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Will You Be Ready When Ransomware Attacks?

As a MSP, we’re all too familiar with frantic calls from prospects whose hardware have been infected with Ransomware. You can hear the panic in their voices as they ask for immediate help. Though they want us to rush in like the A-Team of IT and fix their problems, we always make sure we have a conversation first. The reason being? We want the client educated on the probable outcome before they spend any money on ransomware removal. 

Ransomware Is a Serious Threat

We’ll start by giving you some perspective. Ransomware has been on the rise. In Q1 of 2016 alone, there was an increase in ransomware attacks by 165 percent. And cyber security news this year is abuzz with reports of businesses falling prey to these malicious threats. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions have been attacked and computer systems have been held for ransom to the sum of $17,000 or more.

In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 992 complaints about the CryptoWall ransomware last year. Ultimately, victims reported more than $18 million in losses. The situation is often so bad that the FBI advises businesses to “just pay the ransom” rather than attempt ransomware removal. The FBI! If that tells you anything about the situation, it’s clear that you need an exit strategy before you even begin.

Why Ransomware Removal Is So Tough

The newer ransomware is deceitfully very good software. It locks you out of your data and then goes looking for more victims on your network. If you’ve got one infection, you are likely to get more.

Our best solution, rather than ransomware removal, is to restore from a good backup, but then we find out frequently the client was just protecting their servers, not the PC’s data.

Sadly, no one is safe. Large and small businesses get hacked with the same frequency. Even family photos and personal information can get swept up in a ransomware attack. It’s always sad when our clients lose personal memories. Though their business data might be safe on a protected server, their personal files are usually not and are lost when we have to fully wipe an infected PC. Worst of all is this can be prevented.

Avoiding the Threat from Ransomware Attacks

Staying one step ahead of ransomware attacks takes preparation. Backing up your critical data is one of the most important steps you can take. Ask your MSP which tools they use; a multilayered approach is required for security as no single vendor can or should “do it all” when critical data is involved.

Additionally, make sure your staff recognizes there are simply some emails they shouldn’t open. If you get an attachment from an unknown sender, you should delete it. Train your staff to be careful, but also block websites you know are malicious. Since removing ransomware isn’t an option, you can’t take any risks.

There are also solid security tools and business processes to protect your organization. Have a frank conversation with your IT provider. I’ve said it 100 times before, but with data security an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It may be the only thing between you and total data loss.

So before you have to pursue ransomware removal, take care of your backup solutions. At ECMSI, we can provide you with business continuity that prevents you from ever losing your livelihood to ransomware attacks, system failures, or even natural disasters. Check out our backup solutions and prevent your company from being held hostage by circumstances outside your control.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cutting Communication Costs

Every business owner wants to cut costs. But before you go on a communication costs cutting spree, consider this. There are good ways to save . . . and some not-so-good ways.

As Forbes recently observed, “when the finance or accounting department drive savings, often times they do so without seeing the big picture of how cost cutting might impact employee and customer satisfaction as well as loyalty.”

Cost Cuts That Aren’t Worth It

If you do a quick Google search for ways to trim SMB communication costs, you’ll find plenty of articles. But that’s part of the problem. An alarming number of them suggest cost-cutting strategies that are just plain stupid.

Here are some of our favorite bad ideas.

All hail Skype.

Skype is free. Why not ditch your phone system and just use Skype?

We’re not slamming Skype. It’s a great communications platform, and it does have some legitimate business applications. But it’s hardly an all-in-one communications solution.

Even Microsoft, the software giant behind Skype, doesn’t tout it as a replacement for business phone systems.

Stop making calls of any kind.

Like Skype, email is more or less free and just about everyone has it. Why not use that for the majority of your communications?

There are a couple of major flaws with this suggestion. First, customers will still expect to be able to call you. Second, text-based communication isn’t nearly as powerful (or convenient) as making a call.

While great for quick, straightforward communication, email will never replace voice conversations.

Go all or nothing on mobile.

We’ve seen both ends of the spectrum here.

Some advocate bumping employee cell phone plans to the max and pushing people to be available at all hours. Others say ditch company mobile plans and do away with company-provided devices.

