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Social media at work what could go wrong?

Social media at work…what could go wrong?

As a business, there is no doubt today that you need to make your presence felt on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. But social media also exposes you to cybercriminals. In this post we talk about the steps you can take to ensure your social media account doesn’t become a gateway for cybercriminals to access your data.

Make someone accountable
The first step to a successful and safe social media experience as a company is to make someone in your organization accountable for it. Designate a social media manager who is responsible for maintaining your company’s social media accounts. This person should oversee everything–from the posts and pictures in your company account to approving/disapproving ‘Friend’/’Follow’ requests.

Train your employees
Of course you should train your employees who handle your official social media accounts about the security threats and how they need to steer clear of them, but you also need to train other employees who are not on your social media team as they could be a weak link that a cybercriminal could exploit to reach your business. Seems far fetched? Not really. A lot of people trust their ‘friends’ on social media and also unwittingly share a lot of information, which can be used to hack their personal accounts and devices, which in turn, may act as a gateway to your business. Teach your employees about general social media best practices in terms of security and also educate them about the privacy settings they can use to ensure there data is shared with trusted individuals only.

Take the necessary security measures
Make sure the devices you use to access your social media accounts are protected with firewalls and anti-malware tools and all security updates and patches are up-to-date.

Password hygiene
Practice good password hygiene and encourage your teams to do the same. That means no password sharing, no sequential letters/numerals, no obvious words or numbers as your social media account password.

Frame a social media policy
You should also frame a social media policy that spells out the dos and don’ts of social media that everyone in your organization should follow. This is important from various perspectives as employee’s statements on social media may be perceived as a reflection of your business’s values, whether you like it or not. This can make your business a target of cybercriminals and lawsuits.

Putting your business out there on the social networking sites gives your brand a lot of exposure, presents paid advertising opportunities and even helps you build and manage customer relationships, but as discussed, it can be tricky to navigate in terms of security. Businesses may find it overwhelming to manage their social media security strategy all by themselves can reach out to a managed services provider. An MSP with experience in social media security can be a valuable asset in helping you build a strong social media security strategy.

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Multi-Factor Authentication 101

Multi-Factor Authentication 101

You have probably already come across the term multi-factor authentication. The concept is not new, but has caught on really quick of late. In this post, we will discuss what multi-factor authentication is and why you should be adopting it.

What is multi-factor authentication?
Multi-factor authentication is basically the use of more than one credential to gain access to data. It is a combination of multiple access credential types. For example, instead of gaining access to an email account by just typing your username and password, you will be asked to further verify your identity by entering some other information, such as a pin or a one-time password (OTP) that was sent to the phone number linked with the email address you are trying to log into.

Why do you need multi-factor authentication?
Multi-factor authentication offers an additional layer of security. Simple access control measures such as logging in with user ID and password are increasingly being breached by cybercriminals because no matter how much we condition ourselves to follow good password hygiene, sometimes, we slip up. Have you ever been guilty of

  • Writing down your password so you don’t forget it
  • Sharing your password with someone just to get the work done faster
  • Used the same password for multiple accounts just because it is easier to remember
  • Creating a password that was obvious/easy to figure out. Examples include your date of birth, numbers or letters in sequence, your name, etc.,

Multi-factor authentication can help prevent cybercrimes that happen due to leaked/hacked passwords.

How does multi-factor authentication work?
The working of multi-factor authentication depends on a combination of the following 3 elements.

  • What you know
  • What you have
  • Who you are

The user has to prove their identity by answering the questions related to each of these 3 elements. User IDs, passwords, secret questions, date of birth, etc., fall in the first category (What you know), while OTPs sent to your smartphone, a physical token or an access card belong to the second category (What you have) and the third category (Who you are) includes biometric authentication such as retina scan, fingerprint or voice recognition.

Multi-factor authentication is no guarantee of data safety, but it certainly reinforces your data security. While there are tools available in the market that you can purchase and deploy, you could also connect with an MSP to help you implement multi-factor authentication across your network smoothly.

