12 Apr 2017
12 Apr 2017
12 Sep 2016

Why Your NJ Small Business Should Move to the Cloud

Cloud Computing Services NJ

Businesses large and small can benefit from cloud computing. In short, the cloud is computing resources housed in off-site data centers that are delivered to end users via the internet. These resources may be used to run software, store and process data, and host virtual workstations and servers.

Cloud computing is a trend in business computing, for both small and medium-sized businesses. Some of the top reasons to move to the cloud all come down to reduced IT resources, cost efficiency, mobility, security, availability, hardware independence, continuity, and productivity.

1. Reduced in-house IT resources –With your corporate data and software in the cloud, there is no longer a need to maintain extensive on-site server equipment. Therefore, there is minimal network equipment to maintain or upgrade—or a critical server failure to worry about (with the painful downtimes that can occur), which can add up to a huge expense over time.

2. Cost efficiency – Cloud services are tremendously scalable. Rather than budget for expensive equipment (your soon-to-be-former server) and costly licensing fees, you can budget for the software subscriptions you need at business-friendly costs. Adding staff? Add to your subscription. No more pricey software purchases and downloads. Simply scale up or scale down as needed to meet seasonal changes in business or business growth over time at reasonable fees. Your company will be more nimble and responsive to your needs as well as those of your clients.

3. Mobility – Today’s telecommuting and mobile employees demand a different way to work; the cloud enables you to meet that need with applications accessible from anywhere, any time by authorized users. Plus, it has become imperative that organizations respond to the BYOD (bring your own device) world we are now operating in. The cloud enables that easily. Outside sales people, employees working at client sites or from home, executives on the go … everyone in your office can access corporate data when it is hosted in the cloud.

4. Data security/availability — Cloud hosting is generally in highly secure data centers with built-in redundancies and protections, including multiple failover protocols in case of hardware failure, disaster or power outages. With cloud services, depending on your contract, your information is replicated across multiple data centers, and operates independently of any hardware in your office. The level of security and resiliency is far greater than a typical small business owner can possibly achieve with an on-premises computer network.

5. Business continuity – Catastrophic loss of corporate files and information is NOT something any business owner ever wants to deal with. New Jersey companies have felt the wrath of extreme weather and natural disasters in recent years, which wreak havoc with operations. However, your files are always available in the cloud on different devices, even if your location is not accessible or power is out. Your team can work without being bound to any location, with access to pertinent data. Your managed IT services provider can design a business continuity plan that reduces the impact on your operations with cloud solutions relevant to your business.

6. Improved productivity – Since all of your company data is easily accessible to your authorized users, teams can work together even when they are not physically together. Employee collaboration and file sharing are a breeze, and everyone will always be working on the same version of your software applications, enhancing productivity.

7. Computer hardware independence – Running your corporate computing in the cloud also means independence from specific machines (that can break), which in turn means greater reliability. Programs in the cloud do not care about your computer hardware or operating system or if your employees are using different systems to access the files. Thus, you avoid the compatibility issues that may arise when you run applications on your own computers and servers. Broken machine? Replace it with different hardware and quickly access your cloud-based resources where your data remains protected.

If you are considering cloud computing for your New Jersey company, contact Total Cover IT for a consultation. We offer a range of Cloud solutions for organizations seeking data security, worker mobility, and infrastructure flexibility.

09 May 2016

Creating a Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan For Your Business

How a disaster recovery and backup plan can help save your business in an emergency

As a business owner, the idea of business continuity is generally not top of mind in the course of your day-to-day activity. Yet, when disaster strikes, your entire operation may come to a screeching halt. The cost of lack of preparedness may be catastrophic, perhaps even to the point of shutting down the business.

In considering continuity, we must emphasize the difference between backup and disaster recovery. A backup solution will allow you to recover your data, from periods of time ranging from minutes to hours to days to weeks, or even longer. However, a backup solution does not recover the applications or hardware that allow you to access and use your data. Disaster recovery solutions, on the hand, allow recovery of the ability to access and use data and thus continue business operations. Your business continuity strategy should encompass both backup and disaster recovery components. Solutions abound, but what is the best fit for your business?

