Using Technology to Get Ahead

Are you getting the most out of the technology at your business? Are the tablets, laptops, mobile devices, networks, and hardware/software helping your business enough? A recent Gartner survey found that CEOs are not utilizing breakthrough technologies ⧿ the Internet of things, 3D printing, AI automation ⧿ to improve productivity. Some are not even using the technology that has been around for years to its fullest extent. How can your company start optimizing its technology usage to get ahead in this very competitive world in which we live?

 

  • Review Your Current Technology – Conduct a staff meeting to review what technology is currently being used and what is available. Take stock of what employees need training or advanced training on the hardware or software that you currently have. Many free trainings are online, or splurge and sign a group up for a training seminar.

 

  • Make A Wish List – Create a list of technology that you would love to have at your fingertips to get your company ahead. Explore options such as tech shares to cut the cost burden with other businesses in your area.

 

  • Start Small – Many employees and business leadership get overwhelmed when too much tech happens at once. Start introducing technology slowly so that proper training and adjustments can be made in the office. This will give workers a chance to become accustomed to the changes and not feel outdated or undertrained.

 

  • Network – Talk to other businesses to see how technology is helping them advance. While you may not want to give away your trade secrets, you will want to talk shop and find out what your competitors are doing so you can remain competitive yourselves.

 

If you need help deciding how technology can further your business goals, call M&H Consulting  at 1-(866)-964-8324 for a free initial consultation.

Creating a Teched-Out Conference Room

So your business is thriving and you need to have access to a conference room that allows you to present, teach, train, and hold professional meetings with clients, vendors, and employees. What you need is a teched-out conference room that will “wow” your clients and make your work more efficient and professional looking. But how do you decide what technology you may need to install?

 

Creating a conference room for your business is an investment, so before you begin buying AV equipment, know what you need and how you will be able to use it to showcase your service, product, or company as a whole. Here are some wish list items from our consultants to make your presentations and meetings amazing.

 

  • Phone System – With so many remote clients to deal with, having a phone system that allows you to conference call is a must in any professional business conference room. Be sure it can integrate with computers, messaging, and possibly allow for video conferencing as well.

 

  • Visual Display – Whether it is a smart board, television screen, or projector, being able to show and present is a huge part of having a conference room. Be sure you have the ability to design your presentations and link to your conference room equipment quickly and with ease so you don’t need to call in the IT department every time you want to meet with a client.

 

  • Sound System – Nothing is worse than a dull presentation. Install a sound system that can give your presentation some “pop” with music, microphones, or projecting to a large group and the ability to have remote listeners.

 

  • Ports, Plugs, and Adapters – Going to a presentation is no longer a passive event. Viewers may bring laptops, phones, tablets, and all sorts of technology to enhance their experience. Be sure to have ample ports, plugs, and adapters.

 

  • Control Systems – If you really want a “tricked out” conference room be sure it is all integrated with remotes so that presenting is as easy as clicking a button. This should include sound, visuals, and even shades that darken the room.

 

Call M&H Consulting for more ideas and help designing your technology packed conference room.

Hacking Methods

Most IT Departments are well aware of hacking as a threat to a company and its precious and sensitive data. Hackers tend to target vulnerabilities such as mobile devices, weakly protected networks and, of course, the ultimate weak link in the business security world – employees who are unaware they are putting themselves at risk to hackers. Let’s look at some of the most common hacking techniques to better understand how to avoid them.

 

  • Bait and Switch – Sure, we used to hear about this method when it came to selling cars but this method is also popular in the world of hacking. Cyber criminals offer “the mark”, something that they’re sure to want, then swap it out for something different when they’re not looking. In the world of cyber crimes this trick has many variants, including pop ups with false info forms, links to unsecure sites and the list goes on. Be sure you are getting what you are requesting to avoid hackers infiltrating your system.

 

  • Cookie Theft – “Cookies” or files are held by sites you visit that keep tabs on what you look at and specific information on you. This information could include: personal and financial data, user credentials, and passwords. Once stolen, cookies may be read or decrypted to reveal your information, or used to impersonate you online

 

  • Denial of Service/Distributed Denial of Service (DoS/DDoS) – This common technique is used to bring down systems or networks by overloading them with login attempts, data requests, repetitive tasks, etc. The goal is to bombard or flood a site with traffic and allows hackers the ability to gain access by filling out forms.

 

Stay tuned as we discuss other hacking techniques next month. As always, call M&H Consulting if you need help protecting your business systems from hackers. Call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 for a free initial consultation.

 

The Dangers of Unknown Emails

If you are like the rest of the American public, your email inbox is probably overflowing with advertisements, business data, announcements, newsletters, and of course, important work information. It is tempting to just click away and open-and-discard, but don’t do it! Between Trojans, spyware, and ransomware, your data and your operations can be severely and irreparably affected by just one successful cyberattack that could occur due to opening an email.

 

By now we all know that opening an unknown email is bad news. But what signs and red flags should you look for to identify an email that may trigger a disaster? Here are a few things to be aware of as you sort through your daily email list.

 

Be aware of emails that . . .

 

  • Don’t use your name but call you “sir” or “madam” or other vague title.
  • Have attachments that are executable files. Generally, attachments you receive will be documents or graphics with the corresponding “.doc,” “.pdf,” “.jpg,” or “.png” extensions. Avoid opening double extensions or executable file attachments.
  • Are from a company or person you do not know.
  • Have masked hyperlinks.
  • Request personal information that could put you at risk.
  • Have a threat or demand in the sender line.

 

Remember that most emails are safe but all it takes is clicking on the one that isn’t that could damage or lock up your computer system. Training employees on what to look for is a business’ best line of defense, as the employees are the ones receiving and reading through the emails on a daily basis. If you need training or help with protecting your computer systems from cyber crimes, call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 for a free initial consultation.

Are You Concerned About Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. Are you concerned about this cyber crime occurring at your company or even for your personal accounts. According to Kaspersky Lab, the number of users affected by file encrypting ransomware rose from 131,000 in 2014-2015 to 718,000 in 2015-2016! Extorting money from individuals and organizations has become a big business and unfortunately signature-based PC Anti-Virus software just isn’t able to keep up.

 

What should you be doing to counteract or aid your company in the case of a ransomware attack? Here are a few suggestions that can help you avoid the fallout if your data is held captive by a cyber criminal.

 

  • Regularly save copies of all your files. Having a backup plan can save you from figuring out what data is locked up and how to possibly recover all of it. This way if your files, data, presentations, or images are being held from you, there will be back ups that you can use. Backup your files to an external drive, another computer, or the cloud to minimize loss and inconvenience in the case of an attack.
  • Be alert and aware. Don’t click on links that you don’t recognize or download files from people you don’t know personally.
  • Maintain good Internet security practices, including keeping your computer’s operating system and security software up-to-date.
  • Avoid visiting questionable websites.
  • Be extremely careful when using USB drives to transfer data to more secure computers.
  • Use strong security passwords and encryption with dual authentication.
  • Use common sense. If something seems off, your instincts are probably right.

 

If you need help with counteracting a ransomware attack or preparing for one call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 for a free initial consultation.

Disaster and Data Recovery Steps

In our world of hackers, potential weather-related events, and massive computer failures, it is well within the realm of possibility that something disastrous could happen to the technology at your place of business. Having a Disaster Recovery Plan or Business Continuity Plan is paramount to keeping your company afloat no matter what the event may be. IT disaster recovery plans provide step-by-step procedures for recovering disrupted systems and networks, and help them resume normal operations.Here is what your Disaster Recovery Plan may look like.

 

According to the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-34, Contingency Planning for Information Technology Systems, the following summarizes the ideal structure for an IT disaster recovery plan:

 

  • Complete a Risk Assessment to know what programs, data, and technology is at risk in the case of a disaster. Identify what management perceives as the most serious threats to the IT infrastructure including: fire, human error, loss of power, system failure.
  • Gather all relevant network infrastructure documents, for example: network diagrams, equipment configurations, databases. Include in this list all of the technology that keeps your business running. Identify the most critical IT assets, including call centers, server farms, Internet access, etc…
  • Identify procedures that will be instituted in the case of a system failure or disaster.
  • Determine who and what will be a part of an emergency response team in the case of a disaster.
  • Prepare IT disaster recovery plan(s) to address critical IT systems and networks.
  • Conduct tests of plans and system recovery assets to validate their operations.

If you need help drafting your Disaster Recovery Plan call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 for a free initial consultation.

Sending your College Student off with the Right Technology

The moment has arrived when your teenager is heading off to college and you have to say goodbye. You bought all the books, dorm room necessities, and supplies. But what about the technology that your student needs to succeed in the academic aspect of the college experience? Are you confused by the multitude of options out there and need some help navigating the laptop world? Here are some things to consider when choosing a laptop. (Keep in mind, these considerations remain the same if you are choosing for employees at your work too!)

  • Usage – Ask yourself what you plan to use the laptop for. What type of programs to your plan to use: business applications, engineering programs or maybe graphic design apps? Do some research to find out what will run optimally on the type of laptop you are looking to buy.

 

  • Battery Life – Laptops are meant to travel, so consider how long your battery will last. Be skeptical of the length that the manufacturer claims it will last as they are estimating under optimal conditions.

 

  • Storage/Memory – If you store your data via the cloud, storage may not be a huge concern for you, but be sure to check out how much you store in case you want to add movies, videos, or presentations.

 

  • Security – With more and more users putting sensitive information on their laptops, security is a critical consideration. Look for encryption abilities and password protections.

 

  • Size – Consider the size and sleekness that you are looking for in a laptop before purchasing. No one wants to be lugging around a heavy piece of machinery that takes up too much desk space.

 

  • Processor – Once you know what you will be using the device for it will be easier to decide on the power of the processor. For example, if you know you want to watch videos then you will need a processor with speed.

 

  • Price Tag – As always consider the price of the laptop. Is it within your budget? Are you going to need add-ons or upgrades?

 

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.