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Snow Days and IT

We live in Wisconsin.  Snow days are a part of life.  However, they can have business-killing effects.  Snow days reduce productivity, forcing us to hunker down and wait … at the mercy of snow plows.

How does this all effect your small business’ IT?  Strategy.

Many of the small, service businesses that we work with, don’t have retail locations and, quite honestly, can do a tremendous amount of work without ever sitting across from a client.  Attorneys’ offices and independent insurance agencies are prefect examples.

But, the truth is that if you want to keep your business running on days like this, you’ll need to have a plan before the Great Blizzard strikes.  Essentially, you need to treat these events as mini-disasters and plot out your business continuity plan.

Here are a few tips to keep business running, and employees productive, even when they can’t come in to the office:

First, decide on a call-chain, a way to communicate with your staff to set your plan in motion, and throughout the day.  This is easily done with conference calls, your phone system, if it can be forwarded or is cloud-based, and software such as Skype or Microsoft Teams.    You’ll also need to forward office phones to one or more individuals so you can continue receiving outside calls from clients.

Second, is how to access your files.  We all need access to company data.  This includes your line-of-business applications and your company documents.  Absent your shared drives and servers, you really have two choices for accomplishing this.  You can remote into a workstation in the office and work as if you were there, or you can leverage the Cloud.

If your business applications are already cloud-based, then working off-site becomes easier.  As long as you have access to an Internet connection, you and your team can stay in business.

When it comes to accessing your personal data or your customer files, things that traditionally are stored on your server, things require a little more forethought.

Microsoft Office 365 easily accomplishes this through OneDrive for business, a way for all staff members to securely store their data in the Cloud, without needing a server or remote access.  Company-wide documents are stored in SharePoint, a team website (of sorts) designed specifically to allow you and your staff to access documents, no matter where you are, without having to remote in to an office computer.   However, both techniques require that you have previously set these things up.

Ultimately, Microsoft Office 365, combined with other cloud-based solutions, can help keep your business running smoothly and efficiently in a ‘mini-disaster’, or even a larger one.

I’ve written a free report about moving your small business to the cloud called “5 Critical Facts Every Business Owner Must Know Before Moving Their Network to The Cloud”.  You can download a copy from

We live in Wisconsin.  Snow days are a part of life.  However, they can have business-killing effects.  Snow days reduce productivity, forcing us to hunker down and wait … at the mercy of snow plows.

How does this all effect your small business’ IT?  Strategy.

Many of the small, service businesses that we work with, don’t have retail locations and, quite honestly, can do a tremendous amount of work without ever sitting across from a client.  Attorneys’ offices and independent insurance agencies are prefect examples.

But, the truth is that if you want to keep your business running on days like this, you’ll need to have a plan before the Great Blizzard strikes.  Essentially, you need to treat these events as mini-disasters and plot out your business continuity plan.

Here are a few tips to keep business running, and employees productive, even when they can’t come in to the office:

First, decide on a call-chain, a way to communicate with your staff to set your plan in motion, and throughout the day.  This is easily done with conference calls, your phone system, if it can be forwarded or is cloud-based, and software such as Skype or Microsoft Teams.    You’ll also need to forward office phones to one or more individuals so you can continue receiving outside calls from clients.

Second, is how to access your files.  We all need access to company data.  This includes your line-of-business applications and your company documents.  Absent your shared drives and servers, you really have two choices for accomplishing this.  You can remote into a workstation in the office and work as if you were there, or you can leverage the Cloud.

If your business applications are already cloud-based, then working off-site becomes easier.  As long as you have access to an Internet connection, you and your team can stay in business.

When it comes to accessing your personal data or your customer files, things that traditionally are stored on your server, things require a little more forethought.

Microsoft Office 365 easily accomplishes this through OneDrive for business, a way for all staff members to securely store their data in the Cloud, without needing a server or remote access.  Company-wide documents are stored in SharePoint, a team website (of sorts) designed specifically to allow you and your staff to access documents, no matter where you are, without having to remote in to an office computer.   However, both techniques require that you have previously set these things up.

Ultimately, Microsoft Office 365, combined with other cloud-based solutions, can help keep your business running smoothly and efficiently in a ‘mini-disaster’, or even a larger one.

I’ve written a free report about moving your small business to the cloud called “5 Critical Facts Every Business Owner Must Know Before Moving Their Network to The Cloud”.  You can download a copy from www.computer-center.com/intro-to-cloud-computing

 

 

The Weakest Link in Your Network Security – Guaranteed

What if I told you that I can 100% guarantee that you have at least one, serious security flaw in your network right now?  I don’t care how much antivirus software, spam filtering, or hardware firewalls you have in place, this one security leak lets in hackers, identity thieves, and even sends out confidential information about you and your customers daily.

