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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 Training

Learn how to use a VPN

You may have heard of, or even used, a virtual private network (VPN), but do you know what it is? A VPN is an encrypted tunnel through a wide area network (WAN), also known as the Internet. This means that the network does not have to be located in one physical location, unlike a local area network (LAN). By using encryption and other security measures, a VPN can scramble all the data sent through the WAN, so the network is “virtually” private. In other words, a VPN allows you to access the files on your local network over the internet from an airport, coffee shop or another country, and you will be as secure as if you were sitting in your office.

Businesses commonly use VPNs to communicate across multiple locations. A large company that has offices in several cities may need to send data between their locations via the Internet. To keep the information secure, the company will set up a VPN with an encrypted connection, effectively giving the company a secure intranet over the Internet.

In this video, we will show how you can download one of the many VPN services on your computer. Once downloaded, we will show you how to set up and use this tool. Although there are many VPN options to choose from, most of them work the same way. If you are going to be traveling for work, or need to work from home or a coffee shop, it is important to send and receive sensitive data over a VPN. Otherwise, you are opening a direct access to all of your company’s sensitive information, and risk a security breach. For more information, or if you would like to set up a VPN for your company, contact eTop today.

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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

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

Business Information Technology Risk Assessment

In the spirit of St. Patricks Day, it is a good time to ask yourself how lucky you are. Since we are an IT consultant, we are going to focus on what that means when we look at an IT network. As an IT company, we get to see how a lot of businesses operate and manage their IT and it ranges from systems that completely rely on luck to operate from one day to the next to businesses that have more layers of redundancy than employees in the company.

Closeup of messed wires connecting computers and printers in office

It is truly amazing how lucky you can be when operating a business with a network that is patched together. Eventually, however, luck runs out and this can be costly. What we have put together is an easy way for you to self-asses how lucky you are. Using a scale of one to ten, run through the follow list of questions and use this metric to give yourself an accurate risk assessment.

The categories below are based on a company that has 10 to 50 employees and is hosting a network internally. Each category will give you 10 points for a total of 50 if you are doing your due diligence to protect your network and your company.

Backups
There are two types of backups. Local and off-site or hosted. A good way to look at an effective backup system is through a layered approach. Ideally, you should have a server that is backed up to a local storage. The local storage should then be backed up off site. This way you accomplish speed and redundancy. Give yourself three points if you have a local backup system, an additional three points if you have offsite backups and four points if you are using a backup monitoring system to ensure that your data is actually backed up.

Network Age
A network is not like a fine wine. It doesn’t get better with age. The older your hardware, the more likely you are to have to respond to downtime and data loss. We recommend that our clients replace their computers on or before the five-year mark and replace servers at three years. Other network hardware such as switches, battery backups, firewalls, routers and WIFI access points should be replaced at the same time you replace the server. To the best of your ability, try and assess the age of your network hardware. If 10% of your network falls within this specification, give yourself 1 point. If 70% then 7 points and so on.

Security
You can never be too secure so it is difficult to score a 10 on this scale. Just doing your due diligence will get you a long way and that is what we are going to focus on here. Give yourself two points if you have each of the following.

  • Anti-virus on each workstation and server.
  • Managed Firewall
  • If you scored over a 6 on your network age
  • If you have passwords on each workstation that expire every 90 days
  • If you are PCI compliant

Software Patch Level
Do you know the current patch level for all of your supported software? This could be the operating system on your server, the firmware on your firewall or the version of anti-virus you are running. Your hardware is only as smart as the software that is running on it. If you are running software that is out of date or is not supported you are at risk. Give yourself two points for each of the following.

  • Is your firewall running the latest firmware?
  • Is your server OS under support?
  • Is your anti-virus running the latest version?
  • Are your computers running the latest version OS?
  • Are you using a line of business application that is up to date?

Vendor Support 
Vendor support for applications plays a critical role in keeping networks running smoothly. If you are using a line a business application for the majority of your day to day operations but haven’t purchased a vendor support package with this product, you are exposing yourself to potential downtime. Partnering with an IT support company will not necessarily fix this issue due to the fact that no support partner will know that important application like the company that created it. In addition to purchasing vendor support for your most important application, you should also work with an IT partner that can provide preventative support for your network to ensure that you are as protected as possible. If you have purchased an application support package then give yourself five points. Also, if you are working with an IT support partner for all of you daily IT needs, give yourself five points.

If you tally up your point and find that you have between 40 and 50, Congratulations! You are doing your due diligence to ensure that your network is running smoothly and you are protected against downtime and data loss. If you are between 25 and 40 you should consider working with a consultant to make a road map for improving your network. If you scored less than 25 you are relying on luck to keep your network operational. In this case, you should reach out to an IT consultant and consider making serious improvements to your network infrastructure and support.

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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

Computer Warranties and Life Span Management

When you purchase a new computer for your company are you considering the importance of the warranty and how protecting your computers with a warranty will effect your business? If you manage a large fleet of computers, you will start to realize how difficult it can become to source replacement parts, especially as they get two or three years old. Without a warranty you are stuck replacing your computer completely or searching on eBay for outdated replacement parts. For obvious reasons this is a poor use of your time and one that can be easily avoided.

