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Monthly Archives: April 2019

Keeping Control of Your Business with Office 365
Category: Business Comments: 0

Office 365 represents a complete shift in the way we interact with modern business computing. If you haven't been introduced to it yet, now could be the time. Similar to the Microsoft Office desktop package that businesses have relied on for decades; Office 365 does even more to provide the critical tools you need to modernize your business environment and take control of your business.

Built with the cloud in mind, Office 365 allows you to access and modify your documents from any computer, tablet, or smartphone worldwide. These same cloud capabilities bring benefits to collaboration too. Groups and teams can work on a single document or group of files at the same time to maximize productivity and save time ahead of tight deadlines.

Safety, accessibility, and productivity are some of the amazing benefits Office 365 has introduced to modern business. Each one has clear, but obvious benefits that can be applied.

This article breaks down the less obvious, but equally important aspects of Office 365 that could apply within your firm. These features, unique to cloud-ready office packages, allow you to regain and maintain control of your business in any working environment.

Bringing You Additional Resources

There are times on projects where you need to collaborate with external contractors. Whether utilizing a skilled sales copywriter, data entry processor, or extra software developer; your business should be able to make full use of a boost in manpower when it needs it. To do this, you need to provide access to internal resources and systems.

A difficult balancing act comes from providing useful access without exposing confidential or sensitive data held internally. More than just personal preference, restricting access to sensitive data can be a key requirement of modern regulations governing business and commerce.

Rather than providing open access to everything you hold, Office 365 makes it possible to share individual files or entire folders one at a time. Privacy settings give you the power to tailor the amount of system access you provide right down to the individual file.

Files can be protected with edit only or view only access to protect data against unintentional, malicious, or unauthorized changes. When the project reaches its conclusion, access rights for external users can be revoked to revert documents and files to internal staff access only.

Keep Everything Together in The Right Place

Making use of Office 365 provides your business with a single, central platform for company communication and data storage. A unified system means less business time spent on staff training and getting to know the system.

Using a single system means your data is always located in a location where you know how to access it. Data transfer and file sharing are made easy for everyone across the firm. Simply modifying permissions or sharing links provides access to critical files to anyone with an authorized account.

Account Based Service

Office 365 accounts-based services make reflecting the structure of your physical business in its digital systems simple and straightforward. Using your unique domain to identify your business, each staff member can be reachable to both internal staff and external firms.

For Example, jane@yourbusinessname.com may be the address of your sales coordinator or financial director. Using a unique business-based address provides both a professional point of contact and useful account management system. It also provides a simple way to redirect enquiries within the company.

If jane@yourbusinessname.com was the primary point of contact for suppliers to your business, vital emails might otherwise be ignored or lost completely when Jane is unavailable. Office 365 services make it easy to redirect all emails sent to Jane's address to emma@yourbusinessname.com instead.

These simple but highly effective tools make sure you don't miss vital communications from suppliers, contractors, or customers. This suite of tools gives you a competitive advantage to ensure queries never 'fall through the cracks' and your business retains a highly professional reputation.

Keeping in complete control of your business doesn't have to mean sacrificing extra hours, laborious micromanagement, or building complex and costly systems. Office 365 allows you to keep control of your business easily and without hassle.

You'll be surprised at the difference Office 365 can make to the way you manage your firm. Call us at (508) 279-1080 today to help set you up and running using Office 365 the right way.

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What is the Best Way to Backup?
Category: Uncategorized Comments: 0

"That will never happen to me." We get through our lives telling ourselves the worst won't happen to us. It's the same with business: "We won't need this data backup." Yet, whatever your industry, secure, reliable backup ensures business as usual. So, what's the best way to backup? Here's help.

Why You Need to Backup

  1. Business disruptions of any kind can be costly. The disaster might take one of several shapes:
  2. Natural (e.g. wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes)
  3. On-site (e.g. hardware/software failure, power outage, inability to access building)
  4. Employee driven (e.g. damaging mistakes or intentional sabotage by a disgruntled employee)
  5. Cyber-attack (e.g. data breach, ransomware, or distributed denial of service attack).

Regardless, the best backup solution can help reduce downtime and damage.

Plan B: Approaches to Backup

There are several off-the-shelf backup options your business can use. Let's consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.

