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With social distancing necessary due to COVID-19, here are a few things you should know about the risks of ransomware and remote working arrangements.  

Home Computers & Ransomware During COVID-19

Everything You Should Know About Covid-19, Ransomware, And Employee Home Computers

With social distancing necessary due to Covid-19, here are a few things you should know about the risks of ransomware and remote working arrangements.  

With the entire world feeling the pressure of avoiding and mitigating the Covid-19 virus, it can be easy to forget some simple truths of life. One of those truths is that bad actors don’t stop being bad because people are vulnerable. They often see that as the best time to strike.

Accordingly, the US Department of Homeland Security recently recommended that organizations “adopt a heightened state of cybersecurity.” Now is the time to find a managed IT consultant you can trust to protect your enterprise.

COVID 19 Ransomware Charlotte

How Remote Working Arrangements Could Expose You To Ransomware

If you are like most businesses, you already know the dangers of an insufficient cyber security plan. Dealing with the coronavirus is terrible enough. The last thing you need is ransomware locking down your entire network and demanding a complicated Bitcoin payment. That is why you have likely already installed firewalls, antivirus protection, and other means to protect your operations. However, with the primary response to Covid-19 being social distancing, many employees are now working from home.

Home Computers And Software Are Now Your Concern

Do your employees have updated web browsers and operating systems with all security patches installed? Do your employees use effective antivirus and firewall programs? Unlike organizations, most individuals do not usually have IT staff helping them to create competent security solutions. That means the strength of your cybersecurity operation may rest entirely on that employee with the most vulnerable setup. If that employee catches malware while a home computer is accessing your IT system, you could have a system-wide lockdown.

That is why it may be necessary to create a virtual private network so that all employee communications and connections are encrypted. You may even need to provide software or hardware upgrades to individual employees’ home computers to protect your company interests.

Who Else Is At Home

Ransomware is most often shared through phishing or visiting dangerous websites. In phishing, scammers send an email designed to imitate a reputable organization. Websites may employ a similar ruse, creating a legitimate-looking website. In both cases, the user clicks an unsuspecting link and downloads malicious software designed to lock a device.

While most competent adults roam your offices, anyone can access home computers. That means the security of your entire operation could be compromised because an employee forgot to log off and a toddler clicked a pretty picture.

Business Continuity And Frequent Backup Points

A large part of preparing for ransomware attacks is frequently copying all data and application versions to both cloud and separate onsite systems. That way if your data is locked away by ransomware, you can still wipe the system and upload information from a previous backup point. However, your automatic backup system may not cover a remote working arrangement.

William Ives Can Help

Don’t trust the security of your operation to haphazard luck. Moving to a remote working arrangement does not have to mean increased vulnerability to ransomware and other malicious attacks. William Ives Consulting can help you install a virtual private network and cloud-based solutions to keep you working safely. We can also help you create multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect your IT network from malicious access further. Request a free consultation today to protect yourself and your company.

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Cicso’s Internet Report – What it Means for Your Organization

Cisco’s Annual Internet Report – What Executives Need to Know

Cisco’s Annual Internet Report paints a clear picture of how Internet usage will skyrocket across the globe in the coming years. Executives need to be ready.  

Cisco, one of the leading technology companies in the industry, releases its Annual Internet Report each year to give a general overview of how technology related to the Internet is projected to change – and the ways that the changes in the Internet will affect businesses. Executives in the majority of industries can benefit from reading the report and seeing how the information it presents may affect their businesses. But in case you don’t have time to read the report right now, here are some of the key takeaways that may be relevant to your company and your competitiveness in the coming years.

Cisco Partner In Charlotte

Cisco’s Annual Internet Report – Key Takeaways

Although the report delves deep into the projected changes in Internet technology and its use across the globe, there are a few main points that are worth considering immediately. These include:

  • Approximately 5.3 billion people will be using the internet by the year 2023.
  • Around 70 percent of the world’s population will have some form of mobile connectivity.
  • Each individual will have approximately 3.6 devices and connections to the Internet.
  • Global fixed broadband speeds are projected to be 110 Mbps.

