business disaster

How the cloud can protect your business from apocalyptic disaster

In the movies, any scene depicting an apocalyptic scenario typically comes with a large special effects budget. Cinematic doom tends to be very colorful, kinetic, and loud. Apocalypse, for your business, might warrant an Academy Award nomination if it results from a natural disaster, like a volcano eruption, tsunami, or comet strike.

Companies, however, don’t often experience cataclysms as filmed by Michael Bay. Corporate apocalypses tend to be a bit more silent. Air conditioning units on the roof leak into the data center, knocking the company website offline and create thousands of dollars per hour in lost revenue. A botched application update or user error deletes important records forever.

The cloud sounds like a Deus ex Machina used at the end of a technology-minded thriller. Actually, it can be exactly that in real life when it comes to helping avert an apocalypse. The cloud can help keep your business going in many ways when disaster strikes.

In the old days, a business relied on applications installed on local computers or in company server rooms for its business needs. If something happened to those computers or server room, even something as mundane as a power outage or as devastating as a tornado, the company was offline and out of business until the power came on or the building and all of its computers were restored.

However, with cloud-based application deployment, distributed data centers around the country can host and run needed applications. Users, customers, and employees can reach them no matter what might threaten the corporate HQ. Your applications can be distributed across many data centers to ensure continued operations in the event of a regional power outage like the one suffered by the northeast in 2003 or an earthquake that devastates California. Or both at once.

If running applications in the cloud doesn’t suit your company’s style or business needs, the cloud can still help provide shelter in a mega storm. You can replace equipment and software lost due to an alien invasion, but the data your company has collected over time is irreplaceable. Hopefully, your team has some backup procedures in place—perhaps backing that data up weekly to tape drives. A cloud-based backup solution offers a more robust solution. By storing your data in the cloud, you protect it from a localized Armageddon that would destroy mere local backups. Additionally, a cloud-based backup acts automatically—you don’t have to physically swap and store backup media, freeing your employees to fight actual fires.

While it’s unlikely your company will suffer from a real apocalypse, the odds that some computer problem will impact daily operations is far greater. A software application outage or a data loss could cost your business a great deal of money at the very least—or perhaps effectively end your business. The right cloud-based solution for your organization can turn an apocalypse into a mere inconvenience.

Cloud computing

How dependent is your routine on the cloud?

Perhaps you have been accused of living in the clouds while daydreaming. Truthfully, you might already be living in the cloud—the world of cloud computing.

Cloud computing has emerged and evolved subtly in recent years, interacting in your daily life in ways you might not recognize. When shopping for a product or service, it’s unlikely you’re making numerous phone calls to different salespeople to locate the best price for something. Similarly, we don’t often step out to the curb and cross our fingers a passing cab will stop and take us to our destination.

You might already enjoy cloud computing without knowing it. Imagine a day that looks like this:

5:00: The alarm on your cell phone rings. As you turn it off, you scan the notifications on new messages, the weather, and news—all delivered by the apps in the cloud.

6:30: Ready for work, you use your favorite coffee shop’s app to order a triple shot large cappuccino for pick-up.

7:15: Cappuccino in hand, you arrive at your desk and fire up your laptop. Collaboration tools allow you to interact in real-time with remote workers and other offices, when they get in.

8:30: Using video conferencing software, you have a morning meeting with your client and with colleagues.

9:05: Using your company’s preferred document sharing solution, you pull down the action plans your team is working on to flesh out some ideas you covered in the meeting.

11:15: You use your local restaurant app to reserve a table for lunch.

12:30: After lunch, but before you’re back on the clock, you set your favorite show tonight to record since you’ve decided to go to a sporting event with friends.

4:30: You save the document you’re working on to open it later tonight on your tablet to reorganize some parts in the second and third sections to punch it up a bit.

5:00: You visit a ticket broker website to see if you can find inexpensive tickets to tonight’s sporting event. You can, and you order them.

5:25: You hit the grocery store for a couple necessities on the way home, and you use your mobile phone to pay.