The National Cyber Security Alliance reports that one in five small businesses have been victims of cybercrime in the last year – and that number is growing rapidly as more businesses utilize cloud computing, mobile devices and store more information online. You can’t turn on the TV or read a newspaper without learning about the latest online data breach, and government fines and regulatory agencies are growing in number and severity

If you aren’t working to correct the largest security gap in your organization, you could end up being another sad statistic.

Have you figured out what the biggest threat to your company is?  It’s people.  Yes, you and your staff. The #1 vulnerability for business networks are the employees using them. It’s extremely common for an employee to infect an entire network by opening and clicking a phishing e-mail (that’s an e-mail cleverly designed to look like a legitimate e-mail from a web site or vendor you trust). If they don’t know how to spot infected e-mails or online scams, they could compromise your entire network.

There are 9 additional ways to that hackers get around your firewall and anti-virus software as well.  I’ve written a free report outlining these, and discussing what you can do to avoid becoming a sad statistic.  Download a free copy of the report here  http://www.computer-center.com/cyber-crime/

Skimp On Data Protection And Pay The Price

Today’s cybercriminals are using more advanced technology than ever. And those malicious tools are becoming even more sophisticated at a breakneck pace. To top it all off, new software developments are enabling these criminals to cast wider and wider nets, targeting businesses that, before, would have flown under their radar. Companies small and large, of every type, are being infiltrated by vicious cyber-attacks across the world every day.

Even knowing this, business owners are tempted to cut costs and corners. When you’ve never had a breach, data security can seem like a distant concern, especially for a limited budget. But regardless of which digital barriers you put in place to protect your business, you can bet on one thing: One day, your security will be tested by an attack. Whether the hackers punch through could mean the difference between your company shutting down for good — as 60% of small businesses do in the six months following a cyber-attack, according to the Denver Post — and remaining solvent and secure in your position.

When you’re struggling to stay afloat or simply wanting to be a savvy spender, you may think the best way to lock down your data is to put one of your staff on the task or to do it yourself.

And sure, your team can conduct hours of research searching for inexpensive security. And you’ll almost certainly find something cheap with good reviews and a decent track record. You’ll figure out how to install the software across your system, complete with firewalls, server protection, antivirus and maybe a bell and a whistle or two. Perhaps you’ll even hold a meeting to educate your staff on the do’s and don’ts of cyber security. “Use intricately constructed passwords,” you’ll tell them. “Don’t click suspicious links in your email.”

Then, after a few days of fiddling with settings and ensuring the security software is properly in place, you’ll forget about it altogether. After all, it’s already installed, and you’ve checked to make sure there aren’t any gaps in the system. It’s not something you need to constantly monitor.

Then, one Monday morning, you log into your computer. For a second, everything seems to be normal, until an innocent-looking pop-up fills your screen. “Attention!” an eerie robotic voice barks from your speakers, “Your documents, photos, databases and other important files have been encrypted!”

Thinking it’s a hoax, you click into your server drive. To your dismay, you really are locked out of everything. So, palms sweating, you read the rest of the pop-up. It provides instructions to install the deep web browser Tor as well as an address for you to visit. When you go there, you learn that in order to recover all your data, including the credit card information of your customers, you’ll need to dish out $50,000 in bitcoin.

A year ago, you couldn’t afford adequate cyber security. Can you afford $50,000 in cash today?

Identical situations are unfolding every day, with people exactly like you. Back in April, CNBC reported that across the previous 12 months, half of all small businesses had been infiltrated by malicious hackers. “Cyber security is clearly a concern that the entire business community shares, but it represents an especially pernicious threat to smaller businesses,” wrote the Securities and Exchange Commission. “The reason is simple: small and midsize businesses are not just targets of cybercrime; they are its principal target.” Cheapo security solutions might be fine for a lone browser surfing the web at home, but they are shockingly inadequate resources on which to base the entire success of your company, your livelihood and the livelihood of your employees.

Frankly, it’s irresponsible to lock your data behind a flimsy $5 firewall. Invest in robust cyber security solutions and secure the future of your company.  We believe in a Layers of Security method for small businesses, that includes human monitoring factor, and doesn’t simply rely on set-it-and-forget-it software.   You and your client’s data is important.  Small business security doesn’t have to be costly, but it does have to be maintained and monitored.

The ONE Thing You Must Do to Keep Your Data Safe in the Cloud. Is Your IT Guy Doing This?

