Protect your Data from WannaCry

This month, ransomware has taken center stage yet again. WannaCry has already infected thousands of users around the world. In true ransomware fashion, WannaCry holds user data hostage until the victim decides to pay the ransom. What’s more alarming, however, is that the global success of this malware will likely spawn even more potent variants. To protect your business from ransomware attacks, consider these tips.

Update Your Software
The first (and probably best) defense against WannaCry ransomware is to update your operating system. New research from Kaspersky shows that machines running Windows XP, 7 and outdated Windows 10 versions were affected by the ransomware. To check whether your systems are up to date, open your Windows search bar, look for Windows Update, click Check for Updates, and install any major updates.

Also, don’t forget to download the latest security patches for your business applications and security software.

Run Security Programs
Many antivirus programs now have mechanisms for detecting and blocking WannaCry malware; so when you’ve fully updated your security software, run a full system scan.

Keep in mind that antivirus isn’t a foolproof security solution. Instead, run it alongside other security applications like intrusion prevention systems and firewalls.

Use Data Backup and Recovery Tools
If WannaCry does infect your computers, only a solid data backup and recovery solution can save your business. Before ransomware strikes, periodically back up your files in both an external hard drive and a cloud-based backup service.

External hard drives will serve as your local backup solution for quick recovery times. However, we recommend keeping the external drive disconnected when it’s not being used and plugging it in only when you need to back up files at the end of the day. This is because when ransomware infects a computer, it will usually look to encrypt local backup drives as well.

Cloud-based backups, on the other hand, allow you to store files in remote data centers and access them from any internet-enabled device. When selecting a cloud services provider, make sure they provide the appropriate cloud protections to your files. For example, your backup vendor should provide reporting tools to keep track of any anomalies in your files. Document versioning features are also important. This allows you to recover older versions of a document in case the current version is encrypted.

After your local and cloud backups are set up, perform regular tests to ensure your disaster recovery plan works.

Stay Informed
Finally, it’s important to stay on guard at all times. WannaCry is just one of many ransomware strains affecting businesses today, and in order to stay safe you need to be constantly up to date on the latest cybersecurity- and business continuity-related news.

For more ransomware prevention tips and services, call us today at 800-421-7151. We’ll make sure hackers don’t hold your business hostage.

Office 365 Gets New Security Tools

Security is, by far, the biggest issue concerning most businesses today. Although safeguards like firewalls and antivirus software are necessary, it is foolish not to take additional steps for protection in dealing with increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Today, companies require multiple layers of security to steer clear of cyberattacks and compliance woes. To help companies with this process, Microsoft has released threat intelligence, advanced threat protection, and data governance features.

Threat Intelligence
Threat Intelligence for Office 365 gathers data from Microsoft security databases, Office clients, email, and other recorded security incidents to detect various cyberattacks. This feature gives users in-depth knowledge about prevalent malware strains and real-time breach information to analyze the severity of certain attacks.

What’s more, Threat Intelligence comes with customizable threat alert notifications and easy-to-use remediation options for dealing with suspicious content.

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) Upgrades
In addition to Threat Intelligence, Office 365’s ATP service now has a revamped reporting dashboard that displays security insights across a company. This includes a security summary of what types of malware and spam were sent to your organization, and which ones were blocked. According to Microsoft, these reports will help you assess the effectiveness of your current security infrastructure.

ATP also has a new capability called “Safe Links” which defends against potentially malicious links in emails and embedded in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint files. If suspicious links are discovered, the user will be redirected to a warning page to avoid an infection.

Advanced Data Governance
The newly released Advanced Data Governance feature is also a much needed enhancement for highly-regulated companies. It classifies files based on user interaction, age, and type, and recommends general data retention and deletion policy recommendations. If, for example, your business has retained credit card data for longer than necessary, Advanced Data Governance will alert you of the possible data governance risks.

Data Loss Prevention Enhancements
Last but not least, the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center is also receiving data loss prevention upgrades. With it, you can easily access and customize app permissions and control device and content security policies. So if someone in your company attempts to leak sensitive customer information, Office 365 will notify your administrators immediately.

