On Memorial Day we remember the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. These brave men and women have dedicated their lives to honor the living and make our lives better.
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The History Of Memorial Day
Memorial day is the most solemn American holiday. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. After the Civil War in 1865, America needed a secular, patriotic ceremony to honor its military dead.
In May 1868, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group The Grand Army of the Republic, General John A. Logan issued a decree that May 30 should be a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than the 620,000 who were killed in the Civil War.
Decoration Day was a day where he said American should lay flowers and decorate the graves of the war dead “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the Union war dead. Monuments to fallen soldiers were erected and dedicated. Ceremonies were held to decorate soldiers’ graves.
For more than 50 years, the day was only to honor those killed in the Civil War. Finally, after World War I, Memorial Day included honoring those who died in all American wars. And Memorial Day wasn’t officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s, while America was deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War. In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday by an act of Congress.
Today we celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
Although many of us will be enjoying a long weekend, the opening of the local pool, barbeques and some fun at the beach, it’s a day for honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.
Today as we enjoy paid leave and ice cream, perhaps a little reflection is in order.
How Best To Remember The Meaning of Memorial Day?
Never forget our fallen soldiers. They have shown us a path to patriotism. We should honor them by our actions. Listen closely to their plea: “Honor us by sacrificing today for a better tomorrow.”
Our office will be closed on Monday for Memorial Day.
We hope that on this day you will make an effort to set aside a quiet moment to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
If you’ve heard the terms “NextGen Malware and Antivirus Protection”, you might think they were made up by a marketer who had a few too many lattes — but this type of security truly takes it up a notch from more familiar offerings. Today’s cybercriminals are becoming increasingly savvy and are finding ways to short-circuit or completely bypass traditional protective measures. These well-organized criminals understand white hat security procedures. They are tracking the activity of your key business leaders online or on social media. They are developing malware and viruses that can mutate to avoid detection. And make no mistake: these hackers can bring your business to a halt in a matter of hours by limiting access to your important business data or trashing crucial systems. Here’s what you need to know about the next generation of tools that cybersecurity professionals are developing to combat this escalating threat to America’s businesses.
Cyberthreats Were Created to Evade Your Current Security Systems
What are these dangerous and slippery lines of code? They’re developed specifically to circumvent or defeat your security processes and procedures and are becoming extremely effective at doing their job. Traditional antiviruses are often blocked before they are able to cause a great deal of mischief, but this new generation of threats requires some next-level tools for protection. Ilan Sredni of Palindrome Consulting shares: “Advanced threat protection has changed its nature. Using artificial intelligence tools that can understand any type of malware will be the standard and the only way to stay ahead, if not current, with the threats”. Early on, threat actors figured out ways to leverage the most basic of business software, such as Microsoft Excel and Word, in order to deliver their nefarious payloads. Software engineers and security professionals grew savvy to these tactics — causing a new wave of threats to come to the forefront. As the threats continue to evolve, cybersecurity professionals will need to remain diligent if they want to protect their organizations. As endpoints become more amorphous, cyber attacks increasingly take advantage of the slipperiness of maintaining security on mobile phones, WiFi locations and other potentially risky endpoints.
What Makes Antivirus Protection “NextGen”?
While it’s difficult to tie down a single definition for “NextGen” in terms of antivirus protection, this term is often used to describe strategies and products that provide a more comprehensive and scalable approach to preventing this type of attack. This system-centric approach often leverages machine learning to improve protection capabilities, uses cloud-based computing to scan for threats and unusual actions, immediately begins resolution without requiring direct input and provides a more comprehensive set of data that can be analyzed to determine the duration and extent of a breach or hack. These forensics are particularly important as organizations seek to shore up any holes in their security grid to prevent other attacks in the future. Traditional antivirus protection is proactive to some extent, in that it is continually scanning for known signatures and performing heuristic analysis. The next generation of malware is quite crafty in the way it interacts with your systems.
What’s the Difference Between Metamorphic and Polymorphic Malware?