7:30: Thanks to a social media app, you’ve found your friends and have rounded them up for the sporting event.

10:30: After the sporting event—and a couple of drinks—you use an app to summon a car to take you home.

11:00: You review the document you wanted to work on tonight and decide instead to work on it first thing in the morning.

Throughout the day, you use websites and mobile applications that reside in the cloud. If you already have appliances or home systems—such as your thermostat—connected to the cloud, you have even more cloud exposure than most people do. This itinerary would have seemed like science fiction just a few short years ago. As cloud computing evolves, its impact on our daily lives will make tomorrow seem like today’s science fiction.

Man holding cloud

Business Before vs. After the Cloud

Given how business has adapted to the convenience and the portability of cloud computing, it’s hard to remember how we did business in the B.C. (Before Cloud) era. But life and business really were different in those by-gone days. Customers and clients have come to expect the flexibility that cloud-embracing businesses provide.

Customers already know what they want.

In the B.C. era, customers might not know what they wanted or what was available. If someone wanted to buy a house, for example, he or she had to call a real estate agent to find out what was on the market in the target area. Savvy customers called more than one. Now, people looking for houses visit a variety of web sites to do their research before contacting a real estate agent.

Back then, some companies provided information through advertisements or through catalogs. Customers got a sense of what was available through these company-push offerings. While companies still use these means to communicate, along with new email and text alerts, customers use the cloud to research products and offerings they want. To keep pace, companies need robust cloud-based communications to ensure customers can research their business offerings.

Customers want to do business whenever they want.

Do you remember the term “banker’s hours”? In the olden days, businesses were open from nine to five on weekdays. Customers needed to make plans to make their purchases or conduct their needed transactions when companies were open.

Now, customers want to conduct their business whenever the need or mood strikes. Online stores are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 days a year on Leap Year). If a consumer gets a good gift idea at five o’clock in the morning, he or she can use a web site or mobile app to buy the item immediately and have it shipped for fast arrival. If someone burns the midnight oil working on a project, and discovers a software tool or professional service to make the job easier, he or she can request a demo or order a download immediately, often without dealing with salespeople.

Customers want to do business wherever they are.

Back in the twentieth century, customers had to come to you to conduct business. They visited a store, or they met with you over a conference table. Now, customers want to conduct business wherever they are. They want to use a mobile app at the coffee shop or their laptop at their kitchen tables. They want to buy your product, use your service, or communicate with you wherever they are and wherever you are.

Customers will evolve with the cloud.

The Internet and cloud computing continue to evolve. Customer experiences and expectations will also evolve according to new advances. Your company will need to keep up with these changes, too, to ensure that customers remain engaged with your offerings, and that your way of doing business does not become a relic of a bygone age.

 

Two men hunting

Your network security guy is a little bit like your hunting partner

We know that it sounds like a bit of stretch, but it really isn’t. How you choose a network security consultant is similar to how you choose your hunting partner. Throughout our time in the security industry and our experience as hunters, we’ve noticed a few similarities between our love of the hunt and our passion for protecting your network.

A good hunting partner, like a good security consultant, is always prepared. If you’re a hunter, you know you need to be ready when your prey appears. You might only have one shot. To be prepared to accurately hit your target, you’ve had months or even years of training to use your scope, your gun, and your surroundings to create a favorable outcome. Your security consultant should have similar skills. A ready consultant will have years of experience and training behind them. Your consultant should be aware of the technical landscape of your industry and the threats present. Similarly to experienced hunters, they’ll be able to troubleshoot when things go wrong and are aware of how to execute when things perform correctly. A prepared hunting partner will understand the terrain they’ll be traversing. A security consultant should prepare a technology roadmap to accomplish your business goals, as well.

To adequately protect your network, your security consultant needs your confidence. So does your hunting partner. If you’re in a blind, staring intently towards moving wildlife, chances are you have a lot of faith in the guy (or girl) with a loaded weapon sitting next to you. A compromised network can come with some pretty hefty damages, so choosing the right IT partner can be one of the most important business decisions you make. You’re entrusting your livelihood to another individual whether you’re in a blind or in the office, security strategizing.