Man fixing a computer

As a rule of thumb you should keep your computers for no more then five years. At the five year point, technology will have changed enough that keeping the outdated computers will have a negative impact on the productivity of your staff and your bottom line. For those five years you can make the most of the life of your hardware by keeping your fleet under warranty. From a company like Dell, you can choose to buy your computers with a three year, next business day repair warranty. This will mean that as your computers start to show their age, you will have the assurance that a technician from Dell will be onsite repairing any issue that may come up. This will inevitably save you a lot of time not to mention money spent on replacement hardware.

At the three year point, if you choose to keep your computers for five years, you can purchase an extended warranty that will cover your fleet for another two years. If you choose to keep your computers past the three year point then it is especially important to make sure that they are covered by a warranty. It becomes increasingly difficult to source parts for any computer that is close to five years old.

You may be wondering how you are going to manage and keep track of all of your warranties even if you do decide to purchase them. This is what your IT partner is for. If you are participating in any kind of monitoring program with your IT partner, they will have the tools that will allow them to see the status of your computer warranties. In your quarterly review with your IT partner you will be able to establish a reliable system of replacing old computers that are out of warranty to make sure that your fleet is covered. By purchasing warranties for all of your computers you will be sure to get the most out of them for the entirety of their life span.

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Technology

Microsoft Windows Server 2016

Happy New Years! We hope that 2017 is your best year to date! As a technology company we want to start off the new year by telling you about new technology emerging in 2017. Perhaps the most notable and important software for small business is the Windows Server operating system. It is true, the newest release of Windows Server is 2016. That being said, 2017 will be a year when a lot of business owners start considering this operating system for their company.
Image result for windows server 2016
As a best practice, when it comes to choosing new software for your business, it is important not to choose the newest product off the shelf. For the sake of your company, it is better to see what the consumer reviews are for the software and allow for several updates to be released so that you do not lose precious resources due to downtime caused by poorly functioning software. Even a company as reputable as Microsoft still releases products that need refinement. Now that Server 2016 has been on the market for a while and has been updated several times, it is a safe bet to implement it for your company.

Microsoft has made some substantial improvements to the Windows Server operating system with the release of 2016 that will improve virtualization, security, remote access, active directory, management, automation, storage and redundancy. The full list of new features is much too long to cover in one article, however, you can find it on Microsoft’s website here. If you are in a position where you are needing to consider upgrading your server in 2017 then we highly recommend that you consult with your IT professional about Windows Server 2016. For some businesses, there may be applications that you use that are not compatible with Server 2016 yet. For this reason, be sure that all of your current programs will work with Server 2016 before deciding to make this move. If all of your applications are compatible, then chances are good that your company will benefit from all of the new features in Server 2016.

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Technology Training

Cloud Data Storage Gillware

Does your company have a data backup strategy? Cloud backups are a vary important part of any network. Without them, you are at risk of losing your data should a disaster strike. That being said, many questions remain. How should I set up my backup system? How many copies of my data do I need? Why is redundancy important? How do I know that my data is really being backed up? In order to make sure that all of these questions are answered, you need a strategy.
The first line of defense starts with a server. Backing up your workstations to a server will collect all of your data to one point. From there it is important to backup your data to a Network Attacked Storage device or NAS. This is a hard drive that is attached to your server that makes a copy of your data in case your server dies. A NAS device is also helpful for restoring files to the server quickly. With a NAS, you do not have to rely on your internet connection to restore files when data accidentally gets deleted.
When considering a cloud data backup solution, or any cloud solutions, it is important to think about the amount of internet bandwidth you have. Uploading and downloading data to and from the cloud can take a lot of time if your internet connection is slow. In the event of an emergency, it can cause challenges to get data downloaded from the cloud in a timely manner.
Once you have your data on a server that is connected to a NAS and you have a good internet connection, you will want to back your data up to the cloud. There are many cloud data backup solutions to choose from. For this instance we are using a service called Gillware to back up files to the cloud. Using this simple method and having three full copies of your data will insure that your data is safe not matter what emergency may arise.

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Technology Training

Server Backup vs. Computer Backup

If you spend your working days behind a computer, it is worth it to know what is going on behind the scenes when you save a file that you have been working on. There are usually a list of drives that you can use to save your files to. Knowing the difference between saving your files to your computer and saving it to your server can save you a great deal of trouble. This may seem silly if you already understand the difference, however, if you don’t know, it could lead to significant data loss.
If you are not saving your files to your server, then you are at risk of losing all of your documents should your computer die. Among many other things, the server acts as your first point of backup for your computer. This means that if your computer dies, you don’t have to worry. You can simply replace your computer and continue working since all of your documents are saved to the server.
The server in turn should follow the same principle. Once the data has been created on your computer and saved to the server, the server is then backed up to a local storage device. The local storage device should then be backed up to the cloud. Following these simple guide lines and making sure that you have at least three full copies of your data will insure that your company and your data are safe, no matter the disaster.