Be Proactive: How to Avoid Potential Network Failures

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Be Proactive: How to Avoid Potential Network Failures
 
For small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), an IT network failure can be devastating because they don’t have the resources of large corporations to bounce back from such disasters. Preparation against such devastation may be the only course for them to avoid failure and survive with the least damage if failure occurs. SMBs must be proactive in recognizing the eventuality of a cyberattack or human error that can cause data loss and disrupt business continuity. This is what needs to be done to help prevent a potential failure.
 
Be prepared: Being proactive is an essential step for preparation against a disaster. There are two ways to determine how to best prepare to prevent potential failure of your infrastructure. First, you need to identify the weaknesses throughout your systems, and second, determine how you are going to eliminate those weaknesses and protect your network.
 
Identify the weaknesses: Determine how and why your system could fail. Examine all aspects of your hardware and software. Assess all the internal and external factors that could contribute to failure of your networks. Here are some questions you need to know the answers to.
  • Does customer access and/or employee productivity often stall because of downed systems? In these situations, how quickly is your IT support able to minimize the damage?
  • Can you say with certainty that your business will be back online and be able to access lost data with minimal disruption in case of failure?
  • Your critical data should be backed up frequently. The data on personal laptops, iPads and other mobile devices should also be backed up. Are all these steps being taken, and how often?
  • Are all backups stored in a location off-site and are they quickly accessible in the event of corruption, fire or flood?
  • Are you using any custom-made software? Can it be reinstalled and updated when needed?
  • Are your systems truly protected from hackers and viruses? Do you change passwords when employees leave the company?
  • How often do you test your backup processes?
The answers to all these questions should give you a clear picture of your network’s ability to survive in case of a catastrophe.
Here are five steps that you can take to protect your networks
  1. Backup files every day: There are a large number of businesses that never backup data. Only 23% of SMBs are backing up their data daily, and only 50% are doing it weekly. A number of issues can result in loss of data. You should backup data every day.
  2. Check backup procedures regularly: Don’t find out accidentally that your backup system is not working properly. By then it could be too late. It may seem like your data is being backed up normally, but check frequently if it is backing up the way it should be. In this age of BYOD make sure all employees are also following procedures to backup data on their laptops, iPads, etc.
  3. Make sure virus protection and firewalls are always enabled: Many companies either don’t have virus protection installed or it is disabled. That renders their networks vulnerable to virus attacks from emails, spam and data downloads. Corrupted files will not only bring your systems down, but they can spread to your customers and email contacts. That will spell disaster for your reputation. Hackers are always looking for unprotected and open ports online that they can attack with malicious code or files. That can cause permanent data loss.
  4. Monitor server drives: Dangerously full server drives can cause many problems, ranging from program crashes to sluggish email delivery. Servers should be monitored and maintained regularly to avoid these problems.
  5. Check built-in logs: Frequent reviews of built-in logs can reveal small issues. You will have a chance to prevent them from becoming bigger, harder-to- manage problems that can bring your systems down.
Summary: We now know IT system failures have very serious consequences for SMBs. We also know that they can avoid such failures by being proactive. Many SMBs are now turning to cloud-based services and virtualized backup solutions to mitigate downtimes and network failures. Virtualization and cloud computing have enabled cost-efficient business continuity by allowing entire servers to be grouped into one software bundle or virtual server – this includes all data, operating systems, applications, and patches. This simplifies the backup process and allows for quick data restoration when needed.

Big News from Simpatico!

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Effective on January 11, 2019

Simpatico Systems Announces Corporate Merger With TeksInc

We at Simpatico are proud to announce a merger with TeksInc, effective January 11, 2019. This exciting development expands our service area into the Dallas metro market.

The merger with TeksInc increases the size of Simpatico’s current operations by nearly 75 percent. The combined staff of the companies will lend itself to more effective problem solving, and creative synergy.

The cyber security industry has seen a seismic shift in the last few years. As technology advances, the digital threats facing small business have become more sophisticated and more frequent.

The next logical step in our rapid expansion, growing our team and clientele in the Dallas market allows us to tackle this threat with state-of-the-art technology and concierge-level services for even more small to medium-sized companies across the country.

As Simpatico continues to grow, our focus remains on serving you, our client, with excellence. An expanded staff with additional talents and skill sets allows us to fulfill that mission.

Thank you for putting your trust in us – it is something we never take lightly. We pledge to you that we won’t grow faster than we can care for you, our loyal clients and friends. After all, you are the very reason we have the opportunities we have.

