By hosting your entire network in a data center you would lose all functionality if your internet connection goes down. Despite all the benefits that hosted networks will bring, it will make your internet connection that much more important.

This will likely effect businesses in a few ways. Primarily businesses will want to invest in redundant internet connections that run on separate networks. A good way to look at this would be having a main fiber connection and a backup point to point wireless connection as a fail over. This will also effect they way businesses look at acquiring new locations. One of the most important questions you will ask when looking at a new building is “what internet options are available?” If fiber internet isn’t already connected to the building, this should be a serious problem to take into consideration.

Finally, with all of this in mind, you will want to watch out for the dirty tricks that the telecom industry likes to play. Namely their auto renew clause that is built into most contracts. A lot of businesses are in the process of making a change from copper internet to fiber internet. If you are at all interested in moving toward hosted options for your company network, you will want a solid fiber internet connection. It is important to know when your internet contract is coming to a close and make sure that you move to a month to month option or make sure that you are ready to cancel that contract and replace it with a fiber connection.

Business IT network options are in a constant state of change and now like never before, it is important to make sure that you have an IT partner that can help you navigate the options of the hosted world. If you are considering hosted solutions for your company, give eTop a call for a free consultation.

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Technology

How Many Forms Of Redundancy Should Your Data Backup Plan Have?

How do you know when your data is secure? In business today, almost everyone knows that backups are an absolute necessity, but there are no clear standards that helps you know your data is safe. It seems like there are new appliances and cloud services being created every day that are going to solve all of your problems, but when doing a cost-benefit-analysis, it is hard to know if you are making a good investment.
In the world of data backup, you have desktop backups, server backups, local network attached storage (NAS) devices, cloud backups and backup and data recovery (BDR) solutions. Under each of these categories you have an abundance of products and services that will help provide redundancy. As a rule of thumb, you should have a complete copy of your data in three or more locations.
In a typical network, you will have data being created on desktop computers which are not considered a point of backup. The data is stored on a server which is considered the first point of backup. The server is then backed up to a local appliance like a NAS device. This will give you two independent and complete copies of your data at your physical location. The third backup is usually in the cloud which will give you two or more physical locations where your data is stored. Depending on the specific company needs, you may also have a collocation server and cloud backups for that as well.

Know where your data is being stored!
This is an important aspect of data backup that often goes overlooked. This is typically a problem for end users as they may not understand the difference between saving their data to the server rather than their computers. This problem can be overcome with end user training and the implementation of company policies. Your data is only as safe as your employees’ ability to save it in a secure location. If they save all of their documents to their local computer, all of that information is at risk of being lost should that single computer die.

Why is a NAS important?
You may be tempted to ask. “If I have cloud backups, why do I need a local copy of the data on the server?” The answer is bandwidth. The connection between your server and your NAS device is a lot faster than the connection between your network and your cloud data storage facility. Most backups are set to run every couple of hours and uploading that much data over your internet connection during working hours would make your internet connection almost unusable. Data can easily be backed up to a NAS at several points during the day and from there, the data can be backed up to the cloud after business hours.
A NAS works in the reverse order as well. If by chance you lose a drive on your server and you need to download a large amount of data, it is a lot faster to restore data from a local backup than it is to download it form the cloud. This will decrease downtime should an emergency occur.

Why is the cloud important?
It is equally tempting to ask. “If I have a NAS device, do I really need to back up to the cloud?” The answer is yes. Primarily for reasons of natural disaster. In the event of a fire, flood, earth quake, tornado etc. you stand a good chance of losing all of your data, should your building be destroyed. If this were to happen, it may take some time, but at least you could set your company up in a remote location and your staff would be able to function.

Do I need a BDR solutions?
The answer to this question really comes down to a cost benefit analysis. How much money have you lost over the course of three years due to network downtime? Compare that with the cost of a BDR (Backup and Disaster Recover) device and you will have your answer. In most cases a BDR appliance is a duplicate server that sits at idle waiting for your primary server to stop functioning. If you have had a server outage that has taken up most of a days worth of your employees time then you know that the cost starts to add up quickly. With a BDR appliance, no one would know that your primary server had gone down except for your IT professional.

Monitoring your backups   
As if having backups for your backups isn’t enough, you also need to know that your data is being backup up appropriately. There is nothing worse than finding out that after having made the investment to back up your data correctly, your backups haven’t run in the last six months. Backup systems can be finicky and sometimes they run into errors that stop the automated processes. If you don’t know that this has happened you will go about your days thinking that everything is fine. Talk to your IT partner about the status of your data and make sure that they have a system in place to monitor your backups.

By following these simple guidelines and investing the three points of redundancy for your data backup, you can feel confident that you are adequately protected. You will protect yourself from everything from simply deleting files accidentally or having a hardware failure to ransomware and other malicious programs and natural disasters should they ever arise. Consult with your IT professional to make sure that your data is secure and that you have at least three point of redundancy for all of your data.