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Why MSP relationships fail

Why MSP relationships fail

A lot of SMBs opt for managed service providers who can help handle their IT requirements, and for the most part, it works well. Almost everyone knows the benefits of having a MSP manage your IT. Increased cost savings, ability to focus on your business without worrying about IT, better IT support and expertise, and so on. But, there are times when the managed IT services model fails, leaving business owners to wonder what went wrong. This blog discusses some key reasons why MSP relationships fail.

You didn’t do a reference check
Did you just pick the first MSP you found on the Google search? Did you just go by the presentations they gave you, or the information on their website? Always remember to ask your MSP for references. Talk to someone they work with and get feedback.

They don’t have enough staff
If your MSP is short of staff, they won’t be able to give you the attention you need. One of the biggest advantages of bringing an MSP onboard is having someone who proactively manages and monitors your IT requirements– something you cannot do without a full fledged IT department. So, it is important that your MSP is well-staffed.

They are not experienced enough
Before you bring an MSP on board, make sure you pay attention to how long they have been in business. This is important because the whole idea behind hiring an MSP is to leverage their knowledge and expertise. Secondly, someone who has been in the business for quite some time is more likely to be able to scale with you as you grow.

They said they will be there, but…
You want your MSP to be available 24/7, because with IT, you never know when the problem will arise. Not only should your MSP be proactively monitoring your IT infrastructure to ensure everything runs smoothly, they should also be able to resolve IT problems when they happen–time and day notwithstanding, so that your business is back up and running as soon as possible.

They are not able to provide you with all that you need
Sometimes, as you grow, your IT needs change. You may need much more support and new technologies that you didn’t think you’d need earlier. In such cases, if your MSP is not able to grow and scale with you, then the relationship won’t work.

When choosing an MSP, think of the whole process as a partnership, and not a one-time deal. When you look at the relationship as a long-term one, you are more likely to consider all the factors that go into making your relationship with the MSP work in the long run.

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Do your homework: 3 things to do when looking for an MSP

Do your homework: 3 things to do when looking for an MSP

Thinking of hiring a Managed Service Provider, but not sure how to go about it? Here are a few things to do before you zero in on one.

Figure out what you have already
The first step in a good plan is to figure out where you stand currently. Before you talk to an MSP, conduct an audit of your IT infrastructure to decide what you have currently. List all your hardware and software. When performing this IT audit, don’t forget other technologies that you are using, such as biometric access systems, CCTV systems and even telephone systems. You may think they are irrelevant as they are not directly related to your IT infrastructure, but, in the near future you may want them all to be connected to one another, and so, including them in the audit and inventory right now is a good idea.

Figure out what you need
This is the next step. After you determine what you already have, the next step is to figure out what you need. What do you want to add on or remove from your existing IT infrastructure? Are your servers too slow? Do you want to switch to the Cloud instead of traditional services? Do you want a Unified Communications set up instead of your current PBX phone line? Do you want to shift to a work-from-home model and need the infrastructure to support that?

Do your research
Now that you are clear about what you have and what you need, start doing your research. If you have an in-house IT team, you can ask them to evaluate the various options that can help you reach your goal. If not, then there are plenty of resources available online for SMBs that help with tech questions. https://www.sba.gov/learning-center is one great resource and a Google search will get you more.

As a part of this research, you should also make a list of credible MSPs in your area and learn more about them. A Google search can help you with that, but it would be even better if you reach out to a couple of your peers requesting them to refer you to their MSPs, if they have one.

Hiring an MSP means trusting them with your IT infrastructure, so it is very important that you have a clear understanding of what you really want and need, so you can share your expectations with your new MSP. This transparency and clarity goes a long way in determining the success or failure of your relationship with the MSP.

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5 Lesser known benefits of choosing the co-managed IT model

5 Lesser known benefits of choosing the co-managed IT model

Even companies with IT staff on their payroll can’t deny having an MSP onboard offers benefits that exceed what they get from having just an in-house team. This blog explore 5 lesser known reasons why the co-managed IT model is popular.

An extra hand during emergencies
In the event of any unforeseen emergency such as a natural disaster or a terror attack, you may need additional IT support to get things up and running again. Your IT team may not be able to do it all instantly and of course adding to your IT staff wouldn’t be an option during such times. In a co-managed IT services model you will have your MSP to support your IT team which will help you recover faster.

Especially useful when you have a small in-house IT team
For a lot of SMBs, an in-house IT team comprises one or two IT technicians who take care of all their IT needs. But what happens when they are both out of office at the same time, due to unforeseen circumstances? You can only cross your fingers and hope no major IT problem comes up. But, in the co-managed IT services option, your virtual IT team is just a call away!

24/7 Support
24/7 IT support is a luxury for most SMBs. Their in-house IT staff usually works the same hours at the business. Most managed service providers, however, offer 24/7 services at affordable costs.

You still retain control over your IT
In a co-managed services model, you are not completely entrusting your IT to an MSP, as your in-house IT team will be collaborating with your managed services provider to meet your IT needs better. Thus, you retain quite a bit of control over your IT.

You get useful IT insights
When you bring an MSP onboard, you benefit from their expertise and on-ground experience. They can advise you on the latest IT trends in your industry and help streamline your processes and IT infrastructure based on what’s effective. This kind of insight cannot be gained with an in-house IT team as they would only be working with you.

Co-managed IT model is not replacing your IT team with an MSP. It is augmenting your existing IT support setup with an MSP and leveraging their expertise to bring thought leadership IT strategies into your organization.

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Four reasons to opt for the co-managed IT services model

Four reasons to opt for the co-managed IT services model

Co-managed IT services model is one in which the business has its own IT team, but still contracts with an external managed services provider for certain services. In this blog we discuss four benefits of a co-managed IT services model.

Expertise
Your in-house IT team may not have all the expertise needed to manage all your IT requirements. There are new developments happening in the tech space everyday and an MSP is better positioned to stay up-to-date with them as IT is their business.

Flexibility
Opting for a co-managed IT services model allows you the flexibility to scale your IT up or down based on your business requirements. This is especially useful for companies that experience seasonal spikes in their business, such as CPA firms, around taxation times, or retail businesses around the Holidays. You don’t have to hire new IT staff to handle the sudden extra load on your IT.

Lower costs
Choosing a co-managed IT services model saves you costs that you would otherwise incur when hiring new IT staff. Bringing someone on your payroll involves HR expenses including health insurance, 401 (k) etc., which can be avoided when bringing an MSP onboard.

Help your IT team focus better
Research indicates that in companies that have an in-house IT team, their IT specialists are so caught up with the day-to-day IT tasks that they don’t have the time to focus on new technology. Tasks like security patches, software updates, backups etc., keep them busy, so they don’t get time to research or learn about the latest on the tech front. This defeats the purpose of having an in-house IT team, doesn’t it? If you could have your MSP take care of the mundane IT routine, you will be enabling your in-house IT technicians to focus on new technology, which will help you become more efficient as a business.

If you already have an in-house IT team, it is not unusual to think you don’t need the services of a managed services provider. But, as you can see, co-managed IT has its advantages and you shouldn’t strike an MSP off your list completely just because you have your in-house IT technicians.

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Best practices for data safety in a remote work environment

Best practices for data safety in a remote work environment

Do you have staff working from home? Of late, due to the Coronavirus crisis a lot of businesses shifted to the remote working environment. While it raises some data security concerns, they can be overcome by following a few best practices.

Formulate rules
You can start by formulating rules that define the extent and manner in which personal devices may be used for work purposes.

  • Who are allowed to use personal devices for work?
  • Spell out the regulations that they must follow. For example, regular checks for malware and updates to anti-malware software, etc.,
  • If there are restrictions to the device type, software or operating systems that may be used, out of security concerns, then that should be addressed.

Focus on the 2 Ts of cybersecurity

  • Train your staff: The first T is training your staff on how to identify IT threats and cybercrime activities that they can be a victim of. Examples include phishing emails, dubious attachments, clone sites, etc., Another area to train your staff is free/public wifi. They need to know that public wifi can be a gateway for hackers and cybercriminals into your system. Accessing emails from the airport’s waiting lounge or the mall’s food court, can expose your business to IT threats.
  • Teach good password hygiene: This is the second T. Help your employees understand how important password strength is. They should be able to identify weak passwords and steer clear of them. Also, they need to know that no matter how urgent the situation seems, password sharing is not acceptable. Similarly, mistakes such as repeating the password for multiple accounts, not changing the passwords frequently, etc., can make a cyber criminal’s job easier.

Keeping things under control

You can conduct monthly audits of the devices your employees will be using for work purposes. Arrange for regular security patch implementation, firewall installation and software updates. Install quality anti-malware software, firewalls, and make sure email security systems are in place. Even in the remote environment, you can ensure appropriate data access through role and permission-based access control measures.

All of this may seem new, and tedious, especially for businesses that are looking to recover from the effects of the on-going pandemic, which is why it is a good idea to team up a managed services provider to help set up a strong, secure, work-from-home environment for your business.

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How safe is your data when your staff works from home?

How safe is your data when your staff works from home?

The Coronavirus crisis has changed the world as we know it. With social distancing, lockdowns and work from home becoming the new normal, cyber criminals are exploiting the situation to their gains. This whitepaper discusses how the cyber crime landscape is likely to shape up in the post-pandemic world and how businesses can safeguard themselves against it.

One of the reasons for a sudden spike is cyber crimes is the work-from-home model that is increasingly becoming the norm. When you allow remote access to your data, you are virtually opening your IT infrastructure to criminals–unless you have the right security measures. It is easy for malware and hackers to get into your system and corrupt it unless you have the right measures in place.

With employees operating from home, there are a lot of loopholes that cyber criminals target. Some of them include

Lack of knowledge
Most employees don’t realize how their simple actions or non-actions can contribute to a cyberattack that can bring your whole business down. For example, they may unwittingly end up compromising on your business’s data security by sharing passwords, not using a good antivirus software or using the public WiFi to access their emails, etc.,

It is more difficult to oversee IT operations
With teams working remotely, it is difficult for businesses to manage their IT efficiently. Installation of security patches, anti-malware tools, data backups, etc., are all more difficult now.

Working from home offers businesses a lot of benefits in terms of cost savings, employee satisfaction and flexibility. But, it also raises a lot of questions from the IT security perspective. When opting for the work-from home model, it is important to clearly define the IT policies and put them into practice. You could partner with an MSP who specializes in cybersecurity and remote workspace management to help you formulate a safe, remote working environment.

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4 things to do to ensure your business continuity planning is a success

4 things to do to ensure your business continuity planning is a success

Working on creating a contingency plan for your business? That’s great! Here are 4 things you need to consider when preparing your new business continuity plan.

Audit of your business continuity plan
Having a business continuity plan alone is not enough. You need to audit it at regular intervals to ensure it is up-to-date and relevant. Often, business continuity plans aren’t used for years, and may be obsolete or irrelevant by the time an actual emergency occurs.

Creating a team for business continuity
Constitute a team for your business continuity project. Decide who will take ownership of implementing the business continuity in the event of an emergency. Break down the business continuity plan into smaller elements and decide who is responsible for each of them. Also, remember to designate a back up for each person in the team.

Mock Drills and Dry Runs
After your business continuity plan is ready you need to check if it really works. A dry run will tell you if it is really effective and also point out to loose ends, if any, that you can fix before the actual emergency.

Don’t forget a debrief
In case you do end up using your business continuity plan, make sure you do a debrief. It will help you determine the effectiveness of your business continuity plan. The brief should focus on identifying the losses you incurred from the disaster, the time taken for implementation of the business continuity plan, the key positives of implementation of your business continuity plan and also offer suggestions, if any for improvement. Irrespective of the size of your business, business continuity planning is indispensable. Bigger companies often have their own staff (IT as well as non-IT) for business continuity planning, but for SMBs to have their own business continuity planning team can be a bit of a strain on their resources. Consider teaming up with a MSP who is experienced in disaster recovery planning, so you don’t cut corners now to regret later.

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What are the essentials of a business continuity plan?

What are the essentials of a business continuity plan?

An unexpected emergency can wipe out your business! A business continuity plan can help it survive. But, what should a good business continuity plan cover? Read this blog to find out.

A list of your key contacts
One of the most important elements in your business continuity plan is a list of all your important contacts who should be informed of the disaster. This can include all your C-level execs, HR managers, IT Manager, client facing managers, etc.,

A comprehensive list of your IT inventory
Your business continuity plan should contain a list of all the softwares, apps and hardware that you use in the daily operations of your business. This list should identify each of those as critical or non-critical and mention details pertaining to each of them such as

  • The name of the app/software
  • Version/model number (for software/hardware)
  • Vendor name and contact information for each of them
  • Warranty/support availability details
  • Contact information for customer support for these hardware/apps
  • Frequency of usage

Backup information
Data backups are critical to your disaster recovery and so your business continuity plan should include information about data backups. It should mention how often data is backed up, in what formats and where. It should also mention what data backups are available–ideally, you should be backing up ALL data already!

What’s your Plan B?
Make sure your business continuity plan lists a backup operations plan that will come into play in the event of a disaster. Examples include alternative workflows such as options to work remotely or to allow employees to bring their own devices to work (BYOD) until the time regular business premises or systems are ready.

Floor plans and location
Your business continuity plan should also include floor plans of your offices with the exit and entry points clearly marked up, so they can be used in the event of any emergency. It should also mention the location of data centers, phones, key IT systems and related hardware.

Process definition
Make sure your business continuity plan defines the SOPs to be followed in the event of an emergency.

Think business continuity planning is too complicated? Don’t give up! A lot of SMBs, don’t create a business continuity plan thinking it is too much of a hassle. But this can prove fatal to your business later. A qualified MSP can help you understand business continuity planning and even help you create a business continuity plan that’s best suited for you..

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3 Reasons to prepare a business continuity plan

3 Reasons to prepare a business continuity plan if you haven’t done so already

A business continuity plan is the blueprint you need during an emergency to keep your business running smoothly. If you don’t already have one, here are 3 key reasons why you should focus on creating one ASAP.

It helps retain clients
As a business, if you have problems functioning, it will definitely affect your clients. For example, if your servers are down or your supply-chain mechanism is affected or your delivery process breaks, you won’t be able to fulfill your promise to your clients. Even worse, in some situations you may not even be in a position to communicate about the crisis to your clients adding to their frustration. A business continuity plan addresses these issues beforehand and can help reduce client dissatisfaction.

Salvaging brand image and reputation
There are certain events that end up affecting only your business. For example, ransomware attacks, virus attacks, data leaks, etc., Having a business continuity plan that caters for such events can be a blessing in times of such crisis.

Minimizing revenue loss
A business continuity plan can minimize the revenue losses that occur as a result of a crisis that interrupts your business operations.

In short, a business continuity plan helps minimize the impact of the crisis on your client relations, your brand image and your revenue by equipping you with a plan to handle the situation better.

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Business continuity planning: A must-have, not a luxury

Business continuity planning: A must-have, not a luxury

Business continuity planning is not an alien concept anymore. In recent times we have witnessed a lot of events that only serve to further intensify the need for business continuity planning. Examples include natural calamities like hurricanes, floods, wildfires, events like terror attacks or even pandemics like the recent Covid-19 outbreak.

While a business continuity plan cannot completely safeguard your business from all these events, it can certainly minimize the damage inflicted on your business. Top business consultants urge their clients to develop a business continuity plan as they consider it a part of the best practices for running a business. A business continuity plan can make the difference between survival and shutdown of a business during a crisis situation.

What is business continuity planning?
Business continuity planning is the process of creating a blueprint that helps your business respond and recover effectively from an unforeseen mishap. As discussed before, the unforeseen event could range from natural disasters to pandemics, or even accidents that affect just your place of business like a fire or even a cybercrime attack directed at your business in particular–basically, any event that can paralyze your business. A business continuity plan serves as a step-by-step guide that you can follow during an emergency to keep your business running smoothly.

True, a business continuity plan is not a sure shot method to survive a crisis, it won’t instantly eliminate the impact of the disaster, but it gives you the best chances of survival. If you are not sure of what a good business continuity plan entails , you can reach out to a reputable MSP to help you with the preparation and implementation of one.

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The Cloud: Are there security issues

The Cloud: Are there security issues?

For many, the idea of offloading their data to another physical/virtual location can seem like a security risk. It seems counter intuitive that moving data away from “ home” is safer. But is that really true? Any server stored at your location is probably more physically vulnerable than one protected in a large server farm. If you had a fire, flood, or other physical damage that included damage to your server, what would be the result? Also, are your backups stored on–site? If a major event damaged your entire physical location, those backups would be also lost.

There is a second reason the cloud may be safer: security. All of your data, no matter where it is located, may be vulnerable to cyber attacks and data breaches. However, cloud storage providers probably offer some of the most sophisticated security projection available. It is unlikely that a small or even mid-sized firm has the internal resources and research capacity to maintain an equivalent level of security.

So give some thought to the cloud as tool to preserve your data and the integrity of your business (as an added bonus, it likely will be a money saver, too).

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How the cloud saves smaller firms money

How the cloud saves smaller firms money

OK. You pay someone to store all of your data in the cloud, as opposed to keeping it on your own server and backing it up. And you pay on an ongoing basis. How is that possibly going to be cheaper than just making a one-time investment and keeping it your self?

Let’s count the ways:

(1)  You lose the hardware expense –a capital expenditure cost.

(2)  If that hardware fails, you are out in the cold.

(3)  Someone has to maintain that hardware. In house IT labor is expensive. 

(4)  If you need more capacity, you have to ramp up at a tiered level, which means you may need to buy capacity you don’t presently need

(5)  All of that hardware runs on software, which costs money 

(6)  All of that software needs to be installed, updated, etc. (see # 3)

(7)  All of that hardware and software has to run 24/7. Are you large enough to pay for in house monitoring and support 24/7? (See again #3)

(8)  All of that data has to be protected with security software, which means skilled IT support and expensive virus protection

Ok. The list doesn’t end here, but this blog will. Talk to Reality Bytes Incorporated about how the cloud can be a really budget saver for small and medium sized firms.

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Data regulation and our business: You are probably regulated by these laws

Data regulation and our business: 
You are probably regulated by these laws

Small firms are probably aware that there are laws regulating the handling of data, but they probably assume that these apply only to larger firms and that they are too small to have any data that is worthwhile or protected under state/provincial or federal laws. Think again. Data protection laws generally worry about the content of your data, not the volume of it. That is, you don’t need to have “tons” (not the technical term) of data to be to regulated by data privacy laws. If you maintain personally identifiable information (PII) you may be regulated by these laws which may include penalties and fines for non-conformance. PII means you store a person’s first name/initial, last name and then link it to another piece of personal information, such as, but not including:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s license, or state ID
  • Passport
  • Some financial account number, e.g. credit/debit card, checking account, etc.
  • Health insurance ID

You are very likely required to observe regulations regarding protection of that data, and reporting of data breaches.

This isn’t an issue for the faint of heart. Contact a managed service provider with expertise in your specific industry or field of business to make sure you are in compliance. Failure to maintain compliance can lead to some very expensive fines and penalties.