All posts by a4zz1c

Strong Security Starts With Strong Passwords

If you use the same password for multiple systems—online shopping, email, your company’s cloud bookkeeping solution, etc.—you’re not alone. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg did that. And in 2016 his LinkedIn credentials were compromised in a major breach. That gave hackers access to his Twitter account, too, because the passwords were the same.

The fact is, with just one user password, hackers can often break into multiple applications and systems. Your whole business can very quickly be put at risk. That’s why a good security practice is to have a different, strong password for every account. A breach will be isolated to that account, and the fallout will be much smaller and easier to manage.

Be extra protective of your sensitive accounts

When it comes to ultra-sensitive accounts like company servers or your banking apps, make extra sure the password you use isn’t one you’ve used anywhere else. Banks usually have strong security measures, but even those won’t protect you if someone tries a password you’ve used somewhere else and it works. The consequences could be disastrous.

Email is another big one to safeguard—work and personal. If someone gets into your email, the potential for damage goes up exponentially. They can send out phishing, ransomware, or other malicious attacks to any or all of your contacts, and they’ll seem legitimate because they’ve come directly from you.

Be unique and strong

Of course, in addition to being unique, your passwords have to be strong, too. At a minimum, that means making each one long. Pick one with at least eight characters, but the longer the better. If you can use phrases of multiple words instead of a single word, that’s even better still. (And for goodness’ sake, don’t use “password”.)

So why don’t more people use unique, strong passwords for every account? Usually because they feel like it’s too much work. If you have dozens or hundreds of accounts, having a different password for each one might seem like a royal pain. And long, complex passwords are definitely hard if not impossible to remember. Fortunately, there are solutions to help manage passwords for you so your brain (or an insecure notebook or spreadsheet) doesn’t have to do all the work. Having the right tools is just as important as having the right practices in place.

ECMSI offers a state-of-the-art, multi-layered security suite to ensure your network and critical data is being protected. We offer a free network health assessment to answer your questions, show you where you’re vulnerable, and what our recommendations are to keep your network healthy and productive. Follow the link below to schedule yours today!

Schedule Your Free Network Health Assessment Today!

IT’s Role in Small to Mid-Sized Businesses

Business executives and leaders are starting to take more notice of the increasingly critical role IT plays in small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). In a recent study, research reveals the challenges that SMBs consistently face. Smaller businesses have budget constraints that make it tough to keep up with complex trends such as cloud computing, cybersecurity threats and intelligent machines. Let’s take a peek under the hood at what other SMBs say are their top priorities.

IT’s Critical Role

This study  interviewed 250 leaders in companies whose revenue ranged from $5-$50 million. Researchers concluded that these companies know the importance of IT but can’t afford the expense of adopting disruptive technologies that could revolutionize the way they do business.

Today, IT is a critical operational component that helps SMBs become more efficient. Approximately, 93% of the leaders surveyed confirmed that IT plays a strategic role in their day-to-day operations. Budget constraints prevent many of them from upgrading their systems or investing in IT assets that could improve workflow, product tracking and customer relationship management.

What happen when IT is poorly funded?

Unfortunately, it’s not just operations and customer relationship management that suffers when IT departments lack funds. About 66% of SMBs say they aren’t able to keep up with technological advances in their industries due to the cost associated with implementing big changes. Some highlights from this research study that underscore the challenges facing SMB IT departments:

  • About 60% say losing half their revenue growth would be less impactful than losing half their data.
  • At least 67% have experienced system downtime in the past year. Causes include overloaded systems, lack of experienced personnel and aging infrastructure.
  • Almost 3 in 5 leaders said they suffered security breaches in the last year.

What about cybersecurity threats?

Cybersecurity is a major threat for these organizations. However, over half of those surveyed worry about threats associated with cloud-based technology. These fears may be well-founded. The same group of 250 companies experienced disruptions that include:

  • System downtime (66%)
  • Slowdowns (64%)
  • Data breaches (28%)

With cybersecurity falling in the top three concerns, SMBs would do well to allocate more of their IT budget to security efforts. Managing complex systems is tough enough. Small to midsize companies might benefit from partnering with a local Managed Service Provider (MSP) to broaden their coverage with experienced IT professionals.

No business is too small or too old to start implementing managed and professional services. Whether your venture is new and you want to start off on the right foot, or you believe your business needs a boost in productivity, our team at ECMSI is here to help!

www.ecmsi.com

How Successful Businesses Utilize an MSP

It’s impossible for most companies to conduct business without some form of IT system in place. Servers and computers don’t just appear on their own, and they don’t fix themselves when things go wrong. Managed and professional services are a must for any business.

