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6 Signs That Your IT Network Isn’t Healthy

If you’re reading this, there is a pretty good chance you’re concerned about your businesses IT network.

We wish we could assure you that your network is fine, but we talk to business owners every day who are dealing with network issues. Sometime these issues are minor, but other times they bring business to a dead stop.

Either way, these network issues cause some downtime, which can put a huge hole in business productivity.

 

The truth about downtime

Downtime causes a whole slue of problems in an organization. When your technology is offline, your staff can’t work. Your customers can’t get the support or service they need. You may not even have phone or email service. The end conclusion?

Downtime is bad.

In an article by CNN, they reported that the average cost for IT network downtime for small businesses dealing with ransomware attacks exceeds $100,000. This form of cyber attacks is also just one of the ways a network can go down.

Basic hardware and software maintenance is extremely critical. For the most part, technology gives you ample warning that your IT network is in trouble. The trick is knowing what warning signs to look for and understand how important it is to heed those warnings.

6 IT network warning signs.

The trick to understanding network signs is knowing what to look for.  Once you know what to look for, IT network warning signs are not hard to identify. In fact, they tend to stand out.

If you’re dealing with any of the following red flags, its probably time to take a closer look at your IT network- or call on the help of a reliable IT consultant to get your network back up to speed.

1. Things Are Moving Slower Than Normal

Let’s say the employees at your office use a shared drive for big files—something like image files. Normally, you can access the shared drive in a matter of a few seconds. Downloading even a large file rarely takes much longer.

And then one day, it takes four times as long.

Changes in IT network speed are often indications of some kind of problem. The server may have an issue, or you may need to tend to your network cabling. It could even be your Wi-Fi connectivity. The one thing you shouldn’t do is just suffer through it. Slow network speeds are typically a symptom of some other issue.

2. Temperamental Wi-Fi

Speaking of Wi-Fi, if you find your connection dropping on a regular basis, there is likely an issue behind it. Wi-Fi technology is well past the testing phase. Once your wireless IT network is set up and configured, it should be reasonably stable.

If you’re in doubt, ask around. When others in your office are experiencing the same kind of wireless drops, that’s not a coincidence. It means something’s wrong.

 3. Reboot. . .Then Reboot Again..

One of the most common troubleshooting techniques is pretty simple, and we have all done it before, the reboot.

But rebooting a computer (or server) can fix a lot of problems. Similarly, if you’re having issues with a specific application, closing it and reopening it often clears things up. When you restart (your computer, server or an application) the code can start from square one and hopefully it won’t encounter the same problem again.

But you shouldn’t have to restart constantly. If you do, that’s a sign of an ongoing problem, not a one-time issue.

 4. Bringing on the Heat

A common hardware failure warning sign has to do with the temperature.

Most IT network hardware produces heat. That’s why computers have fans—to help disperse that heat and keep the delicate inner workings at a comfortable temperature. If there’s too much heat, it can damage hardware.

Here’s what to look (and listen) for. If your computer’s fan is running on high all day, that’s a bad sign. If your laptop or desktop is physically hot to the touch, that, too, is not a good sign. And if any piece of hardware shuts down due to heat, pay attention.

It’s much more convenient to replace hardware before it fails than to scramble for a replacement after it had a meltdown.

5. Too Many Workarounds

Something about the IT network isn’t working properly. Maybe there’s an ongoing error message or the printer fails every other time someone tries to print something or one of the applications everyone relies on is clearly outdated.

But instead of addressing the issue, the staff just work around it.

If your office has some kind of elaborate plan B to deal with an IT network issue, it’s time to stop accommodating the inconvenience. Rather than changing how you do your job, take care of the underlying issue with your IT network—whether that’s a needed upgrade, routine maintenance or some other fix.

 6. The Warning Sign You Do NOT Want to See

If you’ve already experienced data loss, hardware failure or a cybersecurity breach, then it’s well past time to assess the health of your IT network.

Any of these three issues means you’ve already suffered through real impact to your business. You’ve likely incurred downtime, lost opportunity, and maybe even a hit to your reputation. Don’t assume lightning won’t strike twice. You’re not in the clear until the underlying problem has been addressed.

Reevaluate the state of your hardware, ramp up your cyber security, and be sure your business is protected and prepared for the future.

 

Be Prepared

There are times when IT network trouble happens out of the clear blue. But the vast majority of the time you can see it coming—if you know where to look.