Hunting can be a tedious hobby. You can have all the training and all the tools to tackle your prey, but Bambi might not show up. Likewise, you might have 10 layers of protection in place and never experience a cyber threat. The idea is that you’re ready to defend when necessary, not that you’re actively “looking for trouble.” Like hunting, you never know when the cyber attack will actually occur. You can only be prepared for it when it does happen. This takes a lot of patience, but that patience pays off in the end. A security consultant’s job is to be ready, and your hunting partner’s job is to be ready.

When you choose who to take on that get-out-of-the-house-and-make-some-deer-jerky hunt, you’re looking for a person you can trust- a person who you know to be dependable and prepared. You’re looking for the same in a security consultant. At Cognoscape, we’ve had quite a few successful hunts, and we’re even better at protecting your network. Give us a call to discuss scopes, security, and strategy.

Cybersecurity

3 Signs You Need An IT Security Consultant

If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve realized you might need some help with your IT security. Here’s the thing about IT security, online threats are oftentimes more subtle than physical threats. They can be silent and unassuming. With that in mind, here are 3 signs that you need an IT consultant.

1. The numbers and statistics say it’s time.

SecurityIntelligence.com breaks down the cyber crime numbers over the past few years… and they are staggering. As of November 2016, over “50 percent of small and mid-sized organizations reported suffering at least one cyberattack in the last 12 months.” Further, the average cost of one of those attacks to a small to mid-sized business involving assets totaled $879,582. Those businesses went on to spend another $955,429 to get their business functional again so that they could continue to run at a normal level. Think about that for a second. One attack on your assets can cost you close to 1.7 million dollars.

Additionally, it’s been shown that over 60% of businesses that were hit by a cyber attack closed within 6 months after the attack. Whether it be the cost or the damage in total, when you are attacked and aren’t protected, there’s a good chance that you’re either going to be damaged severely, or your business will close altogether.

2. Your employees don’t regularly update their applications.

Did you know that 95% of all cyber attacks are caused by human error? SecurityIntelligence.com has been following this trend for years. It’s not unlikely you or someone in your office will unintentionally facilitate a cyber attack on your business.

We know that you don’t have the time to worry about your network security when you’re busy running your business, but that doesn’t mean that it should be left unchecked. According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations report, “Most (cyber) attacks exploit known vulnerabilities that have never been patched despite patches being available for months, or even years.” That means that when it’s inconvenient to update your applications, you’re leaving the door wide open for cyber criminals to walk in and attack your network.

If you aren’t aware as to whether or not everything has been updated in your office, you could be vulnerable. An IT security consultant ensures everything is up to date and running at peak security levels so your network is protected.

3. Your business is growing

That’s right, the final sign that you need an IT security consultant is that your business is growing. While you’re running the day to day operations of your thriving business, the target on your network is growing.

Hackers know that as your business grows, there is more money and information to steal. Your success is a beacon to criminals who are willing to exploit your hard work. With an IT security consultant in place, you will be able to rest easy knowing that the attention your business gets will not bring about successful attacks from cyber criminals.

To learn how we can protect your business, reach out to one of our experts, today.

Business partner

Is your IT services provider a true business partner?

You should be able to call your IT services provider any time your technology isn’t working the way it should. But do you call your provider when your technology isn’t working the way it could?

If you’re curious exactly what the above statement means, you’re in a good place.

What does the average IT partner offer your business? Solutions and support. Your business needs are met with functional technology and support so you don’t suffer much downtime. While that might meet your SLA, you should expect more from your technology and your technology provider. We’re going to tell you about a few more things you can expect from an IT services provider who is also a true business partner.

A business partner views your success as their success. Simply maintaining operations isn’t enough for a partner. Because your success is their success, your partner should help you set goals for accomplishing great things. Technology has the power to propel your business past your competitors. Is your IT partner creating innovative tech solutions for your business goals? How often do you sit down with your tech guy and strategize new ways to use your IT to streamline processes and create opportunities for growth? If your IT services provider is your business partner, you can expect exceptional technology to support your business needs AND goals.

