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The Technology Pains of Small Business

Small business owners are faced with quite the dilemma these days. While a reliable and secure network is a critical component to success, business owners are also being forced to scale back on costs and overhead as a means of basic survival in today’s economy.

Having a fully staffed IT department simply isn’t a viable option for a majority of small business owners. Many small businesses either have one full-time employee devoted to IT services or none at all. Both scenarios are recipes for disaster in an increasingly complex high-tech society.

One IT person, even a very small team, will likely be overworked and burdened by too many responsibilities. This can make a company’s business infrastructure increasingly vulnerable to breakdown, not from technology, but from human error.

13 A recent study conducted by Gartner projected that through 2015, people – not technology, will be responsible for up to 80% of technology failure. This number coincides with findings reported in the IT Process Institute’s Visible Ops Handbook stating that 80% of unexpected outages are due to poorly planned changes implemented by administrators and developers.

The forecast is even stormier for businesses with absolutely no IT support on payroll. These business owners have subscribed to the break/fix model of technology management. While this model can sometimes be out of necessity due to budget restraints, it can also stem from a state of ignorance or denial that their business is truly susceptible to technology failure. The overall health and profitability of their business is directly affected by the performance, reliability and security of its technology systems.

With the break/fix model, there is absolutely no proactive monitoring or management of their network. The only emergency plan for data loss or downtime is to call upon an IT specialist in an emergency 9-1-1 situation.

On average, these IT consultants charge $100 an hour. This doesn’t even factor in trip fees, surcharges, and standard repair costs in the range of $500 to $1000, or the costs of hardware and software upgrades. This method also results in more downtime, lost productivity, lost revenue, and a loss in overall customer satisfaction. Major network repairs require a minimum of 8-24 hours on average and most on-call IT consultants cannot get on site for up to 24-48 hours.

One has to also wonder if these consultants truly have the business owners’ best interest in mind. After all, they make their money when technology breaks down. Are they truly motivated to keep a client’s network running optimally and efficiently?

Well Cognocape is. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Five Tips to Safe BYOD for SMBs

  1. Create a Mobile Device Policy and Enforce It

Don’t be afraid to spell out what employees are expected to do – and not do – with their mobile devices. It’s important to remember you aren’t only managing devices but people as well. This is where you define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and make it clear that there will be no exceptions.

Clearly define what types of devices are allowed. While you want to support a mix of the devices employees are most likely to carry, a line has to be drawn somewhere to prevent things from becoming unmanageable. No company, especially a small one, needs to open up things to 30 mobile devices. Minimum standards for device age and capabilities should be set. Newer technology will obviously have better security features. For instance, anything before the iPhone 3G will not permit device-level encryption.

Every policy should address acceptable personal device use when it comes to webbrowsing, app downloads/usage, public Wi-Fi protocol, and data transmission/storage guidelines.

  1. Keep Devices Lock & Password Protected

Your employees are using devices they take with them everywhere. You have no idea where they are at any given moment of the day. More importantly, you can only hope that their mobile device is either with them or stored away safely. Devices that aren’t password protected, which are left out in the open unattended, pose a huge risk.

Keep in mind that 46% of people who use their mobile device for work admit to letting others use it from time to time. Many devices have free built-in security controls such as locked screens, the ability to remotely wipe out the device after multiple successive failed authentication attempts, and even GPS trackability.

Passwords should be strong and frequently updated. Employees should also be advised to not keep written passwords lying around.

  1. Immediately Disconnect Terminated Employees or Voluntary Leaves

Be sure to remotely wipe company data from the personal device of any employee who is terminated or voluntarily leavesthe company. Ideally, this data should be retrieved. This is one reason a SMBs mobile device policy must address where employees are to edit and save files. Many SMBs these days require all files to be shared, edited, and saved on Cloudbased software like Dropbox.

  1. Use Available Encryption Technologies

Business critical files, folders, and hard drives should be encrypted for reliable protection against unauthorized access. Encryption prevents sensitive data from being read by potential hackers as content is transferred to and from mobile devices. 21

  1. Use a Mobile Device Management (MDM) Solution

MDM solutions are a cost-effective means to ensure that any mobile device accessing their network is identified, controlled, and monitored. This method of centralized management makes it easy to configure devices for enterprise access, stipulates password policy and encryption settings, locates and remotely clears and locks any lost or stolen device, automates security updates, and proactively identifies and resolves device or app issues.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

 

 

Office 365 vs Google Apps

OFFICE 365 – A HISTORY

Prior to Office 365’s introduction, many businesses were migrating to the cloud-based Google Apps for Business. Microsoft was starting to be perceived as the old stalwart when it came to business email and communications software. Meanwhile, Google was garnering a reputation as the young upstart in the industry.