According to Don Baham, President and CEO of Kraft Technology Group, “Polymorphic and metamorphic attributes of malware are harder to detect and prevent, and more dark web marketplaces are providing access to malware code. Together, this has resulted in a greater number of hard-to-detect malware variants attacking our enterprises”. Defining the difference between metamorphic and polymorphic malware starts with understanding the root of the terms: “Metamorphic viruses are considered to be more advanced threats then polymorphic malware because the internal code and signature patterns are changing with each with iteration, making metamorphic malware impossible to be detected with signature-based endpoint tools,” Sredni shares. Protecting against this type of malware requires reaching beyond a simple monitoring program and defining endpoint security solutions that will monitor for abnormal activity, analyze what rogue programs are attempting to do and either halt the activity or actively alert an admin. “Since this type of attack can happen rapidly, it’s crucial that your solution is able to report this newly learned behavior to other endpoints in the enterprise to help mitigate the spread of the malware,” notes Baham.
Protecting Against Next-Generation Threats
For information on protecting against this type of advanced threat, we turn to Keith Marchiano, Director of Operations for Kyocera Intelligence. “Your first step is to implement a password policy to have your end user passwords changed every 90 days. Having your server and network passwords changed as frequently is challenging. Second, implementing 2-factor authentication for anybody trying to log into your server or network is recommended. Third, implement a multi-layer plan for security- antivirus, malware/spyware/ransomware protection, and cloud DNS security to protect the network. Fourth, implement mandatory security training for all employees. Finally, have a disaster recovery/business continuity solution that will detect ransomware attacks and allow your network administrator to restore the network to the time prior to the attack. Taking this approach will improve your security and ensure if you are attacked, that you can restore without loss to your data or major damage to your company’s reputation. All of these steps can be implemented rather quickly without interruption to your business”.
Creating a holistic approach to security starts with a firm understanding of the threat landscape, something that you simply cannot gain overnight without assistance. Your business is depending on you to reduce the risk around malware and viruses — are your solutions and technology team ready to rise to the occasion?
Microsoft’s mobile email solution, Outlook Mobile, is a powerful alternative to your phone’s native mail client. We’re offering some tips and tricks for those accustomed to another mail client. Today’s tip is how to share files from online storage using Outlook Mobile.
Step One: Create Message
To share files using Outlook Mobile, you’ll be sharing them within emails. First things first, you need to create the message that you want to use to send the file. Either create a new message or reply to an existing email by clicking “reply”.
Step 2: Click the Paperclip
Just below the area where you’d type your message, you should see a paper clip symbol. Click this, and on iOS you’ll see three options: “Attach file”, “Use last photo taken”, and “choose photo from library”. The latter two options allow you to send photos on your device, but that’s not what we’re learning about today. Click the first option, “Attach file”.
Step 3a: Add the Services You Need
(Note: If the online storage service where your file is located is already connected, you can skip this step.)
When you click “Attach file”, a list of services pops up. If the service you’re using is listed as “Add…” (such as “Add Google Drive…”), click that button and follow the login prompts.
Step 3b: Find Your Service and Your File
Once you’ve connected the services you use, you’ll see them listed in the “Attach files” menu. Scroll to the service you need. Outlook Mobile suggests recent files that you might need. Select the one you need, or if you don’t see it, click “see all”. Find your file and click on it.
Step 4: Choose How to Send
You now need to choose how to send your file. If you send it as an attachment, you’re creating a copy of the file. Your recipient can use the file as he or she sees fit, but you won’t see any changes that he or she makes until the file is returned to you. In many cases, the better choice is clicking “Insert OneDrive for Business link”. Doing so sends a link to the online version of the file. Changes your recipients make save in the online file, eliminating the possibility of duplicate files.
Other Things You Can Do
Outlook Mobile offers you additional ways to collaborate. Click the camera button in your email draft to quickly take a snapshot, perhaps of the whiteboard in your meeting room. You can even mark up the photo using markup tools, available in the upper right corner of the photo interface.
Got additional questions about Outlook Mobile? Call us today! We’re here to help.
Choosing a managed IT services firm to handle your business’s IT is the right choice for many businesses.