While a typical startup with limited cash flow might consider building and maintaining systems on its own, or with the help of “experienced” friends, this will limit a company’s growth. The key to digital success for businesses of any size or stage is to hire IT professionals for both managed and professional services.

Starting Out Fresh and Professional

Professional services cover all forms of IT work that require hands on action. Core services include upgrading/installing computers, servers, and devices.

For new companies, professional IT services are at the top of everyone’s list, whether they realize it or not. The most basic tasks, such as sending emails, saving files, and making voice calls, require an IT system.

With millions of businesses running on all kinds of systems globally, the IT solutions market is quite intimidating. Consequently, it’s easy to check price tags and decide to put on the IT hat and do things alone. Nothing is worse for a startup than believing IT YouTube videos are as good as a professional engineer. Losing private data because a secretary or friend set up a company’s server could spell trouble for a new business’ future.

Beyond ensuring a company’s system functions properly, professional engineers consider what components will lead to the most productive work environment. This saves both time and money in the short- and long-term.

The Way IT Has Always Been

A company looking to expand might ask a new employee for advice on doubling the size of its network. Just because they listed IT as a skill on their LinkedIn profile doesn’t mean they can handle an entire company’s network. One of the dozens of possible scenarios could end with literally two of everything and excessive amounts of spending. An IT engineer can propose solutions that could even lead to downsizing a company’s physical assets while increasing productivity.

Established companies with IT philosophies like, “we’ve always done it this way,” or “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” are guaranteeing themselves a future of ceased growth or even closure.

Managing Your IT Momentum

Once everything is installed and functioning correctly, the journey has just begun. The next step involves hiring a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

No business enjoys computer or server failures. The frustration alone can affect employees’ or clients’ moods. However, the amount of time a system stays down can have an impact on a company’s productivity and bottom line. Managed IT services seek to end problems before they exist.

Think of an MSP as an all-knowing, ever-present being who tirelessly watches a company’s entire network. Managed services don’t stop when the regular work week does either. Advanced monitoring software routinely alerts engineers to potential issues, who remotely conduct timely fixes.

By investing in managed services, a company can have peace of mind. Their accountant can also keep counting cash instead of troubleshooting every computer problem. An MSP will help keep a business focused on their core activities rather than their IT.

Investing in Your Future by Using Managed and Professional Services

What do experienced friends, secretaries, new employees, and accountants have in common? They aren’t IT engineers. While they are well-meaning people who generate revenue for you elsewhere, they can lose your company money when you re-purpose them as IT professionals.

No business is too small or too old to start implementing managed and professional services. Whether your venture is new and you want to start off on the right foot, or you believe your business needs a boost in productivity, our team at ECMSI is here to help!

You Should Outsource Your IT. Here’s Why:

The involvement of technology in your day-to-day business activities makes it crucial to have a dependable network. For a vast majority of companies, their technology needs are evolving a lot faster than expected. As a business you may find yourself hiring internally, outsourcing to an IT managed services provider or looking for the in between of outsourced and in-house. Here’s some information to help you decide if outsourcing your IT is best for your company:

What are the benefits of outsourcing?

  • Fewer unexpected expenses. When your outsource your IT,  you will find yourself with one, predicable monthly cost.
  • Reduced overhead. By outsourcing your IT, you don’t need to worry about the financial burden of full-time employees.
  • Maintain your in-house talent. If you’re only looking to outsource part of your IT support, you’re freeing up your employees to handle the day-today tasks and keep them focused on their projects at-hand.
  • Increased workflow. If your IT is outsourced, your business will reduce their downtime and not have to waste critical business hours on IT issues.
  • Scalability. An outsourced IT provider should be prepared to meet your IT needs whether your services need to be scaled up or down as time goes by.

What is the downside of outsourcing?

  • Cost for small businesses. For small businesses who have around 10 or fewer workstations, the cost of outsourcing IT could be too expensive. However, you’ll have a better idea of how to budget for your IT strategy in the upcoming year.
  • Time differences. When choosing an outsource IT service provider, it’s important to consider all of your local options. By outsourcing out of your area, you can find yourself encountering decreased response times and lack of communication.

Considering outsourcing your IT?

At a fraction of the cost, partnering with an MSP can help businesses achieve the same end result as adding an entire IT department.  Offloading IT tasks to an MSP means more time and energy to spend on real progress, improvement, and ultimately, growth.