USB Thumb Drives Also known as flash drives, "pen drives," or "memory sticks," these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But, they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).

Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk.

The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish.

USB Hard Drives Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more.

Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid slate drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead in microchips.

Cloud Storage Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy to ensure your backup remains safe.

Most cloud storage services back up to secure centers with thousands of servers storing data. Oh, and they'll have their own server backups too, just in case they're the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security.

Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your premises. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance. Plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses.

OK, What's the Best Answer?

Don't think disaster won't strike your business. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:

  • Hardware failures (45% of total unplanned downtime)
  • Loss of power (35%)
  • Software failure (34%)
  • Data corruption (24%)
  • External security breaches (23%)
  • Accidental user error (20%).

We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having 3 copies of your data. Two (2) of these would be located on different devices (e.g. on your computer and on a backup drive). The other remaining backup copy (1) would be secured offsite, in the cloud.

Want to secure your data for the worst? Give us a call at (508) 279-1080 to set this up.

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Protecting Your Customers and Your Business Too
Category: Business Comments: 0

Security and privacy are at the very top of our priorities when considering business IT. Major data leaks are in mainstream news on a near-daily basis and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers are impacted every time they happen. Our number one goal is to make sure our businesses are kept out of danger.

Major institutions, such as multi-national banks and credit card companies, are expected to handle your data well. Unfortunately, less secured businesses require access to our data too.

Even just booking into a hotel often requires you to leave your name, address, date of birth, passport number, and credit card details. These few pieces of information are more than enough to steal your identity, start a line of credit, and access many of your vital services. You can often only hope your chosen hotel handles your information as well as your bank does.

Securing Your Business with Smarter Thinking

There is no way to change how your favorite hotel service operates, but you can affect your own business to improve its security for your customers.

You don't need the manpower or funding of a major banking chain to handle data securely. With simple tweaks and powerful changes, you can minimize the chances of your business suffering a data breach big enough close your doors for good.

By stepping up IT security to meet modern threats, you can help to limit your liability, put customer's minds at ease and give your firm a competitive advantage. Should hackers attack, the work you do today will limit the damage and help you to weather the storm.

Limit Your Data Collection

The single most important thing to consider when securing your business is how much data do you really need to hold anyway? Carefully consider the value of every piece of personal information you collect in any given transaction. Do you have a use for everything you ask for?

Emails, addresses, and contact numbers are useful for receipts and marketing, but additional data many firms collect is often useless and wasteful. Each piece of unnecessary data you hold represents additional value to hackers and thieves. While you may be unable to use your own stored data, hackers will find great value in gathering more personal information. This increases your liability without adding any extra value.

Consider Your Access Requirements

Think carefully about who has access to information within your business and precisely why they need to access it. Often security problems begin when employees have blanket privileges to access everything within the firm.

Access restrictions should be specific to the company structure. Low-level employees should be limited to only what is strictly required for their role. Managers, for example, are likely to need systems that their junior staff cannot access.

Physical access restrictions are critical too. Unattended computers and mobile devices should require a password or identity verification to log on.

Treating Data with Care

The way you treat your data in day-to-day business reflects the impact hackers or IT disaster will have on your business when it is lost. Do you know where your backups are, and when they were last tested? Firms often first know they are in trouble when they realize all their data is stored on a business laptop or device that could be easily lost or stolen. Some firms maintain backups on USB drives or shuttle a portable hard drive between home and work.

These solutions should have no place in a professional business environment. Proper data care means regular, tested backups that are secure against fire, theft, or online hacks. Protecting your customers and your business is all about the smart application of IT knowledge in a cost-effective and efficient way.

We can help you to lock down your business to protect the most valuable assets your business owns, data. Call us at (508) 279-1080

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OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?
Category: Residential Comments: 0

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say "Hey Siri" or "OK Google". Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It's difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple's contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation share aside, few big privacy flubs or personal data breaches have been reported. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

  1. Clear your history. Don't leave everything you've ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.
  2. Connect with caution. It's great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.
  3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet "OK, Google, what's the weather like today?" But, turning off the mic when it's not in use stops recording without you knowing about it.
  4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. modems) changed from default password settings.

With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

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