Do You Have an IT Business Plan?

Most small and medium sized businesses have a business plan and follow the guidelines to keep the company on track for attaining short term and long term goals. But does your company have an IT business plan? While a business plan can help company leaders stay on track for goals, an IT plan can help identify and execute ways that technology can help companies attain those goals. An IT plan helps identify areas of growth, improved or increased revenue streams and ways to use tech to stay organized.

 

Here are some components to consider when planning out what your Business IT Plan may look like:

 

  • Mission Statement – There should be a general statement of how the technology used by the company is meant to help reach goals. A list of potential benefits and uses of technology can help get all employees on the same page. For example, if one of the goals is to communicate better with clients and within the company, how will technology play a role in that goal?
  • SWOT Analysis – Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats analysis can help organize how technology plays a role in the day-to-day running of the company. What issues are out there that tech can solve or what issues are created by the use of tech.
  • Inventory – Take an actual inventory of hardware and software and see where gaps or redundancies exist. By looking as a team at what you have, you will be better able to see what technology you may want next year or a few months down the road. Or you may realize what technology is not longer being used by employees and thus can be removed. This is also a good time to review protocols for security and use as the company requires.

 

Need help planning your IT goals? Call M&H Consulting for an evaluation of your system and IT needs.

Cyber Security for your Small Business

Small business owners have so many “hats” to wear and need to juggle so much to keep their business growing and evolving as the technology and market changes. One area that small business entrepreneurs can not ignore is cyber security. Just because a business is small and/or local does not mean it is immune from cyber attacks. In fact there are more hacks and security breaches of small and medium size businesses that go unreported or underreported. We all tend to concentrate on the larger corporations and what those cyber attacks mean for all of us. However, there are some actions your small company can take to keep your data safe.

 

 

  • Plan Ahead – Take a regular “security inventory” with your staff and especially with those in charge of your website and IT department. Identify internal and external risks to the security, confidentiality and integrity of your computer system. Make a plan as to how you are going to defend against each.
  • Train Employees – A plan is only as good as the people who are going to execute it. Train all employees on security measures such as passwords, encryption, opening unknown emails, etc. Be sure to set up guidelines for internet use and especially use of company mobile devices so that viruses and cyber crimes do not become a problem.
  • Secure your Wi-Fi networks – If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router. Be sure clients can access but you may need to change the password at regular intervals.
  • Employ Best Practices for Payments – If you accept payment digitally, which you most likely do, be sure to work with the banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used.
  • Secure All Hardware – Laptops, tablets and other devices can easily be stolen so be sure you have a set security system in place for not only use but storage and regular checks.

Benefits of Software Updates

As computer owners we are inundated with emails and reminders to update our software and protect our computers on a regular basis. While it may be easy to ignore those calls for updates, it may be foolhardy to do so. Freezing your IT solutions at the level that it was at the time of purchase can cause problems with production, efficiency, security and the occasional computer bug. Here are the top reasons why you should be sure to upgrade your software at regular intervals or according to the recommendations of your IT department/consultants.

  • Bug Fixes – Although computer companies work relentlessly to be sure systems are working properly, there are on occasion bugs that can cause your computer systems and software to operate improperly. Upgrades in software offer bug fixes and patches that can make your computer run smoothly and at its most efficient level.
  • Enhancement in Performance – With each new release of a software there are improvements and enhancements that have been made based upon customer reviews and comments. This means that your new upgrade could be easier to operate or have fewer customer complaints.
  • New Features – Upgrading your software may open a whole new slew of features that could make your job easier or more efficient. If your company fails to upgrade software you may be missing out on the latest and greatest feature that make client relations or some aspect of your job better.
  • Improved Security –  Upgrading software allows your computer to benefit from additional protections and levels of security. Ensuring your system has the latest defensive solutions help limit the threat posed by malware and hackers. Malicious parties are continually innovating, devising new ways of attacking users’ systems, and in response, the IT security industry has to find ways of reducing or eliminating this threat.

If you are wondering what software or upgrades may help your company contact M&H Consulting for a professional evaluation of your system.

Most Destructive Viruses in Recent History Part II

A computer virus is a type of malicious software program that, when executed, replicates by reproducing itself by infecting other computer programs by modifying them. As we continue to look at the most destructive viruses in recent history we remind our readers to always have the most updated versions of security protocols on your personal and business computers.