Since Google was fully utilizing the cloud, small businesses and organizations were turning to Google Apps for Business to eliminate the need for an on-site server and to facilitate communications and sharing among an increasingly dispersed workforce in the BYOD (Bring-Your-Own- Device) era.

This meant that many businesses were bypassing the expensive licenses of the Office desktop suite for the more mobile and affordable Google Apps for Business. “Send us a Word attachment” suddenly became “Put that in a Google Doc and share it with us on the Google Drive.”

Rather than lose a share of their marketplace to a competitor, Microsoft opted to introduce a cloud-based suite of their own targeting enterprise customers, small businesses, non-profits and the education market, all of whom were being priced out of the desktop Office 2013 suite.

After several missteps, Office 365 was introduced. Here are the four key components that make up Office 365’s cloud-based services

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THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN OFFICE 365 & GOOGLE APPS

You’ll note different names, yet very similar capabilities, during a quick side-by-side comparison of Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business. This is because Google basically developed their software to be cloud-based replicas of the already established enterprise-grade Microsoft Office products. The following table is a breakdown of each comparable function between Office 365 and Google Apps. Capture3

Despite the old adage of “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” Microsoft versions have been around for quite some time and are much more refined than Google’s offerings. For instance, while many appreciate the simplicity of Gmail for personal use, a much larger percentage of workers are likely to be more familiar with Outlook for business email. When it comes to note taking, OneNote has advanced capabilities and better integration with other programs than Google Keep. Anyone who has ever used Google Docs has likely experienced formatting nuisances and understands that the software’s format and layout options aren’t always WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get).

EIGHT SIMPLE REASONS SMBs ARE CHOOSING OFFICE 365

  1. Ensured Privacy and Better Security

Whenever cloud migration is suggested, security is one of the first subjects to come up, as many SMBs fear their data is less secure in the cloud. However, only a very small number of security breaches have been linked to data stored in the cloud. In fact, the cloud offers SMBs a level of consistently updated security that many otherwise can’t afford. Here are a few ways Office 365 keeps your business information private and secure:

  • Not only does the data reside in a well-secured state-of-the-art data center, but data encryption and frequently updated antivirus and spam protection also offer greater protection.
  • Microsoft’s privacy policy states your data WILL NOT be scanned and given or sold to third parties. In contrast, Google’s Privacy Policy states that any data they collect CAN BE used for advertising purposes. Make no mistake about it; Google’s cash cow is Google Ads. Google crawls your data in search of specific keywords to trigger ads from paid advertisers. It’s important to read all fine print as many businesses, particularly those that must adhere to HIPAA regulations, may run into a compliance conflict with Google Apps. Office 365 protects against data crawling and adheres to its privacy standards at no additional cost beyond its base price.
  • Microsoft provides detailed documentation on their privacy policy and security measures.
  • Microsoft has long been regarded as one of the most cooperative cloud-service providers when it comes to signing a liability agreement committing to HIPAA compliance.
  1. Work from Anywhere at Anytime

Although Google has enhanced its capabilities offline, there are still limitations to its offline app. Meanwhile, Office 365 allows users to access documents, spreadsheets, Outlook, etc. from virtually any device with a Wi-Fi connection and a web browser. Here are a few reasons Office 365 is strengthening productivity.

  • In addition to the web-browser based Office suite, most Office 365 plans include desktop installations of Microsoft’s software for up to 5 PCS/Macs per user. The standard Small Business package is the one exception. Otherwise, anyone who needs to create, review or edit documents without a Wi-Fi connection can still get work finished using software installed on his or her laptop or Macbook.
  • Office 365 offers a consistent experience across online and offline platforms regardless of the device used. 11
  1. Ease of Use Both Online and Offline

Office 365 users can get started immediately with a minimal learning curve because Microsoft’s products are widely recognized and have been used in workplaces and homes for decades. The same tailored experience is applied across all platforms – mobile, online and desktop applications. Anyone that has already used Microsoft Outlook and desktop Office has an instant familiarity with the products that should help them smoothly transition to the cloud.

