A fresh start and a new year is the perfect time to implement new policies in your business, including IT policies. Odds are, if you’re thinking about implementing a new policy, you’ve been thinking about it for a while; and it’s probably caused problems with your employees. Actually creating and implementing a new policy can be difficult for a company of any size, but especially in a small business. Your employees are more likely to be used to their ways and unwilling to change them very much. However, implementing new IT policies are usually the right action if there’s a need for them.

The first step after identifying the need is determining what the policy should say exactly; the wording is very important. Using terms such as “generally”, “typically”, “usually”, and “may” is a good way to keep the company safe in the event of the policy backfiring in any way. 

Not only does the policy need to be written in clear, concise language, it needs to be announced in a clear and concise way. Providing employees with a detailed memo is a great way to distribute the information and any other specifications. Give your employees a firm date that the policy goes into effect and list your contact information in case they have questions.

Some other components of a new policy to consider are a glossary, in case your employees are not all super-tech savvy, a purpose statement to give a bit of reasoning, and an implementation section. Put yourself in the shoes of your employees before writing a policy or the coordinating memo; it can really help to give yourself a direction with the policy. 

At any time, disaster could strike your business. So why aren’t you focusing on backing up your data? If your accounting, contact, and customer information is important to your business (which, of course it is), you need to keep track of your backups and schedule them frequently. Not only do you need to perform backups, it’s important to back your information up to a secure place; in the event of a security breach, it would be much harder to access your information if it’s in a secure place. 

Research is the first key component of creating a business continuity plan. Figuring out what you are able to budget for your continuity plan and then collecting quotes from various providers is the first step. Research which vendors these companies use, if any, and which ones have the best reviews, most users, and which is the best fit. If you already have a Managed Services Provider, they should be willing to do this research for you, keeping things nice and simple while you worry about running your business.

After researching, take the time to sit down with each provider and see how they handle their clients and backups. If there are any other IT services your business needs, see if this provider can serve those needs as well to keep everything in one place. Their priority should be ease of use of their services for you and not selling to you.

When you have picked a provider and signed a contract with them, establish your backup schedule. It’s likely that there is already a procedure in place for their other clients, but you should also know the schedule of when your data is being backed up. 

Lastly, be sure to check in. If there is a way for you to look at your backups or access them, make sure you are checking that they are regularly happening. If you have problems, be proactive and reach out to your provider before it becomes a problem for your business.

As a Managed Services Provider, keeping your information safe is a part of what you expect from us. Our premium backup partner, Datto, creates solutions that safeguard businesses from IT Disasters, human error, and malicious activity. With Datto defending your business, you are guaranteed business continuity with uninterrupted access to data on-site, in transit, and in the cloud.

Ransomware attacks have suddenly become more prevalent. Each year sees more of them. Hospitals, NPOs, shipping giants, etc., have all been victims of ransomware attacks. Your business could be too! Did you know that emails are one of the most common gateways for ransomware to get into your systems? In this blog, we tell you how you can stay safe by following a few tips.

If you think something is amiss, it probably is

Does that email seem unfamiliar? As though you weren’t meant to get it, or it doesn’t quite sound like your colleague wrote it? Perhaps it’s not. Malicious email senders often try to mask actual email IDs with something similar. For example: An email you believe to have come from billing@yourvendor.com might actually be from billing@yourvemdor.com. So take a good look at the email ID if you spot something ‘phishy’.

Attachments and form fills

Does the email contain an attachment that you are being asked to save to your computer? Or an executable file that you are asked to run? Perhaps you are asked to submit your personal details at an authentic looking website. Before you do any of these, check the authenticity of the email and the message. Were you supposed to receive it? Were you expecting an attachment? You might even want to call the sender and confirm if you are unsure.

The message seems to instill fear or a sense of urgency

Often, malicious email messages urge you to take immediate action. You may be asked to log onto your ‘banking website’ ASAP to prevent your bank account from being frozen, or enter your ITR details onto a webpage to avoid being fined by the IRS. Real messages from your bank or the IRS will never force or hurry you to do something.

Other things you can do

Regular data backups

Conduct regular data backups so that in the eventuality of a ransomware attack, you don’t lose your data. Cybercriminals having access to your data is bad enough–it damages your brand and business reputation and can even attract lawsuits from parties whose personal information has been compromised, but, not being able to retrieve all that data in the aftermath of an attack is even worse. Regular backups help you in that regard, plus when you have a pretty recent data backup you are not reduced to the state of helplessness where you HAVE to pay the ransom to retrieve your data.

Install an anti-malware tool

Last, but not least, invest in anti-malware tools that can detect malware attacks and alert you before you fall prey to them. Such tools scan emails, links and attachments and alert you if they are found suspicious.

No matter how big or small a business you are, ransomware attack is a reality and applies to you. It is better to be prepared than having to cough up huge sums of money to free up your data later and even then there’s no guarantee your data will be restored by the cybercriminal.

Did you know that having a weak password is one of the biggest security risks you face? This blog focuses on the best practices related to passwords that you can follow to ensure passwords are not your weakest link.

  1. Avoid sequences and repetitions: How many times have you used passwords like dollar12345 or $$$BobMckinley. Passwords containing sequences and repetitions are just easier to hack.
  2. Avoid using your personal data: Do not make your birth date, bank account number or address a part of your password. It puts your data at stake if your personal information is stolen.
  3. Don’t repeat passwords: Make sure you pick unique passwords every time. Unique, not only verbatim, but also in combination. For example, if password one is a combination of number, symbols and letters in that sequence, password two should be letters, numbers and symbols.
  4. Manual password management is not a good idea: Invest in a good password management tool. You can even find some free ones online. But, manually managing passwords, by writing them down on a spreadsheet is a big NO.
  5. Password sharing: Discourage password sharing across the organization. Every employee should have unique access to data depending on their role and authority. Password sharing gets things done faster, but can do irreversible damage.
  6. Password policy: Have a password policy in place and enforce it. Conduct timely audits to ensure the passwords match the specified safety standards. Also, take corrective actions against employees who don’t follow your password policies related to password sharing, setting, etc.
  7. Don’t use dictionary words: Hacking software programs can guess dictionary words faster. The key is to mix things up a little bit–some numbers, some symbols, some punctuation and some alphabets.

Don’t choose passwords that are way too simple just because they are easier to remember, because, more often than not, it can get you into a lot of trouble.

When I meet with clients, especially SMBs, I often hear them say that they feel their business is too insignificant to be a target of cyber-criminals. Why would someone go after my business when there are bigger ones out there, making more money? Here are a few reasons why.

  1. Because you think so – The fact that you think you are safe makes you more vulnerable, because you are not prepared for the eventualities that arise from an attack. Most SMBs I interact with don’t have a well-defined plan in place in terms of IT security
  2. Your staff is a gateway: Smaller businesses rarely conduct formal training sessions or provide information updates to their staff about the latest cyber threats. Such sessions are never a priority when the staff is too caught up with other ‘real’ work. As a result, your staff is more likely to fall for phishing messages and unknowingly become a gateway for cybercriminals to enter your organization.
  3. You work on shoestring budget: Many of my clients claim that they are strained for financial resources and would rather invest in growing their business than on something like preventive IT measures. Well, guess what? Cybercriminals know that too. They know that large corporations have multiple IT security layers in place that are difficult to penetrate. Your business, on the other hand, is a soft target for them since your investment in IT security is negligible.

What you can do to keep your business safe without straining your budget?

  1. Change your mindset- No business is too big or too small for cybercriminals. In fact, a data loss or data compromise is more likely to be fatal for a smaller business than a bigger one.
  2. Train your staff: Teach your staff to identify malicious links, spam, phishing messages, etc,. Send them Day Zero Alerts regularly that keep them updated about the latest threats in the cyberworld.
  3. Consider bringing a managed service provider onboard: Having an in-house IT department can be expensive and not always worth the cost. You can benefit from having a SLA with a managed service provider (MSP). This arrangement gives you the benefits of having a dedicated IT team at your disposal minus the headaches that come with having it in-house.

Don’t forget…it is only a matter of time before you become a victim.

Cyber attacks are commonplace today. Malware such as viruses, worms, and more recently ransomware not only corrupt your data or hold it hostage, but also inflict irreversible damage on your brand and business. As a norm, most businesses these days to invest in anti-virus/cybersecurity systems. But, is that really enough? The answer is–NO. Because they often overlook one important aspect–access. Ask yourself, how easy is your data to access? How can you strengthen the walls that keep your data safe? Read this blog to find out.

Role-Based Access

Always follow a role-based access permission model–meaning people in your organization have access to ONLY the data they REALLY need. Generally, the higher the designation, the deeper the data access permission and stronger the rights. For example, someone at the executive level may not be able to edit your MIS spreadsheet, but a manager should be able to.

Formal Password Controls

No matter how good your cyber security, you need to ensure the protocols are followed at the ground level. Enforce policies regarding passwords strictly and hold violators accountable. Examples include-

Don’t Ignore Physical Security

Virtual security is a must, but so is physical security. Though there is only so much physical access controls can do in keeping your data safe in the BYOD era of today, don’t overlook this aspect. Installation of CCTV cameras on-floor, biometrics/card based access to your workspace/server rooms, etc. also have a role to play in data safety from the access perspective.

Training & Reinforcement

Finally, train…train…train. You need to train your employees on the protocols for data security and access so they don’t mess up accidentally. Conduct mock drills, refresher training, follow up with quarterly audits and use positive and negative reinforcements to ensure everyone takes it seriously. Because, at the end of the day, no cybersecurity software is good enough, if the best practices related to data access are ignored.

On the never ending problem of cyber security, small firms often do not have any/much in-house IT support. As a consequence, they may be less likely to be able to make sure their software is consistently updated to reflect any patches released by the product’s maker. This simple oversight, deliberate or not, is a major source of data breaches and ransomware attacks. Think back many years to when Microsoft pulled the plug on maintaining Windows XP. Many users refused to upgrade because there were afraid of losing compatibility with other software programs, the unintended consequences of moving to a new OS, or just not being sure how to install an upgrade. Whatever the issue, it meant those users had an operating system that was no longer updated to reflect the latest security fixes. Their operating system became an unlocked gate.

You may not be scared of technology, but as a small business owner, tracking the release of new updates or taking the time to install them as soon as they come out probably just isn’t a priority. You have a business to run. Adding to this problem, you may also allow your employees to use their personal laptops, mobile devices, and tablets for work duties. If that is the case, then every program on each of those devices is subject to the owner’s willingness and ability to update everything in a timely fashion. If any single device accessing your corporate files and data misses a security patch and is breached, so is your business.

The lesson here is that you need to take action to implement a company-wide process for maintaining all of your software applications so they don’t become an unlocked door in the middle of the night. A managed service provider can develop a plan to address update and security fixes on all the devices that access your data. It can be more than a small business owner can handle, so instead of ignoring the problem, reach out to find real solutions that will protect your business.

You cannot go a day without reading about some big name company or even government agency being hacked and critical data being compromised. What you don’t see in the media is that most of the attacks happen to small firms, and that this is where a lot of the cybercrime is occurring. What any business, but especially a small business, needs to be afraid of are cyber attacks that disable your operations, disrupt customer interaction, or breach your customer’s personal data. Contrary to what one might expect, smaller firms are far more likely to be targets of hackers than large firms. They are also likely to have less sophisticated security measures in place. Any firm’s existence can be threatened by these events, but smaller firms are often unable to rebuild after a major breach. Studies show that customers are less forgiving of smaller firms than larger ones when their personal data has been compromised. The lesson here is that smaller firms are more vulnerable and need to be extremely vigilant. Talk to a managed service provider about some basic steps you can take to protect your business.

Why do so many people procrastinate about making a will? Why is it so hard to get young people to buy health insurance? Because it is one of those “probably won’t happen–at least in the foreseeable future, and I‘ve got more interesting things to worry about or spend my money on” issues.

Small business owners tend to take the same approach to make business continuity plans in case of a disaster. They are usually fully consumed just running the business and keeping revenues steady and growing. Diverting energies and resources to a “what if” scenario just isn’t an imperative.

There are affordable, effective tools out there that will allow any smaller firm to develop effective business continuity plans, but they only work if you take action. Our best advice to overcome denial? Think of this scenario: If something happened right now and your entire operation came to a halt because of a cyber attack, a power failure, data loss, or a single point of failure hardware event, what would you do? Do you even know who you would call in for help?

It can be a scary thought, but one that merits your attention. Talk to a managed service provider about a proposal to develop a complete business continuity plan. You owe it to yourself and to all the employees who rely on your for their livelihood.

Small businesses often fail to take the time to make business continuity plans. One aspect of a business continuity plan involves developing plans to handle the loss of physical infrastructure and hardware. Unfortunately, smaller and younger firms often fail to address these issues because they lack the necessary capital to invest in additional or supplemental equipment. Redundant servers, battery back systems or uninterruptible power supplies, and data backup systems that allow for offsite backup storage are the most obvious examples.

These can represent considerable capex for a small firm. However, these costs need to be weighed against the costs that would be incurred if a severe business interruption occurred. Encouragingly, new technology is creating tools for redundancy and data protection that don’t require additional hardware investments. The cloud is probably the single biggest savior for small businesses looking to defend against business interruption events. The cloud means you can offload many of your business processes and infrastructure to the cloud and sidestep creating expensive redundancies on your own. Offsite data storage, increased efficiencies as a result of shared data center costs, SaaS, and even data collaboration tools are added cost savings that can be provided by the cloud.

So before you throw up your hands and say you cannot afford to address business continuity, take another look. The cloud can redefine the paradigm of “business continuity.”