Here are our top 5 reasons why.
1. Focus on Your Business’s Core Competencies
Here’s the bottom line: unless you are a managed IT services firm, your core competency isn’t IT services. It’s something else. Every resource you devote in-house to IT services is a resource you’re not devoting to what makes you unique and competitive.
Even if you have a highly skilled in-house IT department, keeping all your IT services in-house can destroy your focus. Are your managers or even C-level officers regularly devoting time to IT-related concerns? Offloading your IT services to a managed IT services provider doesn’t completely eliminate the need for oversight, of course, but it does reduce the day-to-day involvement that comes with managing IT in-house.
2. Do More IT Faster and Better
If you work at or lead an SMB, offloading your IT services to a managed services firm connects you to a larger team with a wider depth of experience than you could ever hire in-house. You can only have so many in-house IT personnel, and as an SMB your company won’t reach the breadth or depth of a firm that focuses solely on providing managed IT services.
Using managed IT services is the way to expand your capability and do more with IT, faster and better than you could on your own. You’ll have access to providers who hold the latest certifications and who are skilled enough to work for a firm with this kind of sole focus.
3. Rein In Chaotic IT Spending
There’s a reason the relationship between the CFO and the CIO is often strained. IT budgets can be unwieldy, even chaotic. The costs of planned equipment replacement can be budgeted for, but surprise failures of costly IT equipment can lead to budget headaches. The costs for any service that’s beyond your in-house IT team’s ability can be extravagant, too.
With managed IT services, you can get control of these costs. Most managed service providers offer a set monthly rate, allowing you to better plan and budget. This monthly rate covers the typical repair and maintenance needs businesses encounter. By and large, you’ll no longer have to call in those expensive specialists, because you now have access to them through your managed service provider.
A good managed IT services firm can help you normalize your IT spend in a few other ways, too. They can help you create an equipment replacement plan (if you don’t have one). They can also recommend cloud- or subscription-based software solutions that will eliminate those pesky software upgrade spikes every time a new version rolls along.
4. Protect Yourself by Staying Compliant
Whatever your business, you have some forms of IT or privacy compliance that likely keep you up at night. Some industries, such as health care, have specific, government-mandated privacy and security procedures, such as HIPAA. All companies with a web presence and users in Europe are now subject to GPDR. Financial firms have their own sets of regulations.
Here’s a blunt question: if you still have an entirely in-house IT team, how deeply do you trust them to keep you compliant? Are they keeping up on the latest developments in security and compliance? If you’re an SMB, your IT folks are probably too busy troubleshooting workstations to keep up like they need to. Unless you have the resources to devote an entire department to security and compliance, you’re better off relying on outside experts to serve this critical function.
5. Protect Yourself by Staying Secure
Along the lines of the previous point: how well do you trust your in-house IT team’s security capabilities? Do you have the resources to devote an entire team to network and data security, or are the same few people that cover everything else trying to cover this, too? It’s not uncommon for hackers to go after SMBs as the low-hanging fruit: sure, the payoff of breaching Microsoft is higher, but doing so is astronomically more difficult. Hacking a business with 50 to 100 employees that’s trying to handle its own security is likely pretty easy.
A good managed IT services firm employs professionals who stay on the cutting edge of network and data security. They can implement strategies to keep you safer.
For all these reasons, choosing managed IT services is the right choice for your business. If you’re ready to begin the conversation about switching, contact us today.
For far too long, CEOs have seen information technology as a sunken cost that needs to be absorbed and reluctantly accepted. New platforms, upgrades, platform conversions, hardware, software and other technologies are a financial pain point that needs to be endured.
However, for success today, company leaders need to take a completely different approach. Information technology should be viewed as essential for companies wanting to achieve their strategic goals. The premise that technology teams should just “keep the lights on,” upgrade the software and support the other business units is an outdated approach.
Who Is Responsible for Changing the CEO Mindset?
Some companies may have a CEO who profoundly understands the nuanced approach to technology that is imperative to achieve digital transformation. However, such leadership is rare today despite the growing reliance on disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning data analytics, automation and the Internet of Things.