  1. Effective Integrated Solutions

Familiarity goes a long way and morepeople are proficient at using the Microsoftsoftware than its competitors. The cloudenhances the Microsoft Office Desktopsuite experience because it facilitatesgreater collaboration. Office 365 allowsSMBs to:

  • See real-time presence and calendar availability
  • Initiate a web conference within Office applications or Outlook, Sharepoint or Lync

Google on the other hand relies on third parties for features like video conferencing and many of its core services.

  1. A Uniform Look Regardless of Device

Have you ever opened a Word document in Google Apps only to see disheveled formatting or a missing table of contents, headers, footers, watermarks, page numbers and tables? 12

It’s pretty common.

Office 365 preserves formatting whether documents are edited using a desktop version of Microsoft Office or a mobile device in the cloud. This gives you the confidence of knowing that the documents you’re sending to customers, clients, or prospects look just the way you intended.

  1. Flexible Solution

Office 365 offers a hybrid environment allowing you to easily do business both in and outside of the cloud. If certain parts of your business operations aren’t necessarily “cloud-ready”, they can stay out of it. Users of Google Apps can’t experience this kind of hybrid deployment.

Additionally, Google also has very limited management and administrative capabilities in comparison to Office 365. With Office 365, you will know exactly who has access to your data and control their conditions and privileges.

  1. Financially Backed Service-Level Agreement

The most successful SMBs are confident that their business critical operations are optimally running at all times. Not only does Microsoft provide a Service Health Dashboard that lets you see the current status of their online service, but they are also one of the few cloud-service providers to offer a financially backed service level agreement (SLA) any time their service availability drops below 99.9 percent.

Meanwhile, Google offers a less transparent approach to system availability. They only begin to count downtime when at least 5 percent of their users are affected. This doesn’t work very well for any business relying on meaningful performance metrics to assess productivity.

  1. No Surprises

SMBs get exactly what they pay for with Microsoft – ready-to-go features that are fully supported with predictable pricing and no hidden fees or gotchas. Office 365 is also flexible enough that it allows SMBs to change or remove services based on their needs. Office 365’s technology roadmap means no surprise updates. Advance notice accompanies any significant update.

SUMMARY

Office 365 offers a tried-and-true business standard in a new technology environment. Although it may seem to be priced slightly higher than Google Apps, the enhanced security, superior MS Office software, and better flexibility actually make it a more cost-efficient solution for SMBs. Since Office 365 allows for a hybrid deployment of both cloud and on premise servicers, Office 365 also allows SMBs to gradually move to the cloud with less anxiety.

For even more support transitioning to an Office 365 environment, an expert managed services provider that has successfully deployed SharePoint, Exchange and Link both on-premises and in the cloud can help minimize the administrative burden of Office 365; helping you achieve a greater ROI on your Microsoft investment.

Cognoscape can also provide Microsoft services. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Decreasing Business Costs and Risks of Costly Data Loss

4 We live in a 24/7 global economy that is more dependent than ever on technology. Even the technology of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) houses sensitive digital data – employee and customer information, internal emails, documents and financial records, sales orders and transaction histories. Not to mention applications and programs critical to daily business function and services. Employees at SMBs require continuous access to the critical business data needed to meet the demands of the customers or clients they service. They even want this access while they’re at home or on the go running errands. To satisfy this demand, many companies and organizations now allow employees to BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) and “do business” using their personal laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The web, Wi-Fi networks and mobile devices with robust memory and battery life have made this constant access to a SMBs back office infrastructure a reality. Regrettably this flexibility and freedom is accompanied by an ominous risk of data loss.

Just a single data loss or breach can be costly to SMBs. Data losses and leaks come with lingering continuous costs that many SMBs cannot easily shake or overcome. Revenue is lost if employee productivity and customer accessibility/service are stalled by data loss. The expenses associated with internal research and investigation, system repair and maintenance, and data security protection are another heavy price SMBs must pay. If cybercrime is involved, affected customers must be notified, the potential exists for litigation, and many customers will likely never return due to mistrust.

While corporate-level data losses are well publicized, many SMBs mistakenly believe their data isn’t at risk. This mistake can prove to be a costly one.

3 Why C-Suite Management at SMBs Can No Longer Ignore Data Loss

  • Following a significant data loss, it is estimated that SMBs can lose up to 25% in daily revenue by the end of the first week.
  • According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that have experienced data loss, and prolonged downtime for ten or more days have filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident. 50% wasted no time and filed for bankruptcy immediately. 43% of companies with no data recovery and business continuity plan actually go out of business following a major data loss. How quickly can your business be restored if critical data is lost? When was the last time backup processes were tested to ensure all data is recoverable and business operations are quickly restored?
  • A survey conducted by Symantec SMB revealed that fewer than half of SMBs surveyed backup their data each week. Only 23% of those surveyed said they backup data every day and have a business continuity plan in place.
  • The percentage of cybercriminal attacks targeting businesses with fewer than 250 employees doubled in 2012. The vulnerabilities of naïve small business owners have been noted, and hackers have now placed the proverbial bull’s-eye on these perceived weak links.