First, you must ask yourself, how much downtime can I tolerate? This is referred to as the Recovery Time Objective, commonly referred to as RTO. How long can you be down before the business impact is significant? You may say, I cannot tolerate any downtime at all. Most business owners would probably agree with you on the face of it. Realistically, though, you have to consider that the shorter your tolerance for downtime, the greater the cost of the backup/disaster recovery solution. Sure, you ideally do not want any disruption at all, but maybe you can tolerate some downtime and it would not be too big of an impact to your business. Different types of businesses will have different tolerance levels than others. Ultimately, you as the business must answer this question as a first step in the process.

The next item to look at is, how current must your backup be? This is known as your Recovery Point Objective (RPO). Can it be from last night, a couple of days, a few hours, or must it be a few minutes? Again, there is an inverse relationship to cost. The more current that you need your recovery point to be, the greater the cost of the backup/disaster recovery solution. If your business documents change constantly throughout the day, and you are constantly under deadlines as part of your workflow, having a shorter timeframe such as an hour may be the best course of action. On the other hand, if documents generally do not change that often in your workflow, perhaps a day’s recovery point may be sufficient. It is different for every business, and you as the business owner need to decide what may be an acceptable Recovery Point Objective.

Now that you have determined your Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective, it is time to engage an IT Provider to work with you to determine the right backup/disaster recovery solution for your business. IT Providers work with businesses on a daily business and have expertise with a variety of backup/disaster recovery solutions. You need to work with a company that you comfortable with. Total Cover IT prides itself on understanding the business perspective in assessing your situation and will create an individual backup/disaster recovery plan specific to your needs. We understand that no two businesses are the same, even if they are in the same industry. Each business has its own individual needs, which means that each business needs its own individual plan. If and when disaster strikes, do not be caught in a vulnerable position with regard to your technology needs. Please call our office today at 800-580-8248 to discuss your backup/disaster recovery plan options, or visit our website at www.totalcoverit.com to learn more!

29 Mar 2016

Technology Jargon

How Total Cover IT Provides Each Client With First Rate Service Without The Confusing Technology Terminology

Let’s face it: although computers and the technology associated with it have been around for some time now, they can still be very confusing pieces of equipment. It often seems as though the machine will just not work if you do not hit a certain button on your computer at just the right time and at just the right speed. Worse than your computer not working is using an IT company that is supposed to help you and make you feel comfortable with what is going on with your computer and instead takes the opportunity to confuse you that much more by using outlandish technology jargon that no one but those working in the field would actually know. read more

18 Aug 2015

Do Not Assume Your Business Is Too Small to Attract Cybercriminals

Many small businesses have a false sense of security when it comes to cybercrime. More than 75% of U.S. small businesses believe they are safe from it, even though 83% of them do not have formal cyber security plans, according to a study conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Symantec.

Why Is There a False Sense of Security?

Many small businesses assume their size will keep them safe from cybercrime. They often believe that cybercriminals will only go after large companies because those companies have more money, email addresses, credit card numbers, and trade secrets to steal.

However, large companies also have more security experts and IT administrators to guard their assets. Many small businesses do not even have an IT administrator. A third of all small businesses rely on a nontechnical employee to manage their IT systems, according to an AMI-Partners study commissioned by Microsoft.

In reality, cybercriminals often target small businesses because they usually do not have the expertise or resources to fend them off. In 2014, more than a third of all reported targeted attacks were against small businesses, according to Symantec’s 2015 Internet Security Threat Report.

How to Protect Your Small Business from Cybercriminals

There are many measures you can take to help protect your business from cyberattacks. Some of them are fairly easy to put in place, even without the help of an IT administrator. Others measures are more involved. For these measures, you might want to get help from an outside security expert if your business does not have the necessary expertise.

Use security software and a firewall: In 2014, cybercriminals created 317 million pieces of new malware, almost 1 million per day, according to the 2015 Internet Security Threat Report. So, one of the first measures to take is to make sure you have software that detects malware, viruses, and spyware. This security software needs to be updated often. You will also want to make sure you have an operational firewall.

Create and enforce a password policy: A simple measure that can help keep cybercriminals at bay is to create a password policy. You can use this policy to make sure that employees use strong passwords and change them regularly. You can also use it to make sure that different system accounts have different passwords. To make the password policy effective, you need to enforce it.

Provide security training: Employees will not be able to use strong passwords if they do not know how to create them. This is where security training comes in handy. Besides teaching employees how to create a strong password, you can educate them about security threats, such as how attackers use phishing emails that contain malware to infiltrate companies. You can then tell employees about the best ways to thwart attacks. In the case of phishing, you can tell them to verify links in emails before clicking them and not open email attachments that look suspicious.