1. Network automation is going to be a necessity.

There is going to be an increased demand for enhanced apps. Businesses need to be capable of automated network monitoring and automated optimization – which is best achieved using software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). When you utilize software to handle your networks you gain more flexibility. Increased flexibility is a necessity when you are experiencing constant changes in the traffic you see. Cisco says that more and more enterprises are going to shift to hybrid clouds, which will eventually necessitate the use of SD-WAN.

It is important not to get so caught up in improving technologies that you forget why you are in business, though. All enterprises are encouraged to implement automation based on company policy and business goals. Intent-Based Networking (IBN) is a significant part of the process of aligning your technology with your company objectives. By using analytics and machine learning to identify and implement the intent of your company, you can improve your outcomes and ensure that your IT objectives are aligned with your business goals.

2. Networks need to be capable of handling significant increases in demand from IoT devices.

Cisco predicts that approximately half of the devices on networks will be capable of using IoT applications. While the rate of business usage is going to increase more rapidly, the overall percentage of devices and connections will be used by consumers.

SD-WAN will help improve networking, storage and computing resources by bringing them closer to the ones using devices. Edge computing is the future and it will help implement controls over the data that will pour in from IoT endpoints in the billions.

3. Security will need to be balanced.

Security is a huge priority for businesses, and obvious reasons. A lack of security puts your company and your customers at risk. But security needs to be balanced appropriately. Otherwise, it risks making your applications and networks unusable. Network intelligence needs to be improved so that it can recognize who should be allowed in and who shouldn’t – and not make it so difficult to gain access that users look for another solution. Authentication is essential, but it doesn’t need to be so burdensome that it drives customers away or unnecessarily inhibits employees as they attempt to do their jobs.

4. Operational costs need to be lowered.

Manual work on networks is costly. It takes a lot of time and requires skilled employees to get the job done. Automation is necessary to drive down the cost of operations. SD-WAN, unified domain controls and other solutions must be implemented as needed to increase the automation of networks. Otherwise, you risk losing money as you race to keep up with the increased demands on your system.

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Businesses In North Carolina
Need Immediate IT Services Due To The COVID-19 Pandemic?

William Ives Consulting Is Your IT Company In Charlotte To Help Your Organization During COVID-19 Pandemic

William Ives Consulting in Charlotte is the managed IT services partner to help your business survive coronavirus by leveraging existing technology.  

Nearly any entrepreneur can succeed during the best of times. The actual test of a business is the ability to adapt to challenges and find ways to rise to the occasion. The reason many companies brag about the age of the company is that more significant years of operation demonstrate the ability to adapt. But since we can’t always be experts in every subject, sometimes changing means having the right partner to guide the way.

Businesses worldwide are currently working hard to adapt to the required social isolation caused by Covid-19. Here are a few reasons William Ives Consulting is your choice to find a technology solution for your company.

William Ives Can Help Your Employee Work Remotely During The COVID-19 Crisis

Working With A Cloud Infrastructure

For years now IT experts have been encouraging businesses around the world to consider incorporating the cloud into their business models. Cloud operations have a number of advantages over location-based equipment, including enhanced scalability and remote access.

William Ives has the experience and expertise to help you create an optimal cloud environment for your organization. We can help you streamline your workflow and properly leverage technology assets to compete better. When you are ready, we can also facilitate the migration into the cloud or hybrid environment we help you design.

Remote Communications Systems

One of the definite changes due to Covid-19 will be the role of remote communication tools. Previously, much of our work was accomplished face to face, with many companies using video and teleconferencing tools only occasionally. With the social distancing efforts, however, teleconferencing will soon become the dominant method of conducting business.

William Ives can help you to update your video conferencing equipment and integrate the software into your various office applications. Your clients expect crystal clear communications as a sign of your commitment to service.

Remote Team Work Efforts

Since your employees are no longer consistently working in the same room, you may also need to find some cloud-based software to facilitate teamwork. You will need a competent and consistent process for communicating information, sharing documents, and working collaboratively on common goals.

As experts in the field, we have detailed knowledge of which remote team applications would be the best fit for your organization. We have extensive experience with Microsoft Teams, Slack, and other remote collaboration tools. We can keep your employees working closely regardless of the actual distance.

Maintaining A Secure VPN And General Cyber Security

Many companies are experiencing a truly remote operation for the first time. They now have employees signing on to proprietary applications from multiple private locations. Besides, making data and applications available to employees outside the building requires increasing the risks of hacking or other intrusions.

We can help you set up a virtual private network and facilitate remote testing to make sure everyone has a working, secure connection. We can also help you update your firewalls, network security software, and all relevant application patches to keep your operation safe.

Predicting The Future

William Ives has been building technology solutions for organizations all over the Carolinas for over three decades. We have the experience and expertise to help you build a scalable, agile operation to meet your needs and secure your future. We also monitor the IT trends nationwide so that we can best prepare our clients for the days ahead.

Call William Ives Today For Immediate Tech Help During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Don’t struggle to react to the current environment. Let us build a proactive technology solution to help you rise above your competition. Contact us today for immediate service!

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10 Reasons You Need Cloud Services For Your Construction Firm

Why Do You Need Cloud Services In Your Construction Firm?

You need to use the cloud for your construction firm’s work – the cloud is so saturated in the modern business world that, at this point, it’s obvious that you need to be benefiting from it.

If you’re not already using the cloud for file sharing and storage, you’re definitely falling behind your competitors. But if you’re also failing to take advantage of the construction industry-specific features the cloud can deliver, then you’re missing out entirely.

Do you have a Charlotte, NC IT support to help you harness the cloud? With the right assistance, you can harness a number of key advantages:

1. Free Up Your IT Budget

The cloud services subscription model offers the strategic advantage of low-cost, low-risk opt-in combined with a simple, predictable monthly fee.

2. Harness Extensive Computing Power

The cloud has the ability to activate tens of thousands of CPUs. This unparalleled power can quickly perform deep analytics of your data, and process nearly any ad-hoc queries that you require.

3. Bring Your Staff And Crew Together

With cloud technology, your staff doesn’t have to wait for each other to be done with their part of the document or project in order to tackle their own aspect. They can all work on the same project at the same time to maximize productivity.

4. Keep IT In Line With Your Firm’s Growth

Cloud services have the unique strategic characteristic of being able to scale to suit your current level of demand. This is especially useful for businesses of any scale that will change in size over time.

5. Network Your Job Sites

When you want to see progress on a given work site, how do you go about it? Do you read reports filed by crew members? Or maybe you visit the site directly, driving however far it may be? This is a time-consuming, ineffective way to go about managing your sites – and the cloud can help.

The cloud allows you to connect and view job sites remotely from a single cloud platform. Depending on the scope of your firm and how far apart job sites are, this could save you hours every day in travel time, allowing you instead to check in on sites from the comfort of your office (or wherever else you have an Internet connection)

6. Eliminate Ancient Technology

Are you still using the same old line of business software that you’ve been using for years and years? As dependable as it may be (and let’s be honest, mileage varies) software like this has a core flaw – it only works for those who are fluent in it. After all, it’s not that accessible if you’re not familiar with it.

While some members of your team, depending on their experience and skill set, may be an expert with your legacy software, what about the wider community of subcontractors you have to work with?

The cloud can help with this as well – new centralized project management platforms bring everyone together in one intuitive cloud location. Now, instead of needing to be trained on unintuitive, outdated software, your entire team can make use of a modern, user-friendly cloud platform.

7. Manage Your Data With Ease And Security

This is a core benefit of all cloud deployments – store your data in the cloud so you can keep it safe, and access it from where and where you need to.

By moving your vital data to the cloud, you can enhance your security, increase data accessibility for staff members and lower costs. Instead of storing onsite, you can reduce costly local hardware by storing your files in the cloud, where they’ll be safe and easily accessible by you and your staff.

8. Automate Tedious Tasks

Automation with machine learning plays an enormous role in optimizing workflows and predicting problems before they occur. With workflows based in the cloud, you can automate or semi-automate many processes:

  • Use analytics to predict problems before they arise.
  • Automate and monitor work and maintenance schedules.
  • Track and optimize work-in-progress on sites using sensors that monitor downtime.

9. Enhance Your BIM Work Processes

You can also access and monitor projects with Building Information Modeling (BIM) to manage and create 3D building data during the course of a project. BIM software is now geared towards all construction professionals, not just architects.

It provides a digital representation of a building for construction documentation production, planning, performance predictions and cost estimates. You can use it to demonstrate the entire building life cycle, processes of construction and facility operations.

10. Put Your Data To Work

During the lifecycle of any project, you must process and share massive amounts of information like architectural and engineering drawings, production schedules, time and materials inventories, and more. The cloud provides the ability to store and process the big data that’s needed for this.

Knowing what the benefits of the cloud are and actually gaining them in your work are two very different things. If your current Charlotte, NC IT support company isn’t delivering, then consider working with William Ives Consulting.

We’re proud to deliver robust and secure cloud capabilities to our clients in the construction industry, helping them to harness the power of new technology and transform the way they work every day.

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COVID-19 is Testing the Future of Remote Work

How COVID-19 is Testing the Future of Remote Work

Many companies are asking employees to work remotely for weeks or months during the COVID-19 crisis. Here are some common challenges they face.  

As a world population, we are in a struggling time. Never before has there been such a massive health crisis that affects our social threads like COVID-19. Small companies and even tech giants like Google, Amazon, Apple, and others are all asking employees to go home and take their jobs with them for the next few weeks or months.

But that creates a new set of challenges—especially at firms where remote work has never previously been an option. Keep reading to learn more about how the Coronavirus pandemic is testing the future of remote work.

COVID-19 Charlotte NC

Companies Are Trying to Figure Out the Technical Aspects

The first hurdle companies have to figure out during the COVID-19 crisis is the technical aspects of having a full-time team working from home unexpectedly. Lack of secure firewalls, use of home networks, and personal computers being utilizing for business tasks leave companies open to potential data breaches. Furthermore, some managers have to decide how employees should communicate as a group during this period of remote work and how to leverage technology to help keep the creative process going.

School Closings Are Making Things Tough for Parents Who Work Remotely

Also, school closings are making things a whole lot more difficult for parents who work remotely. Where traditional remote workers might have the option to send offspring to class for eight to ten hours of silence, these emergency at-home workers likely do not have that option. Most states have made the tough decision to cancel public school classes for at least the foreseeable future, which puts parents in a tough position of having to handle both child-rearing and remote work simultaneously.

Spousal and Roommate Dynamics Are Being Tested by Remote Work

Another area being tested by remote work is spousal and roommate dynamics. It is one thing to spend your off time with a spouse that you care about or a roommate that you get along reasonably well with after you’ve clocked out at the office for a day. It is a whole different situation to be stuck feet away from them at the kitchen table while you both aim to be somewhat productive.

Productivity Ramifications Due to Sudden Remote Work

Typically, employees who engage in remote work as part of their routine take their productivity very seriously. Most want to do an excellent job to continue to have the privilege to continue to do their jobs from the comfort of their own homes. But when companies are put in the position of having to offer this type of employment format, does productivity suffer? In some cases, it might. Managers and supervisors need to be diligent in communicating expectations to team members as to how many hours of uninterrupted work they need to put in daily.

Where Do We Go with Remote Work from Here?

Eventually, the fallout from the Coronavirus will subside. When it does, what do companies do when it comes to remote workers? The good news is that now is the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Companies can choose to work with an outside managed IT provider to set up parameters and equipment during this crisis, which can translate to a robust remote work program later when concern about COVID-19 becomes minimal. They can also create guidelines that include checking in via a messaging platform like Slack once an hour or video conferencing throughout the day. Putting these parameters in place during an emergency makes it easier to switch to a remote format voluntarily later—and only time will tell if this works as an option for the vast number of companies.

Having a Helper as Your Company Goes Remote

At William Ives Consulting, we are here to help your organization get through this challenging time by allowing employees to work remotely. If you have questions or concerns about keeping your data safe while we all ride this out, please get in touch with us. We would be happy to offer guidance.

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A Closer Look at Microsoft ElectionGuard and Other Voting Security Technologies

Microsoft Election Technology Debuts In 2020 Wisconsin Primary

Microsoft’s ElectionGuard and other technologies use encryption, blockchain, and paper trails to bring confidence to voters eager to know that their vote counts. 

When an election results app failed to work on the night of the Iowa caucuses, it threw the Democratic party into disarray. Days later, candidates continued to question and criticize the results.

As political intrigue swirls around the sanctity and integrity of the U.S. elections, Microsoft is stepping up with a new technology designed to uses technology … and an old-school solution in tandem.

Microsoft New Voting Technology

What Is Microsoft ElectionGuard?

Microsoft announced ElectionGuard, an open-source solution for voting machines. Here’s how it works.

A voter selects who they are voting for via a touchscreen. When the voter finishes voting, the machine generates two documents with the voter’s selections. The voter can review the selections and submit one document to election station workers.

The voter can keep the second document, which includes a QR code that the voter can scan to confirm that the machine cast their vote.

The challenge with any election technology is that no solution is entirely safe. The ElectionGuard technology means potential hacks are detected quickly, not in days, weeks, or months when reversing election errors becomes increasingly daunting.

Among the technologies embedded in the solution are:

  • End-to-end verification. Older voting machine solutions and punch cards could not verify that a vote was counted. ElectionGuard makes it easier to confirm if the information is correct.
  • Encryption. Each vote with ElectionGuard has unique encryption, meaning a hacker would need to get past encryption for every vote they wanted to alter. Once a vote is counted, the encryption changes. This system helps to flag suspicious activity early.

ElectionGuard is not used to count votes, but to verify that one’s votes are recorded. The company is offering the software for free.

Where is ElectionGuard Being Used?

ElectionGuard is being used for the Wisconsin primaries on April 7, 2020. It was tested in the town of Fulton, Wisconsin, during local elections in February 2020.

That test was intended to work out any bugs in a smaller community (Fulton has a population of 3,257). Microsoft is hopeful it will be used in more 2020 elections but is targeting the 2022 midterms for widespread adoption.

The State of Election Security

The 2016 U.S. presidential elections continue to be a lightning rod for criticism and skepticism regarding election security. While Congress continues to show partisan divides on several issues, it did authorize $425 million in funding for states to improve their election security. The money comes via the Help America Vote Act, which was enacted on the heels of the Bush-Gore contested race in 2000.

Lawmakers also passed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which has a focus on election security.

States are moving forward with various solutions, several of which rely, as does ElectionGuard, on audit trails and paper back-ups. Fewer states are expected to use voting machines in 2020 that do not produce a paper trail than were in use in 2016.

The Iowa debacle has cast a spotlight once again on the critical challenges of election tech.

“What happened in Iowa highlights how the introduction of new technology and insufficient back-up procedures can disrupt the voting process. It also raises new concerns about the best way to ensure the security and integrity of elections,” notes a recent Vox article.

What Other Election Technologies Are in Play for the 2020 Presidential Elections?

There are several technologies in play for the 2020 elections, including:

  • Electronic poll-books, which are electronic versions of voter rolls, can help process voters more quickly and provide faster, more reliable data on voting
  • Increased use of electronic voting, such as is the case with West Virginia, which recently expanded its digital voting options to include those with physical disabilities
  • The use of blockchain and biometrics technologies. The startup Voatz has a tool that lets voters verify their identity using a picture of a government ID, fingerprint scan, and facial recognition. It is used to enable voting, not to count votes
  • Amazon technologies are now used by 40 states to manage state and county election websites, manage voting by overseas military personnel, store voter registration rolls, and ballot information, and deliver live election-night results.

Whether newer technologies can eradicate election fraud remains to be seen. In the meantime, any new technologies are likely to continue to draw scrutiny and debate.

Keeping on top of technologies and the opportunities they present is an essential need for companies of all sizes. At William Ives Consulting, we help leading companies stay ahead of the technology curve with solutions that drive innovation, efficiency, and security.

To learn more about how William Ives Consulting can address your most significant technology challenges — from cybersecurity to IT strategy — contact us today.

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