ECMSI is the area’s leading Managed Service Provider with the most proactive IT approach and quickest response time in the industry. To learn more about ECMSI and our services call Shane Nesbitt, IT Consultant, at (330) 750-1428

Contact Us!

 

Are You Defending Against Insider Threats?

Wondering what an insider threat is? An insider threat is an individual or business partner who inappropriately uses company data. It’s important in today’s technology landscape to take proactive steps to prevent insider threats. Here’s some tips to keep your business and employees protected:

#1 Educate Your Team

It’s necessary to keep your team educated on personally identifiable information (PII) and the implications of that information being stolen. PII include full names, Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account number, passport number, and email address Each employee needs to understand the risks associated with violating specific state or federal regulations regarding data privacy and security.

#2 Deter

Create easy to understand policies in place to prevent an insider from breaching your company data and make sure these policies are strictly enforced. There’s a chance you may be forced to put a someone in charge of holding the company accountable in following policies.

#3 Detect

As a business, you must have security systems in place to identify data breaches and their sources as soon as possible.  It will make your job easier to find the source of the breach with an effective audit trail in place.

#4 Investigate

In order to limit extensive damages, when a security breach is detected, actions must be taken. With an insider threat in mind, you may have to consider revoking access privileges to ensure it can’t happen a second time.

#5 Train

The IT landscape is constantly evolving which means your employees need to be regularly trained on data security. Consider a variety of training tools such as: emails, posters, scheduled meetings and face-to-face interviews.

Are you concerned that your company’s data could be at risk? We’re here to help. ECMSI’s advanced security suite is industry-leading in keeping your critical business data protected and increasing productivity. Call us today: (330) 750-1428 or visit us at  www.ecmsi.com

Ransomware: What Is It?

Hackers are smart, ransomware is no joke and if an attack hits your network, you need to know about it immediately. Ransomware threats are constantly growing and considered one of the most dangerous web-based attacks. While the landscape is constantly evolving, it’s important to stay educated in order to keep your business safe. Let’s start with the basics:

What is a ransomware?

Ransomware is a malicious software created to block access to computer files or an entire system until a sum of money is paid. Ransomware is typically delivered via email which includes links to corrupt websites or downloads and infected attachments (such as, PDFs). While these emails may seem innocent in nature, one wrong click can lead to a malicious download of hostile software that can lock up your entire network.

Why should you protect your business from ransomware?

  • Losing Critical Business Data
  • Devastating Financial Loss
  • Complete Loss of Business Productivity
  • Compromising Your Business Reputation

How do you stay safe from ransomware?

When it comes to how to help protect against ransomware, here’s a few tips you should always keep in mind?

  • Look out for misspellings: email addresses, file names, subject line, etc.
  • Beware of the overly-urgent email
  • Before you click: hover!
  • Keep your personal details private
  • Always have a backup of your critical data

Avoiding the Threat from Ransomware Attacks

In order to stay one step head of ransomware attacks, you need to prepare. It’s most important to always back up your critical business data. Antivirus software is a great start to layering your defense but a multi-layered approach is the absolute safest bet.

Additionally, it’s important to educate your staff on the threat of ransomware and phishing emails to keep your network safe. Train your staff to be careful, but also block websites you know are malicious.

ECMSI: Advanced Security + Disaster Recovery

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.

www.ecmsi.com

Benefits of Proactively Monitoring Your Network

There’s nothing worse than getting the call that your network is down. Business owners often find that their IT lacks the visibility to notice performance issues before they become bigger problems. It’s simple to understand that when you have a network outage, the clock starts ticking and the longer it takes to resolve, the more it costs in productivity, staff time and customer satisfaction.

Keeping tabs on all of your network technology means that you can spot issues before they get worse. Having a proactive maintenance of a network will not only improve your productivity but also increase the reliability of your systems and could save you money in support costs.

Below, we’ve listed some of the top benefits in proactively monitoring your network:

Stay Ahead of Outages

There’s many reasons a network outage could occur; configuration issues, environmental factors and even human error. By implementing a proactive network monitoring approach, you’re giving yourself the visibility needed to stay one step ahead of potential issues and can prevent your business from experiencing these outages in the first place.

Identify Security Threats

You can’t assume your information is safe. It’s important to have at least one level of security but more proactive to access more. A network monitoring tool can provide that first level and give you a big picture of your typical performance. By monitoring your security, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to notice unfamiliar changes and find you best proactive approach to minimize your risk.