January is the time for reflection, gratitude as well as excitement for what’s ahead. We anticipate great things in the merger and the coming year.

For more information on the merger, you are welcome to reach out to Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Nathan Hasse at nathan.hasse@simpat.co.

It is Heaven! Using the Cloud to Challenge Big Business

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It is Heaven! Using the Cloud to Challenge Big Business
 
Has anyone suggested you begin moving your business to the cloud? Cloud data storage or cloud computing? What is this, anyway? And isn’t it something for huge companies?
 
In the last post we explained what cloud computing is. Simply put, it is the offsite storage of your data, and perhaps even the software packages you use. The primary benefit is pretty straightforward. Somebody else pays for all the hardware and support costs needed to store your data. You pack up all your own servers, wiring, etc. and take them to the recycling center, and save money. But is that all it is? There is a much stronger case for a small business to incorporate the cloud in their business model. The cloud allows you to become competitive with the big players in your industry.
 
The traditional issue holding back small business: they do not have the capital to create the infrastructure to compete with large firms. They are too small to enjoy economies of scale. One obvious area is software and hardware. Historically, the technology used by big business has been out of reach of the little guys. Most SMBs have neither the hardware budget nor internal resources to own a network infrastructure. A small business does not have capital to buy the equipment. Take a simple example: You run a storefront, but think you might be able to sell a bit more if you went online, but you don’t know how much more. You can’t justify the capital to buy the hardware, software, and the labor to design, build, and support it all. The cost of entry to the online world is just too much.
 
The cloud ends all of that. In simple terms, the cloud lets you rent just as little infrastructure as you need, and then lets you grow as incrementally as you like, paying only for what you use. Essentially, the cloud has become the great equalizer. The high cost of entry created by IT can be eliminated by the cloud.

Marriott says 500 million Starwood guest records stolen in massive data breach

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Marriott says 500 million Starwood guest records stolen in massive data breach

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Starwood Hotels has confirmed its hotel guest database of about 500 million customers has been stolen in a data breach. The breach occurred in 2014 but it was only identified last week. The cost of this breach will be massive: both with government levied fines and the qualitative loss of reputation.

Make Sure This Doesn’t Happen to Your Business

  1. When you acquire or merge with another company, always do a security risk analysis and network assessment BEFORE merging. Simpatico can do this for you.
  2. This has highlighted that even the biggest organizations with the biggest budgets can go YEARS without realizing their breached. Simpatico can do this for you today.
  3. Do you know if your company’s and employee’s information is on the dark web? Simpatico can do this for you.

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Can You Really Afford Not to Have a Backup Plan?

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According to Symantec SMB, 50% of SMBs admit to having no backup and disaster recovery plan in place. 41% of those surveyed confessed that they had never even given much thought to implementing a disaster recovery or business continuity plan. If you are one of them, then you really need to think about whether you can afford the status quo. Answering these questions will help you decide.
 
1. How often is employee productivity and customer accessibility or service stalled each day from a downed network or system?
 
2. How much downtime can your business truly afford and what kind of backup or recovery solutions are in effect when systems are unavailable?
 
3. What level of IT support can be accessed? Can it be accessed quickly enough to minimize damage? Are you confident that your business can either be back online or be able to access lost data with minimal disruption, no matter what?
 
4. Is your most critical data frequently backed up? Is the data on the personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys of employees backed up? Are all backups stored in a location off-site and quickly accessible in the event of theft, fire or flooding? Are you using any custom installed software and is the supplier still in business should this software need to be re-installed or updated? Are account details, licensing agreements, and security settings somewhere on record, and is it duplicated off-site?
 
5. Are your systems truly protected from theft, hackers, and viruses? Are passwords to sensitive data changed whenever employees leave the company or business unit?
 
6. When was the last time you tested backup processes to ensure they are working properly? How quick were your back ups?
 
Answering these questions will help you understand if you are needlessly bleeding money every day by subjecting your business to the high hourly rates, service charges, trip fees and wait times of on-call IT support. If you are an SMB, you don’t have to fear technology failure. A trusted MSP can help you resolve these challenges in a more effective and efficient manner.

Understand How Data Losses Happen – In Order to Prevent Them

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Small business owners are often worried about data loss. Rightly so, because data loss has the potential to wipe out a business. We have identified the most common forms of data loss so you can see how they fit into your business and assess the risks related to each of these pitfalls.
 