Both are hard hits to employee morale, and neither does enough to lower communication costs to be worth the effort. Once again, minimal savings with a whole bunch of new headaches.

Tips That Will Actually Lower Your Communication Costs

There are far more effective ways to lower communication costs.

That said, there’s no magic bullet. Each of these will take a little work on your part. But unlike the bad advice above, these tips will actually make a difference in your bottom line.

Be strategically selective.

“Businesses lose an average of $11,000 per employee every year due to ineffective communications and collaboration.” That’s the teaser headline from a recent report published by Mitel.

Here’s the takeaway in a nutshell. When it comes to business communication, more isn’t necessarily better. Instead of rolling out every available option, take the time to be strategic.

Eliminate solutions that don’t fit and make sure everyone has adequate training in the solutions that do work. You’ll cut communication costs and improve overall operational efficiency.

Take advantage of video conferencing.

Video conferencing isn’t a fad. On the contrary, it’s a powerful communications tool with several impressive benefits. We’ll highlight just two of them.

Video conferencing makes dynamic collaboration possible, even if team members are on the other side of the world. You still get all the benefits of rich communication – tone of voice, facial expression, the ability to share visuals – without having to wait for a literal face-to-face meeting.

And it saves money. Video calls are cheaper than plane tickets and delays.

Don’t shy away from social media.

Social media isn’t the best communication tool for one-on-one customer communication. But if you’d like to communicate to your entire customer base, social media is a quick, easy and extremely inexpensive option.

Plus, if you already have a social media presence it’s basically free.

Not only that, but most of your customers are already invested in social media. You’re meeting them on their turf. They’ll appreciate that.

Audit everything.

Our final tip is the most important one. Nothing will uncover as many opportunities to lower communication costs as a full audit of your communication expenses.

Of course, few business leaders have the time or industry experience to effectively analyze their own phone bill. You’ll likely need some help with this one. That’s where ECMSI comes into play.

We’ve helped clients save thousands per month, and we’re confident we can help you lower your communication costs, as well.

If you’re serious about lowering communication costs, let us help. Give us a call today to get your free phone bill analysis. We promise we’ll make it worth your while.

12 Days of Tech Gifts: Day 12

Phillips Hue Lights:

What:

Phillips Hue lights prides itself on being “your personal wireless lighting system”.  This product can instantly change the entire ambiance of your home with just a quick flick of your thumb using your smartphone.  To get started with Hue Lights, buying the starter kit is necessary. This comes with a hub that connects to your wireless router, and 3 colored light-bulbs. The light-bulbs can turn any color in a broad spectrum of color assortments available using the Phillips Hue app.

Where:

Phillips Hue Lights can be purchased at a variety of retail and online locations such as Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon and the Phillips Hue website online.

For Who?:

This gift is perfect for the techy dad that loves making his house his castle, this is also great for young adults who have recently moved out and want to add their own personal flare to their new dwellings for entertaining friends.

Price: $199

12 Days of Tech Gifts: Day 11

Nest Thermostat

What:

In the theme of smart home equipment Day 11’s featured gift is a Nest thermostat. The Nest will make your home feel seamlessly self sufficient, this paired with Hue Lights could make you feel like your home has a mind of its own! The Nest is a simple to install home thermostat that can control your heating and cooling to run in the most efficient way possible. Nest will turn itself down when you’re away. You can also control all the settings from anywhere in the world with the Nest app!

Where:

Nest can be purchased at Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, or online on the Nest homepage and on Amazon

For Who?:

This gift will be best for the tech crazed dad that loves automation! Monitoring the thermostat will be no more with the seamless integration and high energy saving the Nest promises.

Price:  starting at  $169

12 Days of Tech Gifts: Day 10

iPhone Xr

What:

The iPhone XR uses the same processor as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, as well as Face ID and the TrueDepth camera, but uses different display technology and a single rear camera. Its sides are also made out of aluminum, rather than stainless steel.  The phone is larger than the iPhone X, with a 6.1-inch LCD display. It retains the TrueDepth camera that first launched on the 2017 iPhone X, and says goodbye to the Home button. Apple has some new color options for its mainstream iPhone. While past models have been available in up to three colors, this year, Apple is offering the iPhone XR in six: Black, White, Product(Red), Yellow, Coral, and Blue. However the most attractive point in this phone is the price point which is much less at starting price then its counterparts.