If sensitive customer data is leaked, SMBs may face overwhelming financial liabilities, which could include reimbursing affected customers and legal fees.

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Businesses today are playing on a much bigger playing field than they were two decades ago. Any SMB that trusts the security and backup of critical business data with a limited and overburdened in-house IT team, or forsakes internal IT support altogether for emergency on-call help when things go bad (Break/Fix Mentality), is playing with fire and begging to be burned.

Any disruptive or invasive technological event – even the smallest of incidents – can have an amplified impact on day-to-day business and profitability. Being proactive with data recovery solutions, and having emergency response procedures in place prior to a disruption or data disaster, is the only way to get critical data restored immediately to the data center, minimize downtime, protect customer and client data and soften the impact of such events.

Don’t let this happen to you. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Brookhaven Business Alliance Happy Hour

Cognoscape Brookhaven Business Alliance

 Brookhaven  Business Connect HAPPY HOUR


Tuesday, September 25th, 6:00 P.M. till Close
Brookhaven Country Club

In our own Cabana out by the pool, adjacent to ‘The Haven’

End your summer in style! Join us for our FREE END-O-SUMMER Happy Hour.   We’ll be out at the relaxing cabana area by the pool (adjacent to ‘The Haven’) of Brookhaven Country Club. Enjoy networking with great friends, free hors d’oeuvres (+ one free drink ticket), a cash bar and the ambiance of this casual setting.

 https://www.brookhavenbusinessalliance.com/events.html

This event is open to all Brookhaven Members and their guests. Bring your friends and business associates to join us for a relaxing evening of networking, fellowship and fun.

Brookhaven Business Alliance Connect Luncheon Oct. 7th

Brookhaven Business Alliance

Welcome! The best networking and speakers in DFW! Brookhaven Business Alliance’s Connect Luncheon Oct. 7th.  http://www.brookhavenbusinessalliance.com/events.html Come hear Daniel Jingwa, author of the book, “Blue Sky Thinking”. He has been a guest on BBC, PBS, etc. All are welcome to hear his speech on “Influence” to leaders and sales teams. Daniel brings fresh insights to solving problems.

Information Security and your Business

A recent study released by Symantec Corporation reveals that many small and mid-sized organizations are recognizing the importance of information security. On average, SMBs are now spending approximately $51,000 per year to protect their company information. This is a substantial increase from last year when one-third of SMBs didn’t even have antivirus protection in place. SMBs risk cyber attacks and loss of confidential data and devices.  In today’s hyper-wired world that could mean the difference between success and having to shut down.

Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the National Council of Better Business Bureaus states, “The average cost of fraud for self-employed and small-business owners is about $4,627.” But your bottom line isn’t the only thing at risk. By failing to protect your customer data, you could put them in danger of credit card fraud and identity theft. Below we’ll cover some simple safeguards your company can put into place to prevent information theft:

1. Employee awareness – Employees are the gateway to your company’s information. Create and implement Internet security guidelines. Then, educate your employees and make sure they are following them. This can be as simple as requiring periodic password changes to updating your employees on the latest threats and how they can prevent them.

2. Protect important business information – Use data encryption so prying eyes can’t intrude. Maintain wireless security. Limit employee access to important information such as: credit card numbers, customer information or employee records. Important data in the wrong hands could become detrimental.

3. Create a Backup and Recovery Plan – You can’t predict the future but you can be prepared for it. A virus could spread through your system or a flood could ruin your equipment. Make sure you back up your data to an external source as frequently as possible in case the unexpected occurs.

Information Security is crucial to all businesses. In recent news, the Federal Trade Commission charged social media site, Twitter, for failing to adequately safeguard user information. Their failure to protect user accounts led to account attacks on both President-Elect Barack Obama and CNN host Rick Sanchez.  Twitter has not only suffered monetary losses, but has also lost trust and respect of some of their users.

Invest in protecting your company’s data now so you don’t have to deal with a disaster later.

“When a company promises consumers that their personal information is secure, it must live up to that promise.  Likewise, a company that allows consumers to designate their information as private must use reasonable security to uphold such designations.” – David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.