1. Human Error – Human error – by way of unintentional data deletion, modification, and overwrites – has become much more prevalent in recent years. Much of this is the result of carelessly managed virtualization technology. While virtualization and cloud computing have enabled improved business continuity planning for many businesses and organizations, humans must still instruct this technology how to perform. The complexity of these systems often presents a learning curve that can involve quite a bit of trial and error. For instance, a support engineer may accidentally overwrite the backup when they forget to power off the replication software prior to formatting volumes on the primary site. They will be sure to never do that ever again, but preventing it from happening in the first place would be more ideal.
 
2. File Corruption – Unintended changes to data can occur during writing, reading, storage, transmission and processing – making the data within the file inaccessible. Software failure is a leading cause of data loss and is typically the result of bugs in the code. Viruses and malware can also lead to individual data files being deleted and hard drive partitions being damaged or erased.
 
3. Hardware Failure – Storage devices may be at risk due to age, or they may fall victim to irreparable hard-disk failure. Viruses and hackers can also potentially shut down a hard drive by inserting undeletable malicious code and huge files via open, unprotected ports. If these malicious programs cannot be deleted, the entire hard drive may have to be reformatted, wiping out all the data.
 
4. Catastrophic Events/Theft – The threat of catastrophic events such as fire, flooding, lightning and power failure is always a concern. Such events can wipe out data in a millisecond with no warning. Theft is also a data loss risk that companies must address. While advances in technology like anytime/anywhere connectivity, portability and the communication/information sharing capabilities of social media and crowdsourcing have revolutionized business – the risk for theft is even greater due to this increased accessibility. More people are doing daily business on their laptop, iPad and mobile phones. They are also carrying around portable media like thumb drives, USB sticks and CDs. Physical theft of any of these devices can spell big trouble.
 
Data loss is as unique as the various sources from which it comes. The key is to identify the areas in which your business is weak and work towards a mitigation plan for each one of them. An MSP can act as a trusted partner in such cases, holding your hand through the process of safeguarding your data.

Six Steps to Better Data Backup and Quicker Recovery

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Think Quicker Recovery Time, Not Quicker Backup – While incremental backups are much faster than executing a full-backup, they also prolong recovery time. In the event of data loss, a full restore will require loading the most recent full backup and then each incremental backup tape. Having too many incremental backup tapes not only adds time to this restoration process, but it also increases the probability of not recovering all of your data. A tape could be lost, unintentionally skipped over, or contain corrupted data. Be sure to focus on optimizing the restore time to ensure faster data recovery. A quicker recovery time should be the main objective, not the need for a quicker backup process.

Maintain Sufficient Backup History – Within the blink of an eye, current data files can become corrupted and inaccessible. This will necessitate the loading of an earlier data backup that is clean of corruption. Many smaller companies make the mistake of failing to keep a sufficient backup history.

Be Sure to Backup Essential Data AND Applications – Some businesses don’t feel the need to backup all data, but be sure essential databases, documents and records are backed up frequently. Don’t overlook applications that are critical to day-to-day business operations either. Many companies fail to backup applications, only to realize when it’s too late that they don’t have access to the original installation disks when they’re trying to recover from data loss or an outage.

Have Off-Site or Online Backup – Some businesses backup data simply by moving essential files to tapes or external hard drives that are then stored somewhere onsite. But if they’re kept onsite, what happens if a fire, flood or other natural disaster takes out not just your server but your backup tapes and drives? Onsite backups can also be susceptible to theft. Having secure off-site, or even online backup, is simply the smart thing to do to ensure quick recovery when trouble comes to town.

Fix Broken Access Controls on Your File Server – Many businesses have folders with confidential data residing on a file server with overly permissive access controls. Why take the risk of having a disgruntled – even former – employee access and misuse this data when access can be limited to only those in the company who need it?

Be Sure to Test Restores – It happens time and time again. Business owners think they have a data backup plan in place. Tapes are changed diligently each day and everything appears to be backed up and good to go. However, it turns out the backups haven’t been working for months, sometimes even years, right at the very moment they’re needed. Either the backups had become corrupt and useless or large segments of data were not being backed up. This happens often. Don’t let it happen to you.

Seven ‘Must Haves’ for Your Small Business Website

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Your website represents your business and so building and maintaining it need to be of primary concern to you as a business owner. We often find business owners struggling with their websites saying things like: “My website looks great, but I am not able to convert” or “I invested so much into creating my website, but I don’t get many hits.” These things are very common pains faced by businesses, especially small business. If you aren’t sure where to start your site improvement project, this post will get you rolling in the right direction with seven key areas you need to pay attention to when it comes to your website.
 