How secure is your data? Cloud data storage is becoming a massive industry in this country, and many businesses and other institutions are putting their data into the cloud. Some of this data is pretty harmless. Other stuff — like hospital records, banking information, or company payrolls — are prime targets for bad actors. Is the cloud storage trade off worth it?

The short answer is yes, but only if your IT guy is encrypting your sensitive data. Every cloud storage company you talk to will claim to take top-of-the-line security measures on behalf of your data. But that, in a nutshell, highlights the problem with cloud storage. Your data is entrusted to a third party for safekeeping. It’s possible that they’d do everything in their power to safeguard your information. But bad things, like ransomware, phishing, or just plain going out of business, do happen. And when they happen, it’s not the cloud storage company whose data is on the line; it’s yours.

Even if that doesn’t occur, let’s be honest. Most of the major cloud storage companies are based in the United States, the U.K., or France, where they could be subject to NSA snooping (or questionably legal surveillance from any other government entity). Despite the best efforts of many storage companies to prevent government intrusion, your data could still be at risk, even when it’s locked up tight.

Most cloud storage companies protect your data with their own encryption, but you’ll have to find out if they are able to access the data (since they may have the keys), or not. Further, your IT provider should be instituting some additional means of encryption whenever feasible. Laptops, for example, should always be encrypted if they are used by employees. An encrypted laptop protects your data, even if the laptop is stolen.

Additionally, your IT Provider (even with Cloud-based products) should still discuss redundancy and backups with you. Most Cloud storage companies, including Microsoft and Google, do have a regular backup of your data in place. However, we also recommend that you implement an additional layer of security and use a third-party backup product as well. Not only does this give you additional control, multiple protections against failure and outages, but it also allows you to access your data if the initial storage location has a service outage or failure.

Many people have a misconception that these criminals will just use a magic program to crack your encrypted files. Decryption does exist, but it requires a lot of time and processing power. It’s far more likely that hackers will target your email or other aspects of your system and try to find out the encryption codes that way. And never forget that people are the weakest part of your IT security. Educate employees so they aren’t vulnerable to phishing scams, downloading questionable software, and visiting the wrong websites.

How to Copy or Move Appointments to a Different Outlook Calendar

If you have more than one calendar, you can easily move, or copy, appointments between them.   Click and hold the appointment you want to move and drag it over to a different calendar in the list on the left.  To copy it, do the same thing but hold down the CTRL key while you are dragging it.  You will see a “+” indicating that it will copy instead of moving the appointment.

Cyber Security for the Super Small Business, Like Yours

How many of the 6 layers of security does your small business have in place?   Are you 100% certain that your employees aren’t compromising your business, and clients’ personal information by falling prey to the ever-increasingly sophisticated identity theft scammers?  Are you positive that a piece of Ransomware could never infect your business, encrypting your files and holding your company hostage?

Small businesses, just like yours, are considered easy targets and low hanging fruit to the cyber criminals.   They know that most of you don’t have the knowledge or resources to properly protect yourself from their attacks.  These criminals use automated systems and software to cast huge nets, hoping to snag a few unprepared organizations and profit from their lack of protection.  This is part of the reason Spam continues.  Spammers send out millions of emails, because it’s cheap and easy.  If they have even a fraction of a percent of success, it makes their endeavor profitable.

Unfortunately, when we are called in to perform one of our Business and Technology Assessments for a new client, we find huge, gaping holes in their network’s security.  The horrible part about this is that these holes can be quickly plugged with the help of an IT company.

Let me give you a quick example from something we see repeatedly.  We regularly find that whoever installed the router (the box that connects you to the Internet, and controls traffic in (and out) of your network, has never been properly configured.  In most cases we find that the manufacturer’s default administrative username and password has never been changed, leaving the business completely open and exposed to any hacker (using automated tools to find you) with even a tiny bit of expertise.  Just to drive this point home, these usernames and passwords are readily available on the Internet simply by doing a quick search.  In 2 minutes, I can have access to your servers, company data, and more, with minimal effort.

Small business security doesn’t have to be costly, nor complex.  But it does take someone that knows what they are doing to come in and implement it.

The Computer Center uses a Layers of Security approach to protecting your business.  We’ve identified 6 core layers that every small business should have in place.   You can find out more about protecting your small business in this free report.

Resize Columns and Rows in Excel 2016

To accommodate your data, you can change the size of your columns and rows! If you go to the Home tab, hit Format (in the Cells group), and then click Row Height to adjust the rows and Column Width to adjust the columns. You can then enter the exact measurement! You can also use your mouse to adjust cells by clicking and dragging the divider line to expand.  Also, if you double-click the divider between two rows or columns Excel will resize the row to fit the contents.