Although all these features are available only for Office 365 Enterprise E5 subscribers, security- and compliance-conscious companies definitely need these upgrades. Get the right Office 365 subscription by contacting us today at 800-421-7151.

Server Management: 4 Essentials

By their very definition, servers are tasked with managing significantly higher burdens than the average desktop workstation. If your business has a server onsite, there are so many things you need to consider to get the most out of your investment. Read on for a few of them:

Mount Your Servers Properly

Small businesses are usually forced to prioritize the here and now over long-term planning. Not for lack of caring, it’s just a fact of working on tight budgets and with small teams. This is especially evident when it comes to server planning. When your business first sets up shop, it’s tempting to plug in a server right next to your workstations – but doing so puts your hardware in harm’s way.

Mounting servers in a rack protects them from the accidents commonly associated with highly trafficked areas: spills, crumbs, and tripping hazards. Server racks keep your most essential hardware safe by organizing everything in a space that is more accessible for cleaning and management but less exposed to the day-to-day wear and tear of your office.

Server planning is all about leaving room for the future. When choosing your rack mount, make sure to leave room for the hardware you will need to expand in the future. Unless office space is a serious concern, it’s better to have a half-empty server rack than to be forced to tear the whole thing down and redesign it the moment you need to expand.

Keep Servers Separate from the Main Area

Depending on what type of servers you are running, they can create quite a bit of noise. This coupled with the fact that they are comprised of valuable hardware means that you should do everything in your power to keep your servers physically separate from your working space. If you don’t have room for a server room, consider investing a little extra in a secure rack mount with built-in sound reduction.

Never Skimp on Cooling

Even when your business first opens its doors, server cooling is a crucial consideration. These computers are designed to work at peak capacity and need optimal conditions to do so efficiently. Even if your equipment seems to be performing just fine, too much heat can drastically reduce its lifespan.

Make sure that your cooling solution operates outside the confines of your building’s infrastructure. If the central air gets shut off at night, or if your office experiences power outages, you need a cooling solution that switches over to backup power with your servers.

Keep Wiring Neatly Arranged

For anyone without hands-on experience with server hardware, the number of wires going into and out of your setup is shocking. Getting the whole mess organized isn’t just about cleanliness, it also affects the performance of your current setup and the viability of installing future upgrades. Any time you are installing, removing, or rearranging your server cables, check that everything is neatly labeled and safely grouped together.

Managing any type of hardware comes with dozens of important considerations, and that goes doubly so for servers. The best way to guarantee your IT investments are getting the care they require is by partnering with a managed IT services provider. To learn more about our services, give us a call today.

Use This 9-Step Checklist To Ensure Your Data Is Safe, Secure And Recoverable

Summer is upon us… Time for a stroll in the park…softball…fishing…a few rounds of golf…

Yet how could you possibly relax if some random bit of malware, software glitch or cyber-attack catches you off guard just as you’re walking out the door? A well-designed secure computer network gives you the confidence that “all systems are go,” whether you’re having fun in the sun, or just getting things done with your team.

Here’s a quick nine-step checklist we use to ensure that a company’s computer network, and the data for that business, is safe and secure from disruption, if not absolute devastation:

  1. A written recovery plan. Simply thinking through what needs to happen when things go south, and documenting it all IN ADVANCE, can go a long way toward getting your network back up and running quickly if it gets hacked, impacted by natural disaster or compromised by human error.
  2. Have a clear communication plan. What if your employees can’t access your office, e-mail or phone system? How will they communicate with you? Make sure your communications plan details every alternative, including MULTIPLE ways to stay in touch in the event of a disaster.
  3. Automate your data backups. THE #1 cause of data loss is human error. If your backup system depends on a human being always doing something right, it’s a recipe for disaster. Automate your backups wherever possible so they run like clockwork.
  4. Have redundant off-site backups. On-site backups are a good first step, but if they get flooded, burned or hacked along with your server, you’re out of luck. ALWAYS maintain a recent copy of your data off-site.
  5. Enable remote network access. Without remote access to your network, you and your staff won’t be able to keep working in the event that you can’t get into your office. To keep your business going, at the very minimum, you need a way for your IT specialist to quickly step in when needed.
  6. System images are critical. Storing your data off-site is a good first step. But if your system is compromised, the software and architecture that handles all that data MUST be restored for it to be useful. Imaging your server creates a replica of the original, saving you an enormous amount of time and energy in getting your network back in gear, should the need arise. Without it, you risk losing all your preferences, configurations, favorites and more.
  7. Maintain an up-to-date network “blueprint.” To rebuild all or part of your network, you’ll need a blueprint of the software, data, systems and hardware that comprise your company’s network. An IT professional can create this for you. It could save you a huge amount of time and money in the event your network needs to be restored.
  8. Don’t ignore routine maintenance. While fires, flooding and other natural disasters are always a risk, it’s ever more likely that you’ll have downtime due to a software or hardware glitch or cyber-attack. That’s why it’s critical to keep your network patched, secure and up-to-date. Deteriorating hardware and corrupted software can wipe you out. Replace and update them as needed to steer clear of this threat.
  9. Test, Test, Test! If you’re going to go to the trouble of setting up a plan, at least make sure it works! An IT professional can check monthly to make sure your systems work properly and your data is secure. After all, the worst time to test your parachute is AFTER you jump out of the plane.