Where: The iPhone Xr is available at Sprint, Verizon and AT&T and T-Mobile, Apple Stores and online, Best Buy Mobile and some major retailers.

Who: This phone would be perfect for someone who needs to upgrade their current device. Or if you want to give your teen the latest device without the high price point.

Price: Starting at $749 for the 64GB model

 

12 Days of Tech Gifts: Day 9

Apple Airpods

 

What:

The airpods are apples take on wireless headphones. They seamlessley connect to any apple device over a bluetooth connection. With more than 24 hours of battery life in the charging case  and a charge time of 15min for 3 hours of playback these headphones can go over 5 hours on a single charge. While small, the sound quality is second to none.

Where:

Available online at the Apple Store or at Retailers like Wal mart, Target, Best Buy and of course Amazon.

Who:

Perfect for the music listener, college students, or anyone with a variety of Apple Devices. These airpods can work with Macbooks, iPhones, iPads and the Apple Watch.

Price: $159.00

12 Days of Tech Gifts: Day 8

Amazon Echo 2nd Generation Smart Speaker

 

What:

One of the coolest tech gifts in its price range, the all-new Amazon Echo Plus has a sleeker design and much better sound than its predecessor. The device’s Dolby-tuned hardware delivers 360-degree audio with a more robust bass, while seven built-in microphones ensure that Alexa will hear commands better than ever.

The available fabric finishes for the speaker include include charcoal, sandstone, and heather gray. The speaker comes bundled with a Philips Hue smartbulb, so it’s perfect for smart home beginners.

Where:

Available on Amazon

Who:

This gift would be perfect for college students or someone who wants to begin turning their home into a smart home. For those entertainers in your life, they would thank you for an amazing new gadget that will help them with their future home parties.

Price: $149.99

12 Days of Tech Gifts: Day 7

Apple Watch Series 4

 

What:

The Apple Watch Series 4 is an upgraded model of the classic Apple Watch. This series introduces bigger screen sizes at 42mm and 44mm compared to the traditional 38mm and 40mm.  The series 4 is also the thinnest Apple Watch to date for a more comfrotable and stylish look. With all the features of a smartphone in the LTE cellular capable ones the Apple Watch can be as mobile as you are. The regular model also makes a perfect companion to your phone.

Where:

Apple Watch is available online at Apple, Best Buy and any other major retailer. the LTE cellular capable is available at Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and other cellular carriers. They will require a supplemental data plan.

Who: The Apple Watch is a great gift to anyone with an iPhone.  The watch makes a great fitness buddy or helps others keep in touch. It can also help get you away from your phone by having communication right on your wrist.

Price:  Starting at $399

12 Days of Tech Gifts: Day 6

Anker PowerCore Lite Portable Battery Pack

 

What:

The Anker PowerCore Lite is a sleek battery pack, whose 10,000 mAh capacity is enough to fully charge most smartphones twice and have power to spare. With a full USB port, a USB-C port, and a microUSB connector, the gadget has more connectivity features than any similarly priced rival. It’s a great gift for on-the-go personalities.

Where:

Easy to find on Amazon

Who:

The Anker Power charger is perfect for someone you know that is a traveler.  Whether it be for work or pleasure. This could also be perfect for that person whose phone is always on the verge of dying when they’re out and about.

Price:  $34

12 Days of Tech Gifts: Day 5

Nintendo Switch

What:

The Nintendo switch can easily transition from a mobile gaming device to a home entertainment center by docking it into a station connect to your TV. With innovative Joy-Con controllers, a fun selection of games that includes a hot new Zelda installment, and a cool selection of accessories, the Switch has been a hot commodity since its launch, and for good reason. It’s a great gift for gamers of all ages.

Where:

The best place to purchase this gaming system would be on Amazon.

For Who:

This gift is perfect for the gamer in your life. With the high scale graphics and new games planning to come out on the Switch, this console is perfect. Gamers now are also not tethered to their TV at home and can take their game on the go.

Price:  $299