How many software programs do you use to run your business? Do you even know?

With the rise of online hosted software applications, you might have quite a few. You login and logout of different applications all day long without even considering there may be an easier way to work.

Clients often tell us “everything is in QuickBooks” or in their manufacturing system, but when they step back and reflect on overall operations, they realize that’s not true.

  • Orders are coming in through their eCommerce website
  • Sales being managed in Outlook or in a CRM system like Hubspot
  • Emails being sent to customers using MailChimp
  • Support is being managed with ZenDesk

Missing the big picture

While each department is self-sufficient and able to get their work done, having siloed business systems eventually creates problems because you don’t have a full view of your business. Some real-world recent examples we’ve seen include:

  • Salespeople trying to sell to customers with large overdue balances.
  • An inventory system with 5000+ SKUs, detailed product descriptions, shipping weights and cut sheets that don’t exist in QuickBooks, making it difficult for the company to get a detailed understanding of profitability by product.
  • The customer updates their address in the online web store, but because this information isn’t updated in the manufacturing system in real-time, the order is sent to the wrong address, creating extra expense and an unhappy customer.
  • Online orders come into a salesperson’s email inbox, which then has to be typed into the manufacturing system, leaving room for error.

There are hidden costs when your business information is disconnected like this because you can’t see the full picture. Connecting your systems will give you new insight and save you a lot of trouble in the long run. Integrations will also improve your business by:

  • Reducing human errors made because of multiple systems
  • Cutting down data security risks with fewer systems and passwords involved
  • Offering a full view of your business from angles you’ve never had before

Developing a streamlined process

Before we actually do any software integration work, we help clients come up with a process for updating the multiple systems to decide:

  • When should a record or system be updated?
  • Which system takes priority?
  • What’s the “one source of truth”?
  • Who has authority to make changes?

Sometimes these processes are straightforward:

Other times, these processes are more complex, and need to be flow-charted:

  • Is this a multiple item order?
  • Do we have all the inventory in stock?
  • Are there raw materials in stock?
  • Do we need to manufacture or assemble any of these items?
  • Are these all fast-moving inventory items?
  • Can we have items drop shipped?
  • Should we split the delivery?
  • Which warehouse should we ship from?

Signs that software integration should be considered

See how many of these apply to you:

  • You don’t trust the data.
    • You have to check multiple systems to make sure information is correct
    • You spend a lot of time in meetings, on phone calls and walking down the hall to clarify and verify information
  • You’re spending too much time on low value administrative work
    • Employees are re-keying information into multiple systems
    • You have spreadsheets for everything
    • Employee turnover is high because the work is boring and repetitive
  • Mistakes are happening
    • You can’t deliver because the parts aren’t in stock
    • Customers aren’t getting the right information or shipments
    • Information is mis-typed from one system to another


You’ve decided. You need to integrate your software applications.

Once you’ve decided that integrating your software applications is something you want to explore, give us a call. We’ll help you understand what’s possible and how to achieve your goals.

If your software has API access, we may be able to get away with low-cost integration tools without having to create a custom code. There are a few low-cost tools on the market like Zapier, Microsoft Flow, and IFTTT.

If these aren’t enough, we can recommend how to use software development to integrate your systems.  We’ll work with you to understand your business, goals and systems to make a recommendation that best fits your needs.

 

LOOKING FOR SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT EXPERTS?

Every day we see how profoundly software development can make a difference in our client’s businesses and lives. Software can dramatically increase efficiency and reduce frustration. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, schedule a call with us! 586.263.1775.


Why is system integration important?

Integrating your software systems is important because it’s the easiest way to stay up to date with our evolving technology. An integrated system will cut down data security risks, streamline your processes and reduce errors.

What are some benefits of system integration?

Benefits of integrating your software are: • Reduced costs • Streamlined process • Easier collaboration • Less security risk • Reduced errors

What is involved in software integration?

All of your current systems will become one system without duplicate information. This will streamline your process and reduce errors. Find a software development team to help you get started.

What are examples of integrated software?

Software integration is many systems becoming one. An example of integrated software is Microsoft Office – containing most programs you need in an office (Word, Excel, Outlook etc.)

With all the news about data security breaches and malware attacks, businesses are finally starting to take network security more seriously… as they should!

Downtime and data loss can have a devastating impact on a business. Small businesses are not immune from criminals with malicious intent. In fact, 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses because they know they’re more likely to be unprotected.

Protect Your Computer Network

Small business data security is becoming increasingly important. We’ve already covered the importance of tested backup and recovery procedures, two-factor authentication and good password protocols, so let’s turn our attention to business firewalls.

Business firewalls are a critical component of network security, but they don’t seem to be well understood. We get lots of questions from clients, like:

  • What is a firewall? How do they work?
  • Do we need one? Do we already have one?
  • Is firewall software, hardware or both?
  • What’s the best business firewall for our company size or industry?

The basics: What is a computer firewall?

A firewall is a filter between your internal computer / network and the Internet. A firewall stops unauthorized access by closely monitoring network traffic. Security rules define the activities and sources that are allowed and blocked.

A firewall can be hardware, software or both.

Business Firewalls vs. Personal Computer Firewalls

Windows 10 comes with an excellent built-in firewall. Microsoft system administrators can create group policies to manage individual computer firewall settings. However, when a business has an internal computer network and servers, they’ll also need a business firewall.

We’ve worked with various vendors, but when it’s up to us, we recommend WatchGuard Firewalls for a few reasons:

  1. WatchGuard is well-known, reliable and reasonably priced.
  2. Security rules and settings are all kept in one place.
  3. Their solutions scale to meet client needs and budgets
  4. Our team has expertise with WatchGuard solutions.

Firewall security rules

Your business users need to communicate easily and safely with the outside world. Firewalls can manage inbound traffic or outbound traffic, or both. We believe it is best practice to keep all security rules all in one place when possible.

Inbound firewall rules protect your business from external cyber security threats. It scans network traffic to protect against:

  • Malware (viruses, phishing, ransomware)
  • Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that attempt to overwhelm system resources
  • Disallowed connections

Security rules can be set to allow or block specific ports, services and IP addresses. Some companies geo-fence their network, disallowing all traffic from countries like Russia and China.

Outbound firewall rules are less common, but can be used to:

  • Lock down sensitive data
  • Protect from malicious activity by internal users
  • Bar employees from visiting inappropriate sites while at work

Certain applications like Microsoft Active Directory have their own version of filtering that can be used for specialized functions like content filtering of email.

NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with firewall security rules, this is NOT an area to become a do-it-yourself IT professional. Firewalls are not plug-and-play devices, and improper setup can either thwart employee productivity or worse, create leave the cybersecurity door wide open, while giving users a false sense of security.

Firewalls and Anti-Virus Software

Having a firewall in place does not remove the need for anti-virus software. Anti-virus software adds another level of protection, monitoring individual files. Think of the firewall as the walls of your office building, and anti-virus software as security guards roaming through the building.

Firewalls and VPN Access

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. VPNs are primarily used to allow remote employees and contractors to securely access the internal computer network. They can also be used to protect your privacy online.  The VPN acts like a tunnel that encrypts communications as they’re sent back and forth. Learn more about how to setup a small business VPN and how to allow secure remote access for employees.

Firewalls and Cybersecurity

Business firewalls are part of an overall cybersecurity plan. We put together a self-assessment that will enable you to see areas of risk. If you are looking for new IT Services Provider, please reach out for a free IT consultation.

 

business technology quiz

Is QuickBooks Your Main Source of Customer Information?

Small business owners and managers need to be able to answer questions like:

  • Who are your best customers?
  • What’s your average customer sale:
  • What’s the lifetime value of a customer?

If you’re like many small businesses, you may go to QuickBooks or your accounting system to find these answers. But usually Quickbooks only has SOME of the information, and SOME of the tools you need to manage customer relationships.

Information Outside of QuickBooks

Many companies use QuickBooks to maintain their master customer records, but may just use email, files and folders to manage:

  • Customer Support Requests
  • Sales Proposals
  • Customer & Prospect Communications

If you’re a very small business, this ad-hoc approach may work just fine. But as you grow, you may want to consider combining QuickBooks data with a customer relationship management type of application.

The Risk of Data Silos

As we shared in our post about small business data silos, when accounting records and sales records are maintained separately, you run risks like:

  • Promising out-of-stock product
  • Selling to customers who have accounts past-due
  • Having mis-matched data that’s been updated in one system, but not the other, and losing sight of which information is correct

But those are just the most obvious problems… the real gaps run much deeper.

Gaining Insight from Information

We find that most of our clients are looking for new ways to understand their customers – insights that won’t show up in a QuickBooks report.

 Trends

  • What are the trends in your business?
  • What’s driving those trends?
  • Are you being impacted by your competitors changing their pricing, offerings or business model?
  • How do you need to react to either minimize your risk or capitalize on the opportunities?

Negative Notifications

We’re so accustomed to receiving notifications and alerts that without “negative notifications” critical activities can go unnoticed.

  • Customers who’ve stopped buying from you
  • Sales opportunities that you lost, and you don’t know why
  • Clients who are becoming increasingly disgruntled
  • Activities that are the most profitable / unprofitable

Qualitative Insight

The one thing missing from many customer relationship management software programs is information captured about the customer.

  • Customer’s personality and personal details
  • Technical savvy-ness
  • Roadblocks and obstacles
  • Other decision makers

Bridging the Gap Between Accounting and Customer Management

There is no one “right way” to manage customer information. Before we make any recommendations about what to buy or what to do, we first seek to understand what you want to measure and what you’ll do with the gathered information.

Only then can we help you decide:

  • Which small business software you need
  • Where and how information will be captured
  • How your systems will stay in sync – do you need custom software integration
  • Which system will maintain the “master records”
  • What reports need to be regularly run

Ready to find a better way to integrate your sales and accounting information? Request a FREE consultation and we’ll help you explore your options.

Request a Tech Check

 

In the not-so-distant past, the standard way to buy small business software was to buy the number of licenses you need, install the software on a server or on all the company’s workstations, and periodically upgrade the software to a new version.

That model is quickly becoming obsolete as more software vendors have moved to the SaaS model of software delivery.

What’s is SaaS?

SaaS stands for Software-as-a-Service. Rather than buying software, you pay a monthly fee to access the software you need through a cloud computing environment.

What are the benefits of SaaS solutions?

While one might argue that the primary reason software companies have moved to offering SaaS solutions is for the recurring revenue model, SaaS customers actually have a lot to gain by switching to a SaaS solution:

  • No big upfront software and hardware costs.
  • Upgrades are automatic and continual.
  • Data is often significantly more secure than when it’s hosted on a company server.
  • Often, licensing can flex as your business needs change, allowing you to easily add or remove functionality and user licenses.

One of the complaints we hear is that with a SaaS solution, you’ll NEVER own the software. The recurring software licensing fee continues as long as you continue to use the software. As an IT Services provider, we see lots of old homegrown databases and small business software solutions that aren’t costing the company much money-wise but are creating risk. Over time, the software becomes unsupported and the data becomes unreliable.

Are you evaluating SaaS solutions?

Today, every business is a technology business. Unless you’re still working in an old-school, paper-based environment, practically any small business software solution you’ll consider will be primarily available as a SaaS offering. In a prior article, we shared how to evaluate cloud vs desktop software.

In this article, we’ve put together the top 10 SaaS considerations to help you select a system that’s stable, secure and will help your business leverage technology for growth.

10 SaaS Evaluation Criteria

1. What are the capabilities of the system?

SaaS vendors love to position themselves as an all-in-one solution. You see this offered in many popular sales and marketing programs such as:

  • Hubspot
  • 17 Hats
  • Infusionsoft

Some SaaS vendors do a better job of delivering on this all-in-one promise than others. Your job is to evaluate what you need, what you’ll use, and what the software does well. Email marketing may mean sending outgoing emails only – or it may mean advanced marketing automation. The details can get hidden in the fine print.

It can be very easy to get caught up in the bells-and-whistles of the software, or to make assumptions about what a feature means, only to find out later that the software you just purchased is missing a key function needed for day-to-day functioning.

SaaS software evaluation criteria

2. What’s included at each pricing tier?

We hate to see clients run into a “that costs extra” situation, where they can’t get the functionality they need unless they spend more money to buy upper-tier licenses. Unfortunately, it’s common for marketing information to be unclear, often because the software is being consistently improved.

Microsoft Office 365 is a great example of the need to understand licensing limitations. You may read online that you can integrate VOIP calling functionality into Office 365, not realizing that capability only exists if you buy a certain license type. A thorough evaluation and advice of an IT professional is helpful when trying to determine licensing needs.

3. How do you know your data won’t be hacked?

Major vendors like Microsoft, Google, Amazon have multiple levels of security in place that is continually and extensively tested to thwart cyber criminal activity. Studies have repeatedly shown that – despite the increase in cyber security breaches – your data is actually much safer in a cloud-based SaaS solution than it is on a physical server in your office.

If you’re working with a smaller SaaS vendor, you need to ask about their data security policies. In addition, your company needs to take steps to create and follow IT policy and procedure best practices. The best lock in the world won’t keep criminals out if you leave the door wide open.SaaS data security

4. What’s their privacy policy? How do you know they won’t sell your data?

As the saying goes, “If the software is free, you are the product.” Many social media sites are monetized through advertising. In asking this question, your job is to understand how they will use the information stored on their servers, either in aggregate or through targeted marketing.

5. How can you ensure the SaaS vendor won’t lose your data?

What are their backup and recovery policies? Do they offer a service level agreement with an up-time guarantee?

Technology start-ups are particularly vulnerable to data loss. They may be cash-crunched and cutting corners to put all their time and energy into feature enhancements to gain new customers. Only when tragedy strikes – a hurricane, fire, flood or burglary – do they realize that their backup process failed – or that it will take weeks to get back up and running on a new server. There are countless stories of software companies that have vanished overnight, leaving their customers without critical accounting, customer or sales data.

With so many readily available, and affordable cloud-hosting backup solutions available, data loss is inexcusable. Don’t let a SaaS vendor’s mistake cost you your business.

6. How easy is it to setup the new system?

 Moving to a new software system usually isn’t as simple as just downloading your existing records and then re-uploading the data into the new system.

  • What needs to be done to clean up existing data before it’s imported into the new system? Migrating to a new software program presents a great opportunity to clean out old and unnecessary information. Do you need to be able to access historical information? If so, how will you accomplish that goal?
  • What new opportunities exist with this software that’s weren’t possible in the past? Where do you need to change your procedures to capitalize on your technology investment?
  • What decisions need to be made up front that will be hard (or impossible) to change later?
  • Who will do the setup? Can you setup the system on your own? Does the SaaS vendor or its partners offer technology consulting services to help get the system properly configured?

7. How easy is it for users to learn the system?

User adoption is critical – yet training for new software is often overlooked. Software companies go to great lengths to make their software easy to use, and especially to look easy in a demo. The software may in fact be easy to use – once you know where to look.

  • Naming conventions may be different. What’s an account vs. a customer? What’s a lead vs. a list?
  • Functions may be hidden in unexpected places. If you’ve been using QuickBooks forever, switching to FreshBooks or Wave may leaving you scratching your head on where to find features that you know must exist, but they’re not on the page where you’d expect to find them.
  • The software is always evolving. As updates are published, how are new features communicated to users? Do they send out emails, create walk-throughs, or expect you to regularly visit their user forum?
  • Is onboarding available? Many SaaS vendors offer a series of videos and walk-throughs to orient new users to the system.

8. Is software customer support included? What types?

Software support can be free or paid; self-service or on-demand. Before you become a customer, ask about customer support options like:

  • Live chat
  • Help “More Info” Icons within the software itself
  • Phone support
  • Support hours (Is it 24/7/365? Is it OK if it’s not?)
  • Blogs and forums
  • Help desk ticketing
  • Facebook community pages
  • Vendor or partner consulting services

9. Can we connect this software program to other software systems? Can we extend or customize the software?

In a prior post, we shared how important it is to select small business software with API Integration. Small business data silos create problems because it’s so easy to lose sight of the “truth” and only see one aspect of the business. Ask if the software works natively with Zapier, PieSync or other integration tools. Look and see if they have software partners that extend the functionality of this solution.

10. What happens if I leave?

Can I take my data with me? How can I download it? You don’t want to spend years and years building your business online, only have to have it disappear. Even social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter provide you with options to download your history.

Any SaaS solution you evaluate should make it easy to leave – and allow you to take your data with you.

Are you evaluating SaaS Solutions right now?

Let us help you select and implement the right small business software solution. Contact us for more information.

Request a Tech Check

Small business has increasingly become dependent on technology. In fact, we often say,

“Every business is a technology business.”

When it comes to small business technical support, you often can’t afford to hire full-time IT staff – and even if you do have one IT professional – that one individual doesn’t always have all the skills needed to keep business operations running efficiently.

Evaluating Small Business IT Consulting Services

When hiring an IT Services company, here are 5 questions that can help you get the best fit for your company’s needs.

1. How will you be billed?

IT service company consulting fees vary based on the billing model. Common models include:

Managed Services – You pay one set price per month, and in return, your computer network is kept running smoothly. This model provides predicable income for the service provider and a budget-able expense for an organization. The challenge is gaining clarity what’s within scope of the set fees.

Set Price Services – Some IT service providers offer set fees, similar to getting an oil change on your car. This pricing model works well for small, discrete jobs.

Time & Expense Services – This billing model allows you to fluctuate your IT expenditures based on cash flow and the intensity of your current IT initiatives

However, you are billed, a good IT services provider will help you find the resolution to the problem but can’t always resolve the problem.

  1. The problem may not be worth fixing. It may be easier and less expensive to buy a computer than repair one that’s 10 years old.
  2. The problem may not be fixable. The hardware and software may be incompatible, and your only choice is to replace one of the system components.
  3. The problem may reoccur. We can remove malware, install anti-malware software and provide recommendations for IT policies and procedures to stop the problem from recurring, but we can’t guarantee your systems won’t become re-infected.

2. Where will the work be performed?

Very few IT services need to be performed on-site any more. While some clients may hire us because we’re a Detroit IT services firm, we actually support clients across the country. Even when clients are right in our township, it’s often simpler and more cost effective to login remotely. That said, when you need software training or have multiple hardware and software issues that need to be diagnosed and resolved, it can be valuable to have local IT professionals come on site.

3. Are you a value-added reseller (VAR) or an independent IT advisor?

Value added resellers typically make a commission on top of the IT services revenue. An independent IT advisor may make an affiliate fee – or may not. The reason you want to know is because a VAR is not going to be as objective. They have a particular software solution to sell. They’re not looking for the BEST software solution for your organization. They’re looking for a good fit with the software they sell.

Now, if you’ve done a software evaluation and you know you want to implement QuickBooks Premier (for example), it makes sense to work with a QuickBooks Pro Advisor who knows the software inside and out. We partner with small business software VARS all the time.

As an independent IT consulting firm, we start with questions like “What’s possible?” “What’s the BEST way to achieve your business goals using technology?”
That may mean looking at several small business software solutions – or even custom software development. We begin with the end in mind and work backward toward the right software solution.

4. Do you do software configuration or software customization?

When an IT consulting firm says they do software configuration, what they mean is that they set it up for your organization. In the case of QuickBooks Premier, they’ll ask you a series of questions, like:

  • When’s your fiscal year end?
  • What states do you pay sales tax in?
  • Are you on a cash or accrual basis?
  • What financial reporting do you need?

The system already supports these options, so the main job of the small business IT consulting services firm is to ensure you understand the questions, and that the software is setup correctly.

When the term is used correctly, software customization can mean a multitude of things, but it ALWAYS involves software programming. Software customization includes:

  • Taking a base pre-packaged software solution, like QuickBooks, and adding features that are unique to your organization. For example, you may take orders in from the web and create an auto-look up of shipping weight and zip code to create a custom shipping cost.
  • Building custom integrations between two software programs.
  • Building an entirely new software program that’s customized to meet your needs. However, this is more commonly (and more accurately) called custom software development or custom software programming.

5. Do you outsource software development overseas or do you use US-based IT professionals?

In this global Internet-connected economy, it’s easier than ever to outsource software development overseas. While you may be able to lower the cost of your IT project, you also need to consider:

  • Business & industry expertise: With most offshore developers, you can’t just “hand off” a project. They don’t understand your business or industry. Can you develop a scope of work that is 100% clear on what you expect to have built? Will the offshore development team understand how to handle exceptions?
  • Communication: How will you communicate your needs? Working with an overseas developer means much more than overcoming a language barrier. Understanding how to translate ideas to software code is a challenge for all programmers.
  • Quality: What’s the quality of the software code? How will it be tested?
  • Support & Upgrades: Will anyone else be able to support the software? How will you upgrade and enhance the software in the future?
  • Privacy: Will your sensitive data and proprietary processes be protected?

Finding the Right IT Services Partner

Very few small businesses today can thrive without leveraging technology to boost efficiency and track metrics. Very small businesses may be able to get by with GeekSquad-type support. As your business grows in size and complexity, it pays to find a strategic technology advisor who has understands both your business goals – and your business challenges. If we can help, please let us know!

What other questions do you ask when you’re hiring an IT consulting firm? Leave us a note in the comments below.

technology business

Your Microsoft Office 365 subscription comes with lots of hidden perks. One of these gems is Office Lens, a document scanner you can use from your phone.

Ways to Use the Office Lens Document Scanning App

  • Scan signed contracts and store in the client’s OneDrive folder
  • Scan business cards to add to Outlook / Customer Relationship Management system
  • Scan whiteboards to save our brainstorming sessions
  • Scan old photos to preserve a digital copy
  • Scan paper documents to turn them into editable Word documents

12 Steps to Getting Started with Office Lens

  1. Download Office Lens from the App Store / Google Play Store.
  2. Launch the app on your phone.
  3. Give One Lens access to your device’s camera.
  4. Login with your Microsoft Office 365 account. You can use a free version of Office Lens without an Office 365 subscription, but you lose some of the great features like saving to OneDrive and exporting as an editable Microsoft Word file.
  5.  Select the type of document you’re scanning.  Use the slider at the bottom to select the type of document you’re scanning. Your choices are:
    • Whiteboard
    • Document
    • Business card
    • Photo
      Office lens document scanner
  6. Take a photo of the document. The document will automatically remove the background and frame the document to only include the paper portion of the image captured.
  7. Make any adjustments to color or cropping.
    Office Lens Phone Scanner
  8. Add pages. To add another page to this same document, click the Camera + icon in the lower right corner.
  9. When finished, click the red checkmark.
  10. Name your document.
  11. Choose where and how to store your document. Your options are:
    • Photo Library
    • PDF
    • OneNote
    • OneDrive
    • Word
    • PowerPoint
  12. Choose where to share this document. Your options are:
    • Outlook
    • Mail
    • Any other apps with permission on your phone.

Office lens export

 

Office Lens Recommendations

Start using Office Lens. You’ll soon be hooked! Our whole team uses it inside and outside of the office. If you are using Office Lens in business environment, setup some IT policies and procedures around document retention.

  • How should documents be named?
  • Where should they be stored?
  • Which contacts should be added to the company database?

Request a Tech Check

How to Prevent a Small Business Data Breach

How can you protect your company from a data breach?

Recent Data Breaches

Seems like every time you turn around, you’re hit with news of another major data breach. Just in the last few months:

Ransomware Attacks

We’ve also seen the rise of the threat of ransomware. Ransomware is malware that encrypts your files, making them unusable. You may see an image like the one below

Ransomware Example

data breach via ransomware

In a ransomware attack, the perpetrators promise to unlock your files if you pay the ransom. If you don’t have a reliable, recent backup, you may have no choice but to pay the ransom because everything in your system is unusable – including email, Word docs and databases.

The City of Atlanta recently experienced a ransomware attack where the than attacker demanded a $50,000 ransom. So far it’s cost the city $2.7 Million Dollars and major headaches to restore their system and tighten up their data security settings. Employees have resorted to paper-based applications and manual processes to keep operations running.

You may be thinking…

If these major companies can’t protect themselves from data breaches, how can small businesses expect to?

If you’re a small business, you have a few advantages over major corporations. First, small businesses are less of a target. Hackers go after big businesses because the payoff is big. Additionally, small businesses typically have more control over their IT environment. You actually have an advantage in protecting your data if you follow a few basic data security steps.

What is a data breach?

A data breach occurs when an unauthorized person gains access to your data.  The question is how they were able to access to the data.

The most common data breach causes are:

1.      Malware in email.

A user could click on a link in an email that causes malware to be installed on their computer.  This malware could then allow the attacker access to the computer, which then replicates itself to computers, servers and may even send emails to all the contacts in your contact list (including clients). This malware can slow down system performance, crash your system or display annoying popup ads. See 13 warning signs that your systems have been infected by malware.

Solution: Hover over any link and inspect where that link is going to. When in doubt, go to the company website and login there. For example, if you get an email from PayPal saying you need to update your password, instead of clicking the link in the email “PayPal” sent you, just go to the PayPal website and see if they’re prompting you for a password reset.

Also, be careful about opening any attachments. Computer viruses can be disguised as .PDFs, .XLS and other familiar formats. Have a reputable anti-virus software program installed on all machines at all times. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date and regularly scan your computer.

2.      Email phishing tricks.

We recently had a user who was tricked into entering their email credentials into a fake web site.  The attacker was then able to login into this mail account.  They would have had access to any email in her mailbox (financials, emailed passwords, etc.).  In this case the attacker used the credentials to send spam from her account, probably trying to infect other systems.

Last year, even a White House officials were tricked into responding to a fake email that purported to be from Jared Kushner, but in reality was sent by an email prankster.

Solution: Adopt Office 365 or G Suite for your business. These solutions come with added security measures that consumer email systems don’t provide. Don’t EVER provide confidential information through email.

3.      Insecure websites.

Attackers can also gain access to servers through insecure web sites.  Once they have access to the website, they can then access any database on the server and the content in the databases.  This could be anything from e-commerce orders to financial or medical information. As an example, Drupal recently released a patch for a major security hole that allowed a virus to execute simply by browsing to a URL. Because WordPress runs about 25% of all websites today, it’s a big target for hackers.  The database, themes and plugins are continually being updated with added security measures. If you don’t apply the patches, you leave yourself vulnerable.

Solution: Companies who have had a web site developed, but don’t maintain it are putting themselves at risk. Website data security best practices create rigor around keeping your database, themes and plugins up-to-date. You’ll also want to ‘harden’ your website security settings and have a strong firewall in place.

4.       Password sharing / password weaknesses.

The easiest way to gain access to your small business software programs is to give someone your password. You may be sharing your password intentionally. Some companies share one password among employees to save money or for convenience. Other times password sharing may happen unintentionally. We’ve seen passwords written on post-it notes stuck to laptops. Now everyone who passes by while you’re working in the coffee shop can get into your systems.

Solution: Don’t share your password. Give each employee and contractor their own passwords. Have strong employee onboarding and offboarding procedures in place. Use a password software program like LastPass or Dashlane to create more sophisticated, and unique passwords for every site.

What about SaaS Software Solutions?

A question we commonly receive from clients is about online data security and the risks of SaaS (Software as a service) solutions. For example, with QuickBooks Online your financial data now resides on a server managed and maintained by QuickBooks. While that may feel risky, studies show that your data is usually significantly MORE secure when managed by a major online software company than when it resides on your own internal server.

Major software vendors like Microsoft and QuickBooks have invested in building sophisticated, multi-layer security systems.  They do all the backups and keep the system up to date. DIY IT Services can be a mistake, costing you more in the long run than you’re saving. If you are considering using a smaller, lesser-known company, you should investigate their data security measures. If you’re not sure what to buy, consult a reputable IT services provider for help in software selection.

What about Cloud Business Application Hosting?

A trend in small business IT strategy is to move your databases and applications from your physical location in your office to a cloud hosting platform like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Azure. The security measures you need to take are the same, EXCEPT with AWS and Azure, you have the advantage of using their multi-layered security measures, and you’re at less risk for things like fires, flooding, hurricanes and other disasters.

Most data breaches are preventable.

Following these simple steps you can avoid most data security breaches.

Small Business Data Breach Security Steps

1.       Train employees to be wary of suspicious emails and websites.

2.       Don’t share passwords.

3.       Change your passwords frequently and make them hard to guess.

4.       Keep your software programs up to date.

5.       Keep your website up to date.

6.       Routinely use anti-virus software, firewalls and other data security measures.

7.       If you don’t have IT staff, hire an outsourced IT services company to keep your IT environment secure.

8.       Have backup and recovery procedures in place. If you need to restore your data, you can.

What if you get infected by a computer virus, ransomware or other malware?

Act IMMEDIATELY.

The quicker you can respond, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to thwart your attacker. Your employees should know who to go to in the event of a data breach. Seek the help of IT Support for malware removal, and just as importantly, close the security holes that caused the data breach in the first place.

If you need help, give us a call at 586-275-1775!

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