Contact us at 800-421-7151or info@wamsinc.com, or visit wamsinc.com to schedule our Disaster Recovery Audit FREE of charge. Contact us TODAY to get scheduled!

2017 IT: Where it’s been and Where it’s Headed

Although we are not even halfway through the year, the world of IT has already changed so much! The Internet of Things, CRM Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, and Security have been the hottest topics of IT in 2017 thus far. We conducted a survey of more than 200 law firms in Southern California in order to determine the top priorities for IT projects this year as well as the major driving forces in IT spending/budget allocation for 2017. It has been forecasted that businesses and firms will move to a Hybrid Cloud Solution as the primary model, and although this projection is due to advancing security strategies, your best bet for protection will be determined by the training of your staff.

Computerworld’s Forecast 2017 Survey of 196 IT managers, directors, and executives determined that productivity, security and compliance, client satisfaction, new revenue streams, and maintenance of service were all top priorities of which companies were looking to gain from IT in 2017; each category’s importance was dispersed relatively evenly. We however saw a large shift in the response of the 200 law firms that we surveyed, in which security and compliance were the most important priority of what was expected from their 2017 IT strategies. For law firms, this comes as no surprise; security and compliance are top priorities in avoiding any sort of malpractice suit because your clients’ data is precious and valuable. There is a clear pattern as to why security is such a strong concern, especially when adopting new solutions.

The Internet of Things

There has been so much hype around the “Internet of Things” in tech blogs lately, but what exactly is it? The Internet of Things (or IoT, for short) refers to a network of physical objects that feature an IP address of internet connectivity, as well as the communication that occurs between these objects and other internet-enabled devices and systems. Many homes are set up with smart thermostats, security systems, and lighting systems that are all controlled by a mobile device; this is an internet of things. Although currently only 12% of IT managers are actively pursuing an IoT project, it is projected to be more prevalent in the workplace in the near future.

IoT trends are forecasted to move toward more standardized solutions and a more rapid adoption in the consumer market as IoT solutions become more viable. The IoT provides real-time data analytics to the manufacturers of these products and solutions in order to better assess necessary changes based on consumer behavior; this is great for you as a consumer to enjoy a better experience but also has caused some to be leery about utilization of these solutions. It is predicted that as the IoT grows, so will cybercriminals’ attempts to target and compromise your solutions. This should not keep you from enjoying the benefits of an IoT solution, but this does mean that you need to ensure that it is being executed safely, because as attack attempts increase, so will security standards for IoT devices. Such a solution in your workplace may include turning on a light in your break room before you enter it, or having your coffee made before you leave your desk to retrieve it; these may be little things, but they can actually increase productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

CRM Intelligence

For law firms specifically, 2017 has forecasted a major increase of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions. For those unfamiliar, at its core a CRM application maintains categorized lists of clients, prospects, and other important contacts. For each one it stores addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, legal needs, and interactions with you, plus a wealth of biographical information. The applications track your interactions with clients and prospects, personalizing your communications. The key features that a law firm should expect from a CRM solution include task management, campaign and case management, contact management, lead management, and marketing automation. Additional benefits include mass email, strengthened relationships with clients, remote access, and social media integration.