As an extension of your team, your IT provider should always have your best interests in mind. You run the day-to-day operations of your office, so you might not hear about the latest cyber threat until after you’ve opened that phishing email and your network is down. If your IT company is a partner, they are on top of potential threats. Your partner should be actively training and informing your team about potential risks and preventing lost or stolen information, so your reputation never suffers.

If you’re a growing business, your needs are changing and evolving. What works for your IT today might not work tomorrow. Are your tech resources scalable? Does it break the bank when you have to make infrastructure adjustments to meet short-term demands? Your IT partner should be available to discuss and adjust your technology to ensure you have the resources to flourish as a business. When you hit the busy season, you need scalable solutions available on demand to successfully handle the influx. Your IT services provider, acting as a business partner, should facilitate those resources.

Technology has the power to create opportunities for your business when you choose the right provider. At Cognoscape, we’re dedicated to a true partnership with our clients. When you succeed, we succeed. Contact us today to get started on achieving your business goals.

How an MSP Partner Is Like a Scout Helping Make Your Hunt a Success

Growing your business is a little like planning a hunting trip. You need so much there to be successful: the right equipment, the right training and the right skills… but what if you could add an extra partner to the equation?

Think of your managed IT service provider as the scout on your hunting trip.

What do scouts do? They go ahead and check out the lay of the land. They clear the path for you and point you in the right direction.

An MSP can be your scout on your hunt in business to help you be a success. We at Cognoscape provide our clients with a custom IT road map so they know what may lie ahead for them, and what direction they should take to be the most successful.

This technology road map is tailored to keep our clients up-to-date on all the latest IT trends in the industry that could make their hunt, their business hunt, a success. Whether it be network security, relocation, regulatory compliance, cloud computing, and much more, we act as the scout on your hunting trip.

When you’re out in the wild looking to expand your business and find new clients, there’s the potential for a lot of errors. You know that making the wrong turn could get you caught in the weeds: an issue or technology hang up that could potentially set you back days or even weeks. That’s the last thing you want to happen in the fast-paced professional landscape of today.

So why risk everything by going it alone? Bring us along as a scout with you on your hunt, and we’ll help make sure that you take the right paths and come out a success.

businessman in jail

The Absolute Worst-Case Scenarios That Can Result From Non-Compliance

As we mentioned in our last blog, regulatory compliance is not a topic to be brushed aside. Non-compliance can result in some serious consequences, including:

Losing All of Your Clients

This may sound a bit extreme, but it’s possible in the absolute worst-case scenario. When you don’t take regulatory compliance seriously, your clients get worried. They are trusting you with their personal information, such as their credit card or health information. Imagine it yourself. How would you feel if your credit card information wasn’t protected up to government standards?

When a business is non-compliant, it can destroy their reputation. And, as all businessmen and women know, your company’s reputation is essential for its survival. The trust and confidence that your clients have can be a direct effect on your enterprise’s bottom line. Non-compliance can absolutely destroy that.

Losing (Almost) All of Your Money

Non-compliance comes at a price. Violation fines can get very expensive. For example, violating SOX compliance can result in a fine of more than $10 million. $10 million. That’s an extraordinary amount of money that could easily have been saved otherwise.

With a trusted partner like Cognoscape, we’ll make sure that you never fall into that danger zone. We know how hard you’ve worked for your success, so it would be completely devastating if it all can crashing down due to something as preventable as non-compliance.

Jail Time

In the worst case scenario, non-compliance can also result in jail time. SOX compliance violations can actually amount to up to 30 years in jail. This is not only the most devastating way to ruin you and your business’ reputation, but it could also put you out of business, permanently.

Avoid Non-Compliance with Cognoscape

Cognoscape will make sure that none of your IT equipment or IT practices are ever in violation of the law. Our experts are always staying up-to-date on the latest changes and requirements, and we promise to always relay that information back to you and make the necessary changes. We’ll help you keep all your clients, your business success, and, most importantly, keep you out of jail. Give us a call.