1. Content – Make sure your site has a significant amount of content and that the content is relevant and meaningful. Having the right amount of good content adds value and appeals to your target audience. Don’t fill the site with jargon and keywords just for the sake of it, lack of relevant content won’t help you improve your conversion rate.
 
2. Testimonials – Nothing has more impact on your prospects than them hearing about your product/service from their peers. So make sure your site showcases testimonials from your satisfied customers.
 
3. Social Media Icons – Social Media, when done correctly, it is a great medium to enhance your brand presence online. Get on popular social media networks and invite your website visitors to join you there – that way they will hear more about you from your fans at the social network.
 
4. Contact Information – Tell your web visitors how to get in touch with you. They shouldn’t have to search the entire site before knowing how to contact you. Provide your contact information/contact form very clearly for them to use.
 
5. Tracking – Incorporate a web-site tracker that helps you track the leads that come in from your website. You can use services such as Google Analytics that are free and provide you basic details such as number of hits, location, time spent on pages, etc.
 
6. Loading Time – Web visitors today have little patience and lots of choices. So, it is important that your site loads quickly, otherwise they move on to the next search result.
 
7. SEO – Search engine optimization is a key factor in determining the ROI of your website. Make sure your site is optimized for search engines so that it shows up when your prospects search for you.

Mitigate Costly New Technology Risks for Continued Stability and Profitability

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Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) is one new approach being used by many companies like yours. Experienced MSPs have access to newer tools that reduce costs by automating many routine in-house labor intensive processes. Break-fix is labor intensive, and labor is one of the most expensive operating costs within your IT infrastructure. The new innovative tools that can be provided by MSPs generate real productivity increases and mitigate the risk of network failure, downtime and data loss from human error.
 
MSPs deliver a trusted foundation for your team and your customers. Some of the services and tasks offered include:
  • Remote Desktop Management and Support
  • Predictable Management of Critical Patches and Software Updates
  • Fractional Resource Availability of Best-In-Class Expertise – scaled to your needs
  • Implementing and Testing Backup and Disaster Recovery Processes
  • Performance of Inventory and Audits of Computer/Network/Software
  • Enforcement of Network/Security Policy
  • Monitoring of Network/Operating System and Alerts
  • Updating Anti-Virus Software and Detecting Spyware
Erase any misconception that managed service providers are nothing more than “outsourced” tech help priced to displace your in-house IT technician or team. The new MSP has defined new methodologies and technology partnerships to offer valuable preventative services that proactively locate and eliminate threats before a bigger problem arises.

 
 MSPs today put considerable effort into understanding the operational and business needs of SMBs to develop and deliver a set of specific services that align technology with the SMB’s business objectives. This is the reason you hear managed services often referred to as “partners.” A present day MSP offers quantifiable economic value, greater ROI and decreased total cost of operation by streamlining costs and eliminating unnecessary lost productivity, revenue, and avoidable on-site IT consultant fees, in addition to eliminating the need for costly hardware/software repairs or replacement.

Is your Business Safe from Virtual Threats?

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Did you know that 50% of small business owners think their businesses are too small to be targeted by the thieves of the virtual world? Contrary to popular belief, 72% of hacker attacks often happen to smaller firms – firms with less than 100 employees! So how prepared is your SMB? Here’s a checklist to help you find out how vulnerable you are to these attacks.
 
1. Do you have Antivirus protection? – An antivirus software program can protect you from threats that originate from emails such as phishing and virus attacks. However, the most striking fact is that 61% of small businesses don’t install any antivirus software! If you are one of them, then it’s time to change!
 
2. How sturdy is your Firewall? – A good firewall system protects your computers from the variety of threats that exist in the virtual world. Examples include harmful cookies, viruses, worms and other such malicious programs used by hackers.
 
3. Do you use a Spam filter? – Using a simple spam filter for your emails keeps junk out of your inbox. The bonus to having a good spam filter is that your employees save time, as they are not distracted by irrelevant emails, but the major perk here is that the potential virus and phishing threats are lessened as spam emails are unlikely to be opened.
 
4. Do you do backup your data regularly? – Agreed – backups don’t really protect your data, but they are the only way to recover it if data loss does happen. So, be sure you have a regular and reliable backup plan in place – and it is actually being deployed.
 
Data loss can prove very costly—especially to SMBs, sometimes even resulting in them having to close down. Prevention is certainly better than a cure in such cases.