That’s why the chief information officer’s role is increasingly critical. The CIO needs to be included in high-level strategic conversations to help shape the needs (for financial resources, technologies, systems and people), opportunities and desired outcomes. It’s also incumbent on the CIO to play an important role in educating, influencing and empowering the CEO.
According to a recent CIO.com article, CIOs need to help CEOs and other senior leaders in the following ways:
- Having a keen understanding of new technologies, innovation trends and strategic opportunities
- Working with leadership in tandem with vendors to co-create innovative solutions
- Educating C-suite executives and board members about disruptive industry trends and possibilities
- Introducing collaborative tools and self-service portals to reduce human capital costs.
- Building innovation hubs that benefit the business
- Championing digital business strategies at the industrial and organizational levels
- Promoting a lean approach a la a start-up for fostering new products, services and ideas
What Work Should the CIOs Focus On To Change a CEO’s Mindset about Technology?
One of the most important tasks the CIO should focus on is understanding customers. Learning more about their needs, challenges, interactions and preferences will inform the CIO’s insights shared with the CEO. The CIO has to spend more time with customer-facing units, such as sales and marketing, learning about their needs and how the most effective salespeople and campaigns are built.
The key is getting out of the office. Yes, a CIO, especially of a small company, may be pulled into the weeds more often than they want, but time needs to be made for this outreach,
Why is it so important? The next time the CIO is in a strategy meeting or 1:1 with the CEO, they can provide insights on what directly impacts customers, backed up by data and IT knowledge.
CIOs should champion teams focused on innovation, development of new products and services and leveraging collected data.
CEOs are paying attention too.
“The proliferation of digital technology has given IT the ability to directly impact an organization’s bottom line,” said GE Digital CEO Bill Ruh.
“Smart CEOs now see IT not as a cost center but as a differentiator, a source of innovation, and an enabler of revenue growth and market differentiation,” notes a recent article. “As CEOs increasingly turn their attention to digital innovation as a top priority, they are counting on CIOs to drive it.”
What Are CEOs Asking of their CIOs?
“CEOs need CIOs to be more than service-oriented order takers. They expect IT leaders to work with business leaders to co-develop technology-related capabilities that will enable the business to innovate and grow,” notes Gartner in its 2019 CEO survey. A look at key data from that report shows just how much CEOs are starting to recognize the importance of IT. Consider:
- A third of CEOs ranked IT-related priorities in their top 3
- 49 percent of CEOs believe the business and technology sides of the business are equally responsible for the performance and quality of digital products and services
- 47 percent of CEOs saw technology enablement as one of the top two ways to improve productivity
A Korn Ferry survey of corporate technology offices illustrates the shift of roles and how CEOs value CIOs differently today. Among the findings:
- 83 percent say their role is perceived as more strategic than it was 4 years ago
- 81 percent say they have more exposure and play a more significant role with customers, products and services
- 55 percent believe the CEO and board see the lead technology officer’s role as a revenue generator and not a cost center
The data are clear about the changing role. In a 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey, 62 percent of CIOs said they are a part of the executive team, compared to 38 percent in 2005. The likelihood that a CIO reports to the CEO rather than the CFO or someone else is increasing 10 percent annually.
CEOs today have an incredible opportunity to use ever-evolving technologies to change business models, introduce new products and services and deliver what customers crave. How? By understanding these technologies, elevating the CIO’s role and seeing IT as a revenue-generating part of the business.
Ensuring that you have a high-speed, highly reliable digital connection to the world is crucial for today’s technology leaders. Business professionals are now accustomed to near-instant access to the information and platforms that they need and are increasingly unwilling to accept less than perfection when it comes to infrastructure. Unfortunately, infrastructure can be extremely expensive to rework and often needs to be modified over time or as funds allow. When you make an upfront investment in technology such as SD-WAN (Software-Driven WAN) you can make significant gains in terms of deployment time as well as the appreciation of your business peers. These benefits will help describe why SD-WAN is increasingly the choice of organizations of all sizes who need to quickly, securely and reliably connect to the internet — and each other.
SD-WAN is Scalable and Flexible
Traditional networking infrastructure is considered extremely stable, but that stability could also be considered a downside when it is time to move or scale your organization. The high upfront cost of implementing MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) networking is primarily due to the hardware that is involved in creating an efficient flow of information between two or more locations. Data forwarding decisions with MPLS are made according to more rigid rules that drive packet-forwarding technology. Sure, MPLS is quite reliable with exceptionally low packet loss, but that efficiency is balanced with a relatively high bandwidth cost — a big problem considering today’s multimedia content, massive downloads and telecommunications needs.
By contrast, SD-WAN offers the potential of dramatically decreasing your ongoing operating costs in terms of bandwidth while also blurring the hard edges of your networking to allow for more flexible applications. Software-driven networking allows you to quickly and easily add new links without expensive changes to your hardware. Lower-priority traffic can be assigned to broadband internet to reduce the load on any legacy (and more expensive!) MPLS connections.
SD-WAN Offers Cloud-Level Security
Connecting remote offices securely with a fast connection has been difficult in the past, but SD-WAN is challenging that paradigm. Since the connections are cloud-based, this protocol easily supports SaaS applications — which are in increasing use in business today. Temporary work locations are more easily configured with added security that would have been quite challenging with aging, hardwired technology. Providing this type of unified communications platform provides for increased efficiency across the organization while providing employees with the geographic flexibility that they need to be successful. Users demand access to applications that network administrators would prefer to keep within their walled gardens, especially with the recent rise in cybercrime. Security spending is expected to top $113 billion by 2020, showing the ongoing commitment of technology teams to creating a secure and accessible infrastructure for the modern organization. SD-WAN has security baked right in, providing end-to-end encryption that requires all endpoints and devices to be fully authenticated before they are able to access the secure network.
SD-WAN Improves Branch Uptime
Network infrastructure has traditionally been more structured and mechanical, often requiring expert technicians to schedule downtime for the organization in order to make necessary updates. That means that unscheduled downtime is much more prevalent than with a software-based solution for packet routing. Human error is easily the top cause due to manual configuration errors according to a study from Avaya, often resulting in revenue loss and even the loss of jobs. SD-WAN implementations are considered less brittle due to the availability of zero-touch provisioning that reduces the costly manual touchpoints. The reduction in moving parts and touchpoints not only saves expensive technician time for reconfiguration but reduces the possibility of outages and the need for break-fix solutions.
SD-WAN Improves Network Automation
Technology leaders are always on the search for better-faster-cheaper: the trifecta that always seems to be out of reach. However, SD-WAN provides a much more attractive layer for network automation than the more rigid structures of the past. Creating an overlay allows IT network administrators to enhance productivity by automating tasks such as monitoring for the optimal connection for each portion of network traffic. Any changes to the network configuration can be centralized and easily distributed — adding to the overall performance of the system. This allows the network to be adaptable in the utilization of expensive resources. Through overlay networking, you’re able to create a discrete, virtualized trust overlay network by creating a virtual tunnel between two points that runs through the network. Each point in the network is tagged, allowing two trusted points to recognize each other and create that virtual connection that speeds data along the path without the need to physically create a connection.
With technology spending on security on the rise and the added need for high-speed connectivity, SD-WAN seems to step into the void left by high-end physical networks by providing a more flexible, scalable — and affordable — connection option for businesses today.
If your organization is large enough to have a CFO, it surely has some kind of backup and business continuity plan in place. Do you understand how this system works? More importantly, is the system your business has in place actually sufficient to protect you in the event of a disaster? These are questions every business needs to ask, and you as the CFO need to be a part of that conversation. To get prepared, here are a few of the top questions CFOs have regarding backup and business continuity, answered.
Aren’t Backups Enough?
The short answer is no. The longer answer gets into the wide range of backup formats. On-site backups are a part of the solution, but they don’t protect against natural disasters or physical site breaches. Off-site backups have their limitations, too. The farther away the site, the more logistically challenging data transfer and physical storage can become. On the other hand, if the off-site backup is just down the street, it may be just as vulnerable to the natural disaster that hit your business.
Is the Cloud the Answer?
Cloud backups are a great new innovation in the industry, but they alone won’t save your business, either. Restoring from a cloud backup takes serious bandwidth, and bandwidth could be an issue following a catastrophe. Consider that not all business disasters are natural. If your business suffers a crippling cyber attack, cloud backups may complicate the restoration process.
What is Backup and Disaster Recovery?
Backup and disaster recovery, sometimes shortened to just backup disaster recovery or BDR, is the term for a comprehensive system that includes both data backup and a disaster recovery plan. These two components are designed to work in tandem, allowing a business to remain operational through or quickly restart operations following a disaster. Having a strong BDR plan is the real solution for backups and business continuity.
Backups in BDR
The backup component of your BDR plan should be multifaceted. Most companies benefit from having at least two forms of backup: on- or off-site as well as cloud backup. With backups, redundancy is a desirable feature, not a place to cut costs. Storage drives (whether at your location or in some server farm far away) can fail without warning.
Disaster Recovery in BDR
The disaster recovery component is just as crucial as the backup component. This is security planning, in a nutshell. If your physical office building gets wiped out by a natural disaster, you need more than your data. You need replacement computers, servers, and networks to use that data on, not to mention a place to do that work. Your disaster recovery plan finds the solution to these problems. Develop a recovery time objective, a measurement of the amount of time you’ll need to resume operations. From there, build out a plan for sourcing equipment and facilities.
Your disaster recovery plan is closely tied to your business continuity plan, which outlines how essential functions will keep running or be restored.
What Does a BDR System Accomplish for the Business?
Implementing an effective BDR system has many advantages for your business, including faster recovery time, lower risk, and lower costs.
Your business’s recovery time will be much shorter if you have both a detailed plan for what to do in the event of a disaster and a complete, usable backup of all critical systems. There’s no real way to put an exact figure on it, but working a plan is always going to turn out better than winging it, especially when in disaster mode.
Every step you take toward a well-planned BDR system lowers your business risk. Having an on-site backup is safer than having none. Having on-site paired with off-site is safer still. Adding cloud backup to the mix does the same. Similarly, the more thorough your disaster recovery plan, the lower your risk.
It may sound overly simple, but “be prepared” is a pretty great motto. No business can completely mitigate all risk, but implementing a BDR system lowers your business’s risk profile greatly.
Companies implementing BDR systems often contract with managed services firms to create and/or execute those systems. It’s worth taking a look at what’s available. You may find that your costs with a managed service provider are lower than the costs of building a BDR in-house.
Even if you determine monetary costs aren’t lower, there’s also an opportunity cost to consider. How confident are you in your in-house plan (or the team that built it)? Is that team made up of dedicated experts, or is everyone involved working just a bit outside their expertise? There is a real opportunity cost to not getting this right. Contracting with a quality MSP reduces the risk of missed opportunities due to an overly long outage or recovery.
If you haven’t yet implemented a BDR system, it’s time to do so. If you need help developing or implementing a BDR at your firm, contact us to get started.
It’s always been important for the C-suite to understand the cost benefits and value associated with technology projects, but today’s complex infrastructure needs are requiring greater levels of input from financial executives, in particular. Technology spends are increasing dramatically, and there’s a need to balance the shorter-term benefits of specific tactics with the long-term strategies that will help move the organization forward. The days of technology teams making do with the funding that they are allowed are over, as technology becomes more tightly intertwined with business strategy. It is crucial that the big dollars invested in technology and innovation are tied to true business value in a way that can be communicated throughout the organization — making the CFO an integral part of the decision-making when it comes to determining the IT spend.
Funding Sustainable Growth
Technology is advancing at an unbelievable rate, with new software applications and methods of reaching customers coming at breakneck speed. Making several poor decisions around technology can create a miasma of problems that can take years to resolve, but that risk is mitigated when financial leaders work closely with technology teams to ensure that there are adequate measures and milestones in place. CFOs must ensure that the organization has the funds available to budget for items that are critical for continued business operations that support corporate strategy and sustainable growth initiatives. This has to be balanced with the additional risk that can be assumed by waiting for “something better” (an application, a way of controlling data or reduced legislation) to come along. According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending is set to reach $3.8 trillion this year, with ongoing increases in spending attributed to IoT, shifting on-premise computing to the cloud, software applications and maintenance fees. With this shift comes a fundamental change in the way technology dollars are budgeted: from capital expenditures to a SaaS model that is billed as an operating expense.
Aligning Technology Spend with Strategic Initiatives
Starting with the strategic initiatives of the business and slotting in technology where needed may be the way CIOs and CTOs are familiar with budgeting, but the new paradigm requires additional work. The risk potential of having business systems vulnerable to a cyberattack is an ongoing concern and one that can require a significant amount of spending in any given year. Data silos are being broken down and consolidated as older legacy systems reach their sunset years. This tension between supporting an often-aging infrastructure and providing a stable base for the future creates a need for creative budgeting throughout the organization. Having the CFO work with technology executives can help bring greater visibility to the IT needs of the organization and how they align with specific strategic initiatives.
Constantly Examining Technology ROI
Part of the budgeting process involves being intentional about determining business ROI for the various technology initiatives and being unafraid to boldly cut or fund projects based on the changing needs of the business. New threats occur on a regular basis — as well as new opportunities to seize dominance in a particular market. Having the flexibility to pivot and create revenue may require a continual review of the various projects as well as a fundamentally different approach to what have traditionally been multi-year IT projects. Vigorously defending projects that no longer provide business ROI can put a major drain on limited organizational resources, especially in light of changing features and functionality for even the most stable business platforms.
Now more than ever, CFOs must have a solid understanding of the business value that IT projects plan to deliver and a solid review of milestones. This shared responsibility with CIOs and CTOs creates not only a greater accord in financial decisions but also a deeper understanding of the value that various projects have for the entire business.
Small businesses technology and business leaders may feel as though their data is safe, but nothing could be further from the truth. According to SmallBizTrends.com, nearly 43% of phishing campaigns are targeted specifically at small businesses, a dramatic increase from 18% in 2011. Unfortunately, a 2017 report from Keeper Security also shows that the greatest cybersecurity threat to small businesses is their employees, with more than 54% of data breaches caused by employee or contractor negligence. Protecting the data within your organization is crucial, and the costs that are associated with a data breach continue to rise. Small businesses are increasingly focused on ways to mitigate the risk associated with data storage and use and that often starts with having a comprehensive backup and data recovery process in place. Here are some suggestions from industry leaders on how to protect your critical small business data from a cyber attack or other loss of access.
Importance of Immediate Data Access
Your business data is arguably your most important digital asset and one that is accessed hundreds or even thousands of times each day. Your employees utilize business data from a variety of systems to look up customer orders, create POs and track shipments while consumers are online placing orders and tracking status. Until you truly experience a major loss of data access, you may not realize the crippling effect that it would have on your organization’s operations.
Dangers of Data Loss
The first hit that you would feel with the loss of access to your data is in the productivity of your teams. Workflows grind to a halt as employees scramble to figure out how to perform their daily activities without access to the information that they take for granted. In many businesses, the data stored within your CRM or other data repository is driving your website, meaning ordering comes to a crashing halt should the secure connection to your data falter. Technology teams scramble to figure out where the problem lies, putting all other IT needs on the back burner for the foreseeable future. Plus, your team may need to call in consultants to help identify a breach and begin remediation as quickly as possible. If your team identifies that a breach has occurred, you may have to report to customers and stakeholders that sensitive data has been accessed by unauthorized parties. This can devolve into trust issues with your business, negative publicity and ongoing loss of revenue even while you’re attempting to return to operational readiness.