MSP

The Obstacles You Could Face without an MSP

Take a moment to imagine your favorite football team in the most intense game and play of the season. For us, that might be the Dallas Cowboys. The crowd is going wild as they line up the offense, and the rival Washington Redskins look massive and ready to stop you.

The fans that were cheering at the top of their lungs suddenly gasp in shock because the Cowboys have sent only three players onto the field. As the ball snaps, you can imagine what happens…and it’s not pretty. You face similar obstacles when you go out into the business world without a managed service provider.

In fact, the potential for trouble at critical moments is greater without an MSP, just like playing championship football with a fraction of your starting squad. Think about your biggest opportunity: Your business spent months working on a client’s project and now you’re ready for the final presentation — you know this is going to change not only your business but theirs, so there is a lot on the line. Suddenly, and without warning, your computing systems crash. Not just one but all of them. You are literally 2 yards from scoring the game-winning touchdown, and the ball comes loose and hits the ground.

Without an MSP there to run the play alongside you and cover your route, you don’t get to complete that project — and both your client and your business suffer a loss. Months of hard work and productivity are lost in a single instant.

But an MSP working with you the entire time can restore your network and your work quickly and without flinching, and neither your business nor your client have to suffer the impact of one weak moment. Fumble recovered.

Think about all the other risks of operating without an MSP on your team: hacking intrusions, viruses, memory crashes, network failures…the list of daily threats and vulnerabilities goes on. If you’re out there working alone to tackle these problems, you’ll needlessly lose precious time, productivity and maybe even income and reputation.

There are just too many IT challenges that your company shouldn’t have to address without key players who not only trained and experienced in preventing and removing threats but also qualified to prepare and customize your IT playbook.

And when you realize that every day in your business is as important as that big play in the big game, why would you send your team out on the field to be clobbered by the competition when an MSP can have your back at every step?

Cognoscape can be those teammates you need to move forward, gain position and win. We want to be there to remove the obstacles that you could encounter without an MSP, and clear your company’s path to the goal.

rules and regulations stamp

A Reminder On Why Regulatory Compliance Is So Important

Regulatory compliance isn’t a matter to brush off lightly. These laws and requirements are put in place to not only protect your business, but also your customers. As a quick reminder, three of the main players in regulatory compliance are:

HIPAA – HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act. This act, established in 1996, affects organizations that handle health information (PHI) or personal health records (PHR). Such organizations include clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, psychologists, dentists, and pharmacies. These regulations protect the rights of patient authorization and who can view personal health information.

SOX – The Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act is a US federal law that was established in 2002 in response to a number of major corporate and accounting scandals. Some of the organizations involved in these scandals were Enron, Tyco International, and WorldCom. This law addresses how to handle corporate governance, auditing, and financial reporting so that those scandals never happen again.

PCI – The payment card industry (PCI) is established to protect our card information. Credit card companies such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover abide by a set of data security standards (PCI DSS) that aim to reduce payment card fraud and theft.

What Happens If You Ignore Regulatory Compliance Regulations

As you can tell, regulatory compliance requirements protect very important and sensitive data. Failing to follow the rules and regulations set out can result in some very severe punishments, such as large fines and even jail time. For example, failure to adhere to SOX Compliance can result in a fine of more than $10 million and 30 years in jail.

Falling out of regulatory compliance will also damage your enterprise’s reputation and cause your clients to lose faith in you. The accounting scandals of 2002 caused the whole nation to lose trust in accounting and reporting practices. Also, let’s look at PCI compliance. If your personal credit card and financial information wasn’t protected and was left at the risk of being stolen, used, and manipulated, would you really continue to trust your information with its current protector?

The answer is no. It’s not easy to entrust your classified data and personal property to someone new. Regulatory compliance standards, however, give users the comfort and confidence to do just that.

Allowing Cognoscape to properly maintain and uphold your compliance will ensure security on all ends. We are always keeping up with the laws and staying up to date on any changes that occur.

Have any questions? Click here to read our eBook on the science behind regulatory compliance.