Dedicate a computer for online banking: If you conduct financial transactions over the Internet, the FBI, American Bankers Association, and Federal Reserve all recommend that you dedicate a computer for this purpose. You should not use this computer for any other online activities that might expose it to vulnerabilities. For example, you should not use it for emailing and surfing the web.

Use two-factor authentication: Using two-factor authentication during logins adds an additional layer of security. With two-factor authentication, employees need to verify their identity with something they have and with something they know. For instance, you might have them swipe a card through a reader and enter a security code. If you have remote employees, you might have them enter a randomly generated number from an electronic token card and enter a password.

Encrypt and back up your data: You can use encryption to protect your data when it is being transmitted over the Internet and when it is sitting in a database or file server. Encryption protocols such as Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, enable you to protect your data as it is being transmitted over the Internet. Disk drives and databases usually include encryption technology that lets you encrypt data while it is at rest.

Encryption helps stop hackers from stealing sensitive data. It can also help prevent a ransomware attack. Ransomware is a type of malware that cybercriminals use to extort money from victims. They often use it to encrypt data and then demand a ransom to get the password needed for decryption.

There are other types of ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals sometimes use ransomware to lock a computer system and then demand a ransom to unlock it. The best way to defend against all types of ransomware is to regularly back up your data. That way, you can refuse to give in to the cybercriminals’ demands, knowing that you will be able to restore your systems and data if they cause harm.

Be Prepared for an Attack

The measures discussed here are only some of the ones you can take to fend off cybercriminals. Despite your best efforts, though, your small business might still fall victim to an attack. For this reason, you should create a contingency plan covering how to deal with an attack. You also might consider getting an insurance policy that protects you against any losses that you might incur from a cyberattack.  Contact the Total Cover IT Team to find out more on developing a cybersecurity strategy for your business.

18 Aug 2015

6 Reasons to Use Remote Monitoring to Keep an Eye on Your Systems

Many IT service providers use remote monitoring tools to gather information and send reports about their clients’ computer systems. Almost anything can be monitored, from routers and firewalls to virus detection and email services.

Here are five benefits of using remote monitoring to keep an eye on your systems:

1. Reduce the Chances of Downtime

In order to operate smoothly, your company needs its computers up and running. If they stop working, you could end up losing a lot of money.

Remote monitoring can reduce the chances of such an event. Your service provider can set alerts that trigger when a problem starts to develop but before it impacts system performance. This early notification means the issue can be resolved before it develops into a crisis.

2. Respond to Problems Instantly

An IT service provider’s remote monitoring team can protect your computers around-the-clock. This 24/7 service means that providing a solution to your tech troubles doesn’t have to wait until the morning.

3. Handle Problems Anywhere

Because of remote monitoring, it doesn’t matter where you are, where your systems are, or where your people are. A remote monitoring team can contact you, find out how you want a situation handled, and then take care of it for you.

This means that you do not even need to leave the comfort of your own home in order to take care of a problem. This aspect of remote monitoring is especially appealing to companies with facilities in distant or rural locations.

4. Track System Health

Remote monitoring collects system statistics over time. When viewing this data in monthly or quarterly reports, long-term trends can be identified, even before they reach levels that would trigger an alert.

Using these reports, you can address potential problems as they develop and prevent them from ever impacting your computer system. Trend analysis can also identify needs for system expansion and help with technology budgeting.

5. Monitor and Support Every Device You Use

Remote monitoring is comprehensive. Every device can be monitored and supported remotely, whether it’s a server, a desktop, or a mobile device.

Additionally, a remote monitoring service can provide for automatic updates. Configuration files and other changes can automatically be deployed without users needing to take any action.

6. Have Support Staff That Show Rather than Tell

If one of your employees ever has a computer problem, an IT expert can use remote control tools to take control of the employee’s desktop while they are watching. Remote control is different from remote monitoring, although the two are closely related. When it comes to IT support, remote control tools let technicians teach your employees about the issue at hand and explain to them how to address it in the future.

The Bottom Line

Businesses today rely on their computers. They need their IT infrastructure up and running at all times. They need to know about problems before they happen, and they need support regardless of their locations. Remote monitoring provides a cost-effective way for companies to fulfill these needs.  Contact the Total Cover IT Team to see how a remote monitoring program may benefit your company.

18 Aug 2015

8 Ways to Keep Your Office Virus-Free

New viruses and other malