How Business Continuity Plans Can Fail

Just because your IT provider has a plethora of awards and certifications under its belt doesn’t mean that you can blindly hand over your business’s future to them. Often times, there are some aspects in your business continuity plan that tend to be overlooked by your provider. We have rounded up some of these issues on your business continuity plans.

Over-optimistic testing

The initial testing attempt is usually the most important. It’s when IT service providers can pinpoint possible weak points in the recovery plan. However, what usually happens is that they test the system in full, instead of via a step-by-step process. This results in them missing out specific points, with too many factors overwhelming them all at the same time.

Insufficient remote user licenses

A remote user license is given by service providers to businesses so that when a disaster strikes, employees can log in to a remote desktop software. However, a provider may only have a limited number of licenses. In some cases, more employees will need to have access to the remote desktop software than a provider’s license can allow.

Lost digital IDs

When a disaster strikes, employees will usually need their digital IDs so they can log in to the provider’s remote system while their own system at the office is being restored. However, digital IDs are tied to an employee’s desktop, and when a desktop is being backed up, they are not automatically saved. So when an employee goes back to using their ‘ready and restored’ desktop, they are unable to access the system with their previous digital ID.

Absence of a communications strategy

IT service providers will use email to notify and communicate with business owners and their employees when a disaster happens. However, this form of communication may not always be reliable in certain cases, such as when the Internet is cut off, or there are spam intrusions. Third-party notification systems are available, but they are quite expensive, and some providers sell them as a pricey add-on service.

Backups that require labored validation

After a system has been restored, IT technicians and business owners need to check whether the restoration is thorough and complete. This validation becomes a waste of time and effort when the log reports are not easy to compare. This usually happens when IT service providers utilize backup applications that do not come with their own log modules, and have to be acquired separately.

These are just some reasons why business continuity plans fail. It is important for business owners to be involved with any process that pertains to their IT infrastructure. Just because you believe something works doesn’t necessarily mean that it works correctly or effectively. If you have questions regarding your business continuity plan, get in touch with our experts today at info@wamsinc.com and 800-421-7151.

Upgrading to a Dual Monitor System

Small businesses and firms are always searching for ways for their employees to be more effective computer users. But before you go out and buy bigger hard drives and faster processors, you should consider upgrading your desktops to a dual monitor system. Read on to find out about the advantages of using two monitors per desktop.

Enhanced productivity
Published studies conclude that by working with dual monitors, overall productivity increases by 20-50%. Computer programmers, for example, can use one screen for source coding and the other for programming; by using dual monitors, they no longer need to toggle back and forth between tabs. This reduces error and frees up time to complete more projects.

Better multitasking
Efficient multitasking requires adequate screen space to keep multiple applications simultaneously visible — a view that single monitors alone simply cannot accommodate. Workers who require computers, like customer service reps and web designers, would no longer waste time switching between tabs and resizing windows to fit the limited space; they could now focus on completing their tasks accurately and efficiently.

Easier cutting and pasting
This reason resonates with jobs that call for creating newsletters, complex documents, or PowerPoint presentations. Dual monitors would eliminate the need for alternating between tabs and scrolling up and down as you work. Also, the enhanced visibility reduces chances of making mistakes and thus losing more time fixing them.

Image and video editing
With dual monitors, the days of stacking numerous editing tools on top of the image or video you’re working on are long gone. Instead of your screen looking like a game of Mahjong, you can put the editing tools on one screen and leave the image on the other. With better visibility, you’re less likely to commit errors and more likely to be finessed, and you’re not sacrificing valuable working time in the process.

Dual monitors benefit almost every industry because of the enhanced visibility, larger screen space, and how you can briefly nap behind them without getting caught Using dual monitors can enhance even your leisure time activities as well.

Broaden your horizons by getting in touch with us at 800-421-7151 or info@wamsinc.com. We’ll answer any questions you have.

4 BYOD Security Risks You Should Prepare For

Personal computing is with us wherever we go. Thanks to the rise of the mobile industry, smartphones and tablets allow us to take work home with us. And with the bring your own device (BYOD) strategy, businesses have never been so productive. However, BYOD can pose a number of security risks if you’re not careful. Here are some BYOD security issues you should know before implementing it.

Data leakage

The biggest reason businesses are wary of implementing a BYOD strategy is because it can leave the company’s system vulnerable to data breaches. Personal devices are not part of your business’s IT infrastructure, which means that these devices are not protected by company firewalls and security systems.

Employees might also take work with them to places outside of your company premises that don’t have adequate security settings, thus leaving your system vulnerable to inherent security risks.

Lost devices

Another risk your company has to deal with is the possibility that employees will lose their personal devices. If devices with sensitive business information get lost and fall into the wrong hands, anyone can gain unauthorized access to valuable company data stored in that particular device. Therefore, you should consider countermeasures and protocols for lost devices, like remotely wiping a device of information as soon as an employee reports it missing or stolen.

Possible hacking

Personal devices tend to lack adequate data encryption to keep other people from snooping on private information. On top of this, your employees might not regularly update their devices’ software, rendering their devices and your IT infrastructure susceptible to infiltration.

Connecting to open WiFi spots in public places also makes your company vulnerable and open to hackers, because hackers may have created those hotspots to trick people into connecting. Once the device owner has connected to a malicious hotspot, attackers can see your web activity, usernames, and passwords in plain text

Vulnerability to malware

Viruses are also a big problem when implementing BYOD strategies. If your employees use their personal devices, they can access sites or download mobile apps that your business would normally restrict to protect your system.

As your employees have the freedom to choose whatever device they want to work with, the process of keeping track of vulnerabilities and updates is considerably harder. So if you’re thinking about implementing BYOD strategies, make sure your IT department is prepared for an array of potential malware attacks on different devices.

BYOD will help your business grow, but it comes with IT security risks that you should be prepared to handle.
Need help mitigating these BYOD risks? Call us today at 800-421-7151, and let’s find the best IT security solutions for your company.

Server Administration 101: Temperature

Servers are the heart of many firms and businesses.  And with the strain that most businesses put on their servers, one of the most important maintenance variables is temperature management. Understanding why keeping your servers cool is vitally important and could save you from an expensive crash, troubling data loss, or reduced hardware reliability.

How does temperature affect my servers?

High temperatures in server hardware can result in different types of damage. A server that completely crashes for any reason results in costly data loss and service interruptions, but the unbiased advisory organization Uptime Institute warns that overheating that doesn’t always result in total failure. Every 18 degrees higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, hardware reliability decreases by 50%. This decrease in reliability can be just as, if not more, expensive for your hardware budget in the long run.

Cooling methods can’t just be implemented and forgotten; they must be closely monitored to ensure the health of your server hardware in the short and long term. Options for temperature management range from simple low-budget solutions to expensive outsourced alternatives. Determining your server management budget will greatly depend on what types of methods you intend to implement at your SMB.

Cooling methods

Which system you use to cool your server largely depends on how much power your hardware is using. The more watts a computer needs to operate, the harder it’s working. This number will determine the scope of your temperature management needs.

For example, PCWorld says passive temperature control is adequate for any equipment operating at less than 400 watts. This includes simple solutions like positioning your server away from walls, low ceilings, cable clusters, and anything else that can block hot air from dissipating naturally.

For computers using between 400 and 2,000 watts, strategic ventilation becomes a necessity. Adding passive ventilation is viable up to 700 watts, but fan-assisted ventilation will be required above that and up to 2,000 watts. With the increased power consumption, temperatures will rise, and air movement needs to be more closely managed. At this stage, simple vent and oscillating fans will suffice.

Anything higher than 2,000 watts needs dedicated cooling solutions. This means air-cooled units to actively reduce server room temperature. Depending on the size and arrangement of the space, a simple self-contained unit may be enough to reduce temperatures to acceptable ranges. But if you’re not sure, you should schedule a consultation with a vendor to consider more drastic cooling and monitoring methods.

Keeping your servers running at ideal temperatures means smoother data operations, lower hardware budgets, and one less thing to worry about at your firm or business. As your business continues to grow and develop, keep close tabs on increasing server loads — it could save you from devastating data loss. If you need more detailed advice about server management, or have any other questions about your hardware setup, contact us today at 800-421-7151 or info@wamsinc.com.

How to Make the Most of Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word has become the go-to word processor for businesses big and small. It is used by every department and almost every type of personnel, but its constant updates and huge number of features mean there are lots of functions unknown to most users. Here, we uncover some of the most useful tricks with Word to help you get the most from it.

Edit simultaneously
You and your colleagues can now edit the same Word document at the same time. Just save yours in the cloud on OneDrive, click Share, then send the link to your colleagues. You’ll even be able to see them editing in real time.

Continue your work with Word Online
Don’t have the Word app on your computer, tablet, or smartphone? Go to word.office.com, sign in with your Microsoft account, and open Word Online, the browser version of Word. By clicking the blue Share button, your colleagues can access your document using Word Online or the Word app, which means anyone with the link and an internet connection can jump right in

Keep editorial control
With the Track Changes function, Word monitors all the edits that everyone makes to your document so you can go through the changes and accept or reject them accordingly.

To turn on Track Changes, click on the Review tab then select Track Changes. When reviewing a colleague’s edits, you have control to click on Accept or Rejectas you see fit.

Format the easy way: Write first, format later
The Style Gallery in Word makes it easy to format your document, despite the huge number of font types, sizes, colors, and effects to choose from. After finishing writing and editing your document, click the Home tab and you will see the Style Gallery prominently on top. Select the appropriate Headings in the font, size, and color that you like, and change any other text in any way you like — just make sure you don’t make any changes to the actual content that’s already been edited!

Insert photos faster, more conveniently
No need to open your browser to look for photos for your document. Just place the cursor on the area where you intend to insert the photo, click on the Insert tab, select Online pictures (type “clip art” on the search box if that’s what you need), select a photo, then click Insert.

Edit a PDF file
Click on the File menu, select Open, and choose Browse. Highlight the PDF you want to edit, then click Open. Word will convert files to the new format using text recognition, so double-check if the conversion is correct. Make the appropriate changes, then click File, then Save As, then Browse. A “Save as type:” dropdown menu will appear at which point you will choose “PDF” then click Save.

These tips may seem straightforward, but over time they can make a big difference in helping you work faster. Want to learn more Word tricks and tips? Get in touch with our Microsoft Office experts today!

New Spectre-Style Attack Discovered

Security experts are constantly discovering new potential threats, and quite recently, they’ve found a new type of Spectre-style attack more dangerous than the original. Here’s a quick rundown of the new Spectre variant.

Spectre 101
For those who don’t know, Spectre is a vulnerability in modern computer chips like Intel and AMD that allows hackers to steal confidential information stored in an application’s memory, including passwords, instant messages, and emails. Malicious code running on a computer or web browser could be used to exploit this vulnerability, but ever since Spectre was discovered, Microsoft, AMD, Intel, and other tech companies released a series of updates to fix it.

What is NetSpectre?
To perform Spectre attacks, malware would have to run on a targeted machine to extract sensitive data. But in late July, Austrian security researchers found a way to launch Spectre-style attacks remotely without locally installed malware. The new attack is called NetSpectre and it can be conducted over a local area network or via the cloud.

So far, it’s impractical for average hackers to use this method to steal data. In tests, researchers were able to steal data at a rate of between 15 to 60 bits per hour, which means it would take days to gather corporate secrets and passwords. As such, NetSpectre will probably be used by hackers who want to target specific individuals but don’t want to resort to obvious methods like phishing scams or spyware.

Experts also warn that while NetSpectre may be impractical now, hackers may develop faster and more powerful variants in the future.

How should you protect your business?
NetSpectre attacks exploit the same vulnerabilities as the original Spectre so it’s important to install the latest firmware and security updates. You should also secure your networks with advanced firewalls and intrusion prevention systems to detect potential NetSpectre attacks.

Last but not least, working with a reputable managed services provider that offers proactive network monitoring and security consulting services can go a long way in protecting your business from a slew of cyberthreats.

If you’re looking for a leading managed security services provider, talk to WAMS! We provide cutting-edge security software and comprehensive, 24/7 support. Call us today at 800-421-7151 for more information.

Cloud: 4 Common Myths Debunked

Overhyped reports of cloud hacks and server failures can lead some small business owners to be wary of a service that has so much to offer. So what are these common misconceptions about cloud computing? Here are a few myths people believe about the cloud.

#1. Cloud infrastructures are unsecure

Information security is a necessity for every business. And the most prevalent misconception about the cloud is the idea that cloud services lack appropriate security measures to keep data safe from intruders. Most users also think that the data stored in the cloud can be easily accessed by anyone, from anywhere, and at any time.

But the truth is it’s actually more secure for small businesses to use cloud services. Small companies usually can’t afford to hire an IT department let alone train them to deal with online security threats. Cloud providers, on the other hand, offer services such as multi-layered security systems and antivirus protection that not only specialize in keeping infrastructures safe from hackers but are available at a price that is much lower than you would pay for in-house IT staff.

Additionally, large cloud-based services such as G Suite and Office 365 are supported by an infrastructure that constantly installs updates and patches, which helps manage security breaches. This frees you from the burden of installing the updates yourself and managing the overall security of your system.

Users should understand that no company is completely safe from security threats regardless of their IT infrastructure. But data is likely to be more secure in the hands of cloud providers as they are the most prepared and qualified to protect your digital property.

#2. The cloud lacks proper encryption

Most people misunderstand how encryption is implemented to keep your data safe. For example, encryption is generally used for data in transition, where data is protected from anyone seeing it as it travels from one internet address to another. But encryption can also be applied to data at rest, where data is encrypted on a storage drive.

With this in mind, you should understand what types of encryption your business and its data require. When it comes to choosing the right cloud service, it is best to inform yourself about the security measures that a cloud infrastructure implements and look at how it can protect your company’s digital property.

#3. With the cloud you are no longer responsible for data security

While cloud security is important, protecting data ultimately rests on the users who have access to it. Misplacing unlocked mobile devices can leave your data vulnerable and compromise your entire cloud infrastructure. This is why we recommend strong verification mechanisms in place for devices that are used to access the cloud.

#4. The cloud is never faulty

Like many IT services, cloud-based services are not immune to technical difficulties. For example, some cloud businesses have suffered outages and server failures which corrupted files and may have lost data in the process.

Hacking is another reason why some cloud services fail. Using a less than optimal cloud service that is vulnerable to attacks can lead to stolen or deleted data, which would be near impossible to recover if you did not have any offline backups.

Before signing up for any type of cloud service, clarify with its provider what is guaranteed. Most cloud providers make promises about a service’s uptime or its safety from provider-related breaches.

Security is truly one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of cloud computing in a small business. But as cloud services expand and encryption technologies advance, cloud adoption is increasingly becoming the most cost-effective solution to meet the small business owner’s IT demands. Contact us today to learn how your business can take advantage of all the cloud has to offer.

5 Tips for Buying a New Computer

There are so many different types of computers out there, each with varying specifications and capabilities – how do you find the best one for your needs? Whether you’re purchasing a computer for yourself or for your family, here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you make the right decision.

Desktop or Laptop?

This depends on your working style and environment. The rule is quite simple: if you rarely work out of the office, get a desktop PC. If you need to work at home, on the go, or at client meetings, then go for a laptop. It’s worth noting that desktops are generally cheaper than laptops at similar specifications, have a longer usage life, and make for easier changing or upgrading of components. Laptops, on the other hand, are very portable due to their compact size, they consume less energy, and they offer a more flexible user experience.

Processor

If you want a computer that loads programs in a flash, completes tasks almost instantly, and runs smoothly at all times, then we recommend you invest in the strongest processors available. The performance of a processor is determined by its number of cores and speed, so the bigger the number, the better. These days, most users go for the latest octa-core processors, specifically if your tasks involve rendering high-definition images, animations, graphics, and analysis. For optimum results, get a processor with the higher number of cores.

RAM

Random Access Memory (RAM) allows your computer to perform multiple tasks at once without a hitch. Just like processors, the amount of RAM your computer has will determine how fast it will run when you work on several programs simultaneously. Nowadays, standard computers come with at least of 4GB of RAM, with 8GB being ideal for most users — to navigate smoothly between tasks such as email browsing, Internet surfing, and working on word processing documents and spreadsheets.

Hard Drive

The bigger the hard drive, the more space you have to store files. If you plan on using your computer with no peripherals, you’ll want to choose a computer that offers the biggest hard drive. But remember that you can always purchase an external hard drive to transfer or store files if your current hard drive is running out of space. Due to recent price changes making them more affordable, it is also a better option to use an SSD (Solid State Drive) as your main form of storage.

Operating Systems

Picking an operating system is a big decision when it comes to choosing a new computer. You’ll probably want to stick with an operating system you’re already familiar with, since it can take some time to adapt yourself to a new OS. Here are some of the popular options available on the market:

  • Windows 10
  • Mac OS X
  • Linux

Most people will just go for either Windows or Mac OS, because the complexity of Linux mean it is not popular among everyday users and we do not recommend them.

Want more hardware tips and tricks? Get in touch with our technology experts today at info@wamsinc.com.

IT Security Policies your Office Needs

When it comes to Internet security, most small businesses don’t have security policies in place. And considering that employee error is one of the most common causes of a security breach, it makes sense to implement rules your staff needs to follow. Here are four things your IT policies should cover.

Internet

In today’s business world, employees spend a lot of time on the internet. To ensure they’re not putting your business at risk, you need a clear set of web policies. This must limit internet use for business purposes only, prohibit unauthorized downloads, and restrict access to personal emails on company devices. You can also include recommended browsing practices and policies for using business devices on public wifi.

Email

Just like the Internet policy mentioned above, company email accounts should only be utilized for business use. That means your employees should never use it to send personal files, forward links, or perform any type of business-related activities outside their specific job role. Additionally, consider implementing a standard email signature for all employees. This not only creates brand cohesion on all outgoing emails, but also makes it easy to identify messages from other employees, thus preventing spear phishing.

Passwords

We’ve all heard the importance of a strong password time and time again. And this same principle should also apply to your employees. The reason is rather simple. Many employees will create the easiest to crack passwords for their business accounts. After all, if your organization gets hacked, it’s not their money or business at stake. So to encourage employees to create strong passwords, your policy should instruct them to include special characters, uppercase and lowercase letters, and numbers in their passwords.

Data

Whether or not you allow your employees to conduct work on their own devices, such as a smartphone or tablet, it is important to have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. If your employees aren’t aware of your stance on BYOD, some are sure to assume they can conduct work-related tasks on their personal laptop or tablet. So have a BYOD policy and put it in the employee handbook. In addition to this, make sure to explain that data on any workstation is business property. This means employees aren’t allowed to remove or copy it without your authorization.

We hope these four policies shed some light on the industry’s best security practices. If you’d like more tips or are interested in a security audit of your business, give us a call at 800-421-7151.