Save Money

Time = Money  and when your network is down, this is especially true. By monitoring your network, you’re able to make problem solving faster and easier and get back to the important day-to-day tasks that keep your business in the position for optimal growth.

Improve Reliability

If you had the chance to identify and correct small issues before they became bigger problems to provide the best customer satisfaction, wouldn’t you? By proactively maintaining your network, you’re able to bridge the gap between standard customer service and exceptional customer service by no longer worrying about downtime or errors in communication.

 

ECMSI offers top-of-the-line proactive monitoring and a layered security suite to keep your business running at the highest level of efficiency. Find out more today by giving us a call and scheduling your Free Network Health Assessment! (330) 750-1428

 

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.

Don’t Let A Tech Disaster Ruin Your Business Reputation

Anytime there is a major cyber security breach in the news it usually spells out disaster for all those who are involved. Weather it is the customers whose data has been breached or the company involved that has to deal with all the media, it ends up turning into a nightmare.

However, not just massive corporations can deal with this reputation issue after cyber security breaches and downtime. Small businesses that are down because of technical issues could suffer damages to their customer service and reputation locally.

Reputation matters!

Most of the time when you hear about disaster recovery, the focus is on getting your business up and running as fast as possible. The average small business loses as much as 8,600 per hour when its network is offline. It’s expensive to rebound slowly.

When customers feel they can’t trust a company with their financial information, other factors fall by the wayside quickly. Maybe you’re the best in your industry. Maybe you have amazing customer service. Maybe your customer base is insanely loyal the rest of the time.

But lose their trust, and you’ve lost them.

Disaster recovery and your reputation.

Disaster recovery isn’t just about restoring functionality to your system. It’s also about restoring customer faith. If something happens – anything from a natural disaster to hardware failure to a security breach – you need a clear disaster recovery plan.

If you have one, you can weather the storm. Trust can be rebuilt. But only if you show your customers you know how to handle a crisis.

We are Here to Help.

Here at ECMSI, we care a great deal about disaster recovery. We understand the impact downtime has on your bottom line. We also understand the hit your reputation will take if you don’t know how to navigate a disaster. That’s why our managed services are designed to keep you proactive and ready for anything.

It’s our goal to minimize the impact to your customer base and keep your reputation untarnished, even when everything goes wrong.

If you don’t have a disaster recovery plan in place already, we highly recommend addressing that. And, of course, we’d be honored to help. Get in touch with us to find out more about how our disaster recovery strategy can protect your network stability and your reputation.

Email: Is it your business’s weakest link?

Email is one of the most important forms of communication in the business world today. This digital post office gives an organization the chance to communicate not only internally but also to their clients, partners and customers. An organization can use email from marketing, to customer service and everything else in between. Many organizations go to great lengths to protect their email data knowing that there is a lot of company information being exchanged through this medium daily. This makes email the most vulnerable and targeted forms of communication in the cyber world. According to a study done by F-secure, of all hacking attempts, 34% of them are accomplished with phishing and malicious email attachments.

What does this mean for email in the future? Here are what security trends we can expect:

  1. Email based attacks continuing to rise.
  2. The attacks will focus on each company’s network of vendors and customers.
  3. Email authentication will become standard.

Levels of interaction using email is very high, and this always comes with a degree of trust, thus someone targeting a major corporation will attempt to mimic their various clients and vendors. We are already seeing emails that attempt to look like they are from “Microsoft” or “eBay” with fake branding that could make you question and click through. Therefore, we will see an increase in mandatory authentications when accepting an email to be delivered.

Since email is so highly targeted some of the best ways to prevent having your company’s information compromised is training employees to see the malicious activity in their inbox. Most problems can be avoided when your team has the ability to protect themselves and be suspicious as to what they are clicking on. To prevent these emails from ever coming in, companies need to establish a highly secure spam filtering and email encryption service. If spam is consistently infiltrating to your employee’s inbox this could cut productivity and end up costing your business.

Small to medium sized business who have not devoted the time to securing their email will be huge targets and could run into some major issues soon. These firms need to ensure they have proper spam filtering in place that will filter out all suspicious emails with strange domains. Those businesses that may be dealing with important financial or health information will need to ensure their emails are encrypted and cannot be compromised that could potentially even lead to legal issues.

ECMSI is here to answer any questions or concerns you may have about your organizations email network. Call today and schedule your FREE Network Health Assessment: (330) 750-1428