The biggest trends we are seeing in 2017 include real-time hyper targeting, AI powered bots, multi-channel capabilities for social media, and most importantly, more platforms tailored to your specific job function. Do your research to ensure that you choose the solution that is best tailored to your needs. Capterra’s list is a great place to start.

Hybrid Cloud

Whenever the term “Cloud Solution” comes to mind for law firms, the biggest questions encompass security and compliance, as well as the ability to keep using your legacy software. When implemented correctly, firms often get to enjoy not only a more secure, but also more flexible solution. With a hybrid solution, your data and backups are stored off-site, so if anything happens to your network you are covered and able to restore your backup. In a hybrid cloud solution, you truly get the best of both worlds, and often benefit from cost savings as well, since you aren’t paying for all those expensive servers.

You may be afraid to make the leap to a solution involving the Cloud, but what many fail to realize is that if you do any banking online, use Office 365, or use social media for business, you already are operating in the cloud. As with any solution, there are risks associated with Hybrid Cloud solutions. You must ensure that your data  is protected and can be recovered easily by having redundancy. Your provider must have and honor a service-level agreement ensuring uptime and security on their solution.. We implement Cloud and Hybrid Cloud solutions at WAMS for our clients. Security is our top priority and we provide for all of our Cloud Connect clients a detailed service agreement..

Artificial Intelligence

The three largest categories of Artificial Intelligence breaking out in 2017 are Advanced Machine Learning, Business Intelligence, and, probably the most Sci-Fi of them all, Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs). Advanced Machine Learning, in the field of data analytics, is a method used to devise complex models and algorithms that lend themselves to prediction. Business intelligence, or BI, is a term used to describe software applications that analyze an organizations raw data and related activities including data mining, online analytical processing, querying, and reporting. Business intelligence is useful for areas of your business such as monitoring your staff’s online activity to ensure productivity and security. Advanced Machine learning takes BI a step further and basically creates algorithms to analyze data and helps you to make predictions based on patterns.

When you think of a virtual personal assistant, you may be thinking of something out of a movie. The realistic VPAs of this time would be more like Siri or Alexa, which have become the norm for many people. It is however, predicted that more and more businesses will use virtual assistants to greet you, such as at an airport or at a front desk, and some can even communicate with you in various ways. On a business level, it has been projected that Artificial Intelligence will be used this year to automate processes, better organize unstructured data, create chatbots for marketing and customer service, and make business predictions through machine learning. On the consumer level it is predicted that “smart” everything will become the norm.

There are pros and cons to utilizing artificial intelligence, and it is important to be aware of when it is appropriate. Error free processing, intricate process automation, faster data insights, and better research outcomes are all pros of using artificial intelligence in the workplace. The cons that you may face are the fact that it is never good to rely solely on technology and we have seen a predicted threaten of job losses and over concentration of power due to the small amount of people that are creating these solutions. The ultimate pro and con of artificial intelligence is that it is smart, but isn’t too smart just yet.

Security

When considering the implementation of all of these new solutions and technologies, the number one focus should always be security. Staff awareness and training to combat cybersecurity threats is vital to your firm’s success. The ransomware industry is becoming an industry of its own, with its own customer support and cybercrime products popping up left and right. It has also been forecasted that cybercriminals will exploit browsers to find better ways to attack individuals, and there has even been talks of a twenty four hour internet shut down. This is why it is vital to protect yourself, have backups in place that you could restore data before it was compromised, and properly train your staff on awareness. Whether you want to implement an IoT solution, are ready to implement a CRM , think it may be time to move to the Cloud, or want to use artificial intelligence to better monitor your team, do your due-diligence by researching and always ensure that any of these solutions are secure.

3 Reasons Why Security is Better in the Cloud

If small- and medium-sized businesses think cyber security is impossible to manage now, just think about what it was like before the internet provided a way to receive IT support remotely. In today’s business landscape, enterprise-level solutions and security can be delivered from almost anywhere in the world. Read on to find out why that’s even safer than you realize.