One of the best ways to proactively maintain your IT network is to keep an eye out for these warning signs. If there’s a potential issue, address it before it has the chance to slow your business down.

For any information on how to protect your IT environment feel free to contact us at 330-750-9412.  Our goal at ECMSI is to get rid of all the IT headaches to let you focus on growing your business.

The Best Ways to Prevent Cyber Attacks and Data Breaches

Today, for every business to run efficiently and keep up with the competition, they must utilize various technologies such as databases, CRM systems and require a good online presence to be seen. In recent years, small business (companies with 250 employees or less) have increasingly been the targets to hackers and cyber attacks. Many of these schemes directly target employees through phishing emails. Cyber attacks and data breaches come in many different types but all have one goal, and that is to take sensitive information and utilize it for some sort of gain or profit all while ruining the companies infrastructure.

So what are the most necessary things a business must do to keep their IT safe?

  1. Utilize Antivirus Software
    • Investing the money in Antivirus can go a long way. These programs are meant to catch any sort of malware entering your systems and stopping it at the gate before it spreads.
  2. Enable Firewalls
    • Firewalls are a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a set of security rules.
  3. Train Employees on Cyber Security
    • Most issues stem from unaware employees falling victim to phishing emails, in fact an untrained employee is the most effective way for a cyber attack to come through. Education your team consistently and making sure they can spot hacking attempts is crucial to your business.
  4. Make sure your passwords are strong!
    • Making passwords that are easy to guess and typical will only hurt your business, an account can easily be compromised if your password is your birthday or “password123”. Using a combination of uppercase, lowercase letters and special characters will ensure a higher security level.
  5. Use Encryption
    • Encrypting your emails, or other messages that get sent out will ensure that your information is being sent securely. Without encryption a hacker will be able to see and intercept all data being sent.
  6. Patch your operating system and software regularly. 
    • “Patch” or Update your operating system and software regular. Hackers are always on the lookout for weaknesses within programs and once they are discovered they can gain access to your files. Keeping your system updated ensures that these weaknesses or loopholes are “patched” up and a virus that attempts to enter through a loophole will not be able to go through.

Many of these small businesses do not have the personnel, expertise or time to put in their IT security and that is when they are put at a high risk for their business or employee data to be compromised. These proactive security steps are an absolute necessity to any modern day business. Keeping those 6 items a priority in your business network established a strong foundation for your IT infrastructure that will make sure your business is running smoothly and keeps your team productive.

The Cost of Cyber Crime

 

Cyber Crime can be extremely expensive to companies who sadly fall victim. Cyber crime not only has an upfront cost to fix, but many times cyber crime can affect the end consumer of a business. A cyber crime can ruin a companies credibility and relationship with their end consumers. When this happens, the business is not just faced with the cost of fixing the issue but also how this can effect their future endeavors. So howmuch are these malicious attacks costing the various businesses and corporations around the planet?

According to the business consultant firm Accenture, cyber crime has increased over 23% over the past year and shows absolutely no sign in slowing down. The company decided to get the information from a poll conducted to over 2,100 global organizations. The report shows that if the cost of cyber crime would spread out it would average to about $11.7 million per business

The study then separated the cost by industry and country, it found that the most hard hit firms were in the financial and energy industry. Financial services suffered a loss of $18 million while energy followed closely at $17 million. When the study looked at various numbers for different countries. It found that US firms incurred the highest average cost of any other country at a whopping $21 million with the lowest being Australia at $5 million. The statistics also showed that on average each firm suffered about 130 breaches/network or system infiltration’s each year.

“The U.S. incurred the highest average cost for business who fall victim to cyber attacks.”

The most interesting find in the article is how long it took for these firms to recover from various attacks. The study stated that attacks by malicious insiders took an average of 50 days to resolve while ransomware attacks took over 23 days. The time being spent to fix these issues has caused a huge ramp up in prevention for cyber attacks. Companies are now adopting a more dynamic security strategy that builds resilience from the inside out instead of only focusing on a border wall that will not let anything in.

It is becoming increasingly important for business of all sizes and industries to prepare and be pro-active about their business and IT network. A cyber security problem is one that no company can afford to have when there are many other important and critical business tasks that need to be done. The director of Accenture Security stated that security investments in the right areas can make a difference in reducing costs and preventing potential hazards.

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