 

  • CIHThe Chernobyl virus (also known as CIH) triggers on April 26 each year, the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It overwrites a chip inside PCs effectively paralysing the entire computer. Its author, Chen Ing Hau, was caught by the authorities in Taiwan.
  • The “Elk Cloner” for the Apple II Systems was created by Richard Skrenta in 1981 and is considered one of the world’s oldest viruses. It infected the Apple DOS 3.3 and spread to other computers by floppy disk transfer. The “Elk Virus” was responsible for being the first computer virus to cause a massive outbreak ever in history.
  • The Anna Kournikova worm The Anna Kournikova worm posed as a picture of the tennis player, but was in fact a virus written by Jan de Wit, an obsessed admirer from the Netherlands. While the damage was not as extensive as the others on our list it was well-known and cost approximately $166,000.
  • The Melissa virus The Melissa virus, written by David L. Smith in homage to a Florida stripper, was the first successful email-aware virus and inserted a quote from The Simpsons into Word documents. Smith was later sentenced to jail for causing over $80 million worth of damage.
  • Sasser & Netsky – Sasser & Netsky are actually two separate worms, but they’re often grouped together because the similarities in the code led experts to believe they were created by the same person. Cost of malware: Around $31 billion.

 

Viruses are becoming more and more sophisticated and can destroy data costing your company time and money. Call M&H Consulting for a security check up and review.

 

The Most Destructive Computer Viruses Part I

It is important in many fields to take a look back and see how far technology has advanced as well as examine ways that it went awry. Recently cyber attacks have made front page headlines as they have impacted tens of thousands of computers worldwide. Viruses, ransomware and malicious hacking are becoming more common and unfortunately more destructive as these cyber criminals become more sophisticated. Therefore, this month we are taking a look back at the most destructive viruses in the past.

 

  • I LOVE YOU Virus – When the ILOVEYOU virus hit in 2000 it was considered one of the most virulent computer virus ever created. With damages estimated in the $10 billion range and 10% of the world’s computers effected it was a disaster.
  • MyDoom – Like ILOVEYOU, MyDoom was a record holder in that is was a fast spreading email-based worm. In 2004, roughly somewhere between 16-25% of all emails had been infected by MyDoom. The ultimate cost of the malware: $38 billion.
  • CryptoLocker – This ransomware spread through email attachments in September 2013 and encrypted the user’s files so that they couldn’t access them. The criminals would then demand a fee for the decryption password. Cost of the malware: With 500,000 victims, CryptoLocker made upwards of $30 million in 100 days.
  • Stuxnex – This is the scariest of the bunch! Stuxnet was built by government engineers in the US with the intention of obstructing nukes from being built in Iran. Stuxnet spread by a USB thumb drive and targeted software controlling a facility in Iran that held uranium.
  • Code Red – This virus first surfaced in 2001 and was discovered by two eEye Digital Security employees. It was named Code Red because the the pair were drinking Code Red Mountain Dew at the time of discovery. The worm targeted computers with Microsoft IIS web server installed, exploiting a buffer overflow problem in the system.

 

Read our next blog as we continue to discuss the Most Destructive Viruses in recent history.

Firewalls

For decades firewalls have been the first line of defense in network security. Using both hardware and software, businesses find it critical to monitor the incoming and outgoing traffic from other networks including the internet. A good firewall helps screen out hackers, viruses, and worms that try to reach your computer over the Internet. Without a solid firewall your network is exposed to potential dangers.

Personal home computers have built in firewalls that merely need to be accessed and turned on to maintain a level of security. According to Microsoft, it is important to protect every computer in the home. You should have a hardware firewall (such as a router) to protect your network, but you should also use a software firewall on each computer to help prevent the spread of a virus in your network if one of the computers becomes infected.

When it comes to business computers, employees should check with the network administrator about what protocols are called for with desktops, laptops and other devices. The growth of the internet and the resulting increased connectivity of networks means that early firewalls are no longer enough to keep out malicious traffic. Today there are numerous types of firewalls to protect the ever-evolving advancements and threats to business networks. There are proxy firewalls, Application-layer firewalls, Stateful firewalls, and Packet firewalls to choose from depending upon your company’s needs. If you don’t know what type of firewall your company requires to keep a barrier between yourself and malicious activities call M&H Consulting today.

Public WiFi – A Double Edged Sword

It really is wonderful being able to conduct business pretty much anywhere you can travel. Short of being in a remote location you can find WiFi access in coffee shops, airports, hotel lobbies and many more public spaces. Unfortunately with that easy access comes the dangers of using WiFi that can be accessed by others including cyber criminals. Let’s look at the double edged sword of using public WiFi.

PROS – The convenience and ease-of-access of public WiFi can not be beat. This is especially true for business travelers who hope to get some work done in between flights, or while staying at a hotel. Some even find it helpful to access the internet while having coffee at a free WiFi cafe. When considering the mobile business life of most companies today, having access to WiFi in so many locations is a definite advantage.