Data Consolidation Makes Protection Easier
Business data structures often grow organically, with additional databases and information structures added over time. While this may make sense as you’re bolting systems together, eventually it can become an unruly tangle of disparate systems that makes security and data integrity more challenging for your teams. A regular review of business systems with an eye towards data consolidation is a project well worth considering as your timeline permits. It’s often helpful to work with a trusted technology partner to ensure that you are considering all the options that are available for the security of your data both in transit and at rest.
Protecting Business-Critical Data
There are a variety of protections that you can put in place to maintain both access to your data as well as its integrity. Creating a robust backup and disaster recovery process allows your team to define the best case scenario for data backups — local only, short-term local with a regional cloud-based backup or cloud only. There are dozens of different ways you can configure your backup process, but what’s important is that it meets the needs of your business both now and in the future. When you have a documented backup and disaster recovery process in place and test it on a regular basis, you have added peace of mind that your small business data is protected and quickly accessible in the event of a cyberattack or natural disaster.
Assessing and Managing Cybersecurity Risks
As your business matures, it’s imperative that you create a review schedule to assess and manage your cybersecurity risks. This includes everything from monitoring employee activity logs to protecting passwords to educating staff members and contractors against tapping, clicking or interacting with suspicious website content or email attachments. Data encryption, email and web filters and the regular application of patches to your servers and applications can also help reduce the risk of a cyberattack on your small business. Sometimes, the challenge is as simple as assuring that you have redundancies on your power supply so you don’t run the risk of losing servers during a power surge. Other remediation issues can be much more intensive, but putting together a full list of options helps you understand and ultimately reduce the risk to your organization.
Your data is being bombarded with threats on all sides, and it’s up to your technology team to help protect your organization. Creating a robust backup and disaster recovery plan with a trusted technology partner can help you walk through an audit of all pertinent systems and quickly identify problems that can be resolved quickly and define a strategy for ongoing review and support. Without access to your data and business information systems, you can quickly find that your organization is grinding to a slow and painful halt.
Microsoft Teams is a relatively new addition to Microsoft’s Office suite. Teams is a powerful collaboration tool. It’s kind of like Microsoft’s high-powered answer to Slack. Create teams for whatever purposes make sense in your business. Communicate and collaborate within those teams to get stuff done. The killer feature in Microsoft Teams is the ability to collaboratively use nearly any other component of the Office suite directly inside the Teams application.
Whether your team is a mix of on-site and virtual or completely virtual, you still likely need to hold meetings from time to time. Microsoft Teams includes a Meetings function, allowing those that aren’t present to join in on an in-person meeting. All you need is a device running Teams in the conference room. If you’re the host, all you need to do is create the meeting in your Outlook Calendar like you normally do.
How to Join a Microsoft Teams Meeting on the Go
If you’re the one that needs to join the meeting from a distance, here’s what to do. Open your Teams app and click or tap on the Meetings tab. If your organization is using Outlook for its calendar functions, this tab will populate with the meetings you’ve been invited to. Look for the one you’re trying to join, and click the big “Join” button. This will launch a call, and you’ll see avatars or photos for the others who are joining the meeting.
Controlling Your Presence During the Meeting
Tap anywhere (or, on a computer, move your mouse) to bring up meeting controls. You can mute or unmute your device’s microphone, toggle video on or off, and adjust volume. In the upper right corner (on mobile) you may see a button for adding additional people to the meeting (if you have the rights). You’ll also see a button to view any chats associated with your Team or the meeting itself.
You or others can share files into the Teams meeting. Once displayed on your screen, you can pinch to zoom in. When you’re done viewing the file, close it out and return to your main meeting window (whether that’s a video or just an audio interface with avatars).
If You Don’t See the Join Button
If you don’t see a “Join” button, then you’re dealing with one of two problems. If you sometimes see them and sometimes don’t, then your meeting organizer likely isn’t creating the meeting properly. The organizer might need to experiment with creating the meeting within Teams rather than from Outlook.
If you never see the button, then your IT group likely has not implemented the Meetings function within Teams. Contact IT with a request to enable this feature.
You now know how to join a Teams meeting on the go, but there’s a lot more to Teams than that. For help navigating Teams or the rest of the Office suite, contact us today. We’re here to help!