Hands-on Management

Unless you have an overinflated budget, relying on local copies of data and software means IT staff are forced to spread themselves across a bevy of different technologies. For example, one or two in-house tech support employees can’t become experts in one service or solution without sacrificing others. If they focus on just cybersecurity, the quality of hardware maintenance and helpdesk service are going to take a nosedive.

However, Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) benefit from economies of scale. CSPs maintain tens, sometimes thousands, of servers and can hire technicians who specialize in every subset of cloud technology.

Fewer Vulnerabilities

Cloud security isn’t only superior because more technicians are watching over servers. When all the facets of your business’s IT are in one place, the vulnerabilities associated with each technology get mixed together to drastically increase your risk exposure.

For example, a server sitting on the same network as workstations could be compromised by an employee downloading malware. And this exposure extends to physical security as well. The more employees you have who aren’t trained in cyber security, the more likely it is that one of them will leave a server room unlocked or unsecured.

CSPs exist solely to provide their clients with cloud services. There are no untrained employees and there are significantly fewer access points to the network.

Business Continuity

The same technology that allows you to access data from anywhere in the world also allows you to erect a wall between your local network and your data backups. Most modern iterations of malware are programmed to aggressively replicate themselves, and the best way to combat this is by quarantining your backups in the cloud. This is commonly referred to as data redundancy in the cybersecurity world, and nowhere is it as easy to achieve as in the cloud.

The cloud doesn’t only keep your data safe from the spread of malware, it also keeps data safe from natural and manmade disasters. When data is stored in the cloud, employees will still have access to it in the event that your local workstations or servers go down.

The cloud has come a long way over the years. It’s not just the security that has gotten better; customized software, platforms and half a dozen other services can be delivered via the cloud. Whatever it is you need, we can secure and manage it for you. Call us today at 800-421-7151.

Tips on Prolonging Laptop Battery Life

Certain laptop brands have longer battery lives than others. But, there are power-saving techniques that help preserve battery power regardless of brand. Laptops are most useful to businesses with remote work policies, and if you spend the majority of your working hours on one, these tips on prolonging your its battery life will come in handy.

Manage Your Laptop’s Power Settings

Computer manufacturers are aware that battery life is an important consideration for most users, which is why many Windows and Apple computers have settings that help reduce battery consumption. Windows laptops have a Power Plan setting that lets you choose either a standard setting or a customized power plan; Energy Saver under MacOS’ ‘System Preferences’ offers a setting that allows you to adjust display and sleep controls.

Adjust Display and System Settings

You can also make adjustments to your laptop’s display and system settings to reduce brightness, turn off screensaver, disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (when they’re not used), and trigger the system to hibernate instead of sleep. A “sleeping” laptop consumes a little energy, but a “hibernating” laptop consumes absolutely none.

Use a Battery Monitor and Other Maintenance Tools

If you think your laptop battery drains unusually fast, access your system’s battery maintenance tool to check its status. If your laptop doesn’t have one, you can download an application that creates a battery health report. That report will include charge cycle count, which determines the number of charge cycles your laptop has; and battery life estimate, which states how much longer the battery will provide power based on its current settings.

Keep Your Laptop Operating Efficiently

One way to accomplish this is by managing your web browser usage. Having many tabs open on your browser drains your battery’s power and reduces your productivity.  When multitasking, close unused apps and programs – especially those that download files or play media, as they consume the most power. This not only helps reduce battery consumption, but also helps the user stay focused on the task at hand.

Handle your Laptop with Care

Laptops are delicate and require safe handling and a cool temperature. With the exception of a few models (e.g., Apple’s MacBook Air), many devices are designed with a cooling system that keeps its CPU, graphics processor, and other components from overheating; and not to mention, its battery from depleting fast.

For that reason, handling your laptop with great care ensures longer battery life and better overall performance. When using your laptop on-the-go, make sure you don’t block its vents from circulating air, which means you should never put it on a surface such as a bed or similar soft surface that could prevent its cooling fans from working. And while it may seem harmless – and appropriate – putting your laptop on your lap is actually unsafe.

For businesses with remote workers and/or bring your own device (BYOD) policies, a laptop that lasts all day allows employees to be more productive and saves your company from having to spend on new laptops or replace batteries as a result of neglect. For cost-effective strategies on business technology, call us today at 800-421-7151.