 

CONS – Unfortunately with the ease-of-use and access comes some serious disadvantages to public WiFi. Research shows that free wireless public networks located in airports and other public places are ripe for exploitation by hackers. When a user logs in the device they are using is open to potential hacking and malware that is out there. The biggest threat to free Wi-Fi security is the ability for the hacker to position himself between you and the connection point. So instead of talking directly with the hotspot, you’re sending your information to the hacker, who then relays it on.

 

To counteract this threat we suggest using a VPN – a virtual private network – or at the very least turn off sharing when you are in public. In order to maintain some level of safety only turn on the WiFi when you really need it. For more suggestions on staying safe when using public WiFi contact M&H Consulting.

 

Extending the Life of your Computer

Our work and personal computers, whether it is our desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone are part of our everyday life. For some of us we are a bit addicted to it for work or social reasons. Whatever your reasons for using your technology, it probably was a major purchase costing you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. It also has critical information on it. Being without it for any amount of time is a nuisance and can cost time and money. So how then do we extend the life of these precious parts of our lives? Here are a few suggestions to follow.

  • Start by choosing the right computer for your needs. For example, when you are purchasing a laptop or desktop be sure you are getting one that has the best processor, enough memory, storage and the capability to add features that you want/need.
  • Properly maintain your computer no matter what you choose (and how durable they claim it is.) For instance keep your computer cool, clean and have it maintained regularly. Keep everything ticking smoothly by installing the latest updates of software that will allow for the latest security as well.
  • Update the RAM when you find that your computer is freezing when you need to work. Check for RAM upgrades that will allow you to keep your device working longer.
  • Be proactive by installing anti-virus, anti-malware and following protocols that will keep you safe from cyber attacks.
  • Give your computer space to breath. Literally! Do not stack it on a desk that has no air flow or keep in a car that can heat up and damage the hardware.

 

If you are looking for more ideas on ways to extend the life of your work or personal computers call M&H Consulting.

 

Data Backup Failures

Data is the lifeblood of most companies, whether it is files kept on clients, financial data for revenue analysis or documentation of current/past projects. As we have discussed before, data should be backed up on a regular basis using multiple methods. But what happens if those plans fail? What causes back ups to terminate or fail to execute at all?  Let’s take a closer look at the process of back ups and why they fail.

 

  • Human Error – Honestly we all mess up from time to time and backing up data is no exception. It is very possible that an employee forgot to begin the nightly backup or and IT leader changed the data and information was lost. It happens more often than you would think.
  • Data Corruption – For companies that use tapes for this process, you may want to periodically test them because after years of use they can become corrupt.
  • Incomplete Backup – Depending upon the amount of information being backed up, the process can take an extensive amount of time and use up critical features that you may need for daily operations. Unfortunately, many companies have incomplete data backup because they stopped the process too early.
  • Only One Copy – It may seem incredibly redundant, but some files are so critical that they need to be made twice. One copy may be lost, damaged or corrupt so be sure not to take for granted the one copy you do have.

 

If you are looking for solutions to your data management problems call M&H Consulting to find solutions to your backup issues.

 

Business Apps for Getting Organized

One of the characteristics of a good business leader, whether you own a small business or large corporation, is the ability to stay organized. If you feel like you are always searching for items or find it hard to stay productive, you may need to “tweak” your organizational skills. Thankfully, technology has come a long way to help you get organized and stay that way from the moment you walk into work until the lights go out at closing. Here are some apps to consider that your IT department could easily put on your mobile devices.

  • To Do Lists – Do you need to maintain a running list of items that need to be accomplished either short or long term? There are apps that can help you quickly jot down items that may slip through the cracks during a busy work day. Two such app are Wunderlist which allows you to share work project lists and EasilyDo which allows for task lists to be prioritized and distributed to employees.
  • Note Taking – We have all been in meetings where we need to take notes, copy and share them with other members of the team. Evernote is a note taking application that lets you record and collect information that you have found interest in.  You can also share your notes with your team members using this application.
  • Financial Organization – Organization specifically geared toward financial expenses can be easily tracked using Expensify. This app allows you to take pictures of your receipts and store them all on one convenient dashboard.
  • Appointments and Event Organizing – As a business leader or manager, there are probably a million appointments, phone calls or conferences that you attend annually. Keeping those dates and times organized can be simple when using Google Calendar or Doodle. These apps allow you to manage and track your calendars across multiple platforms that include Outlook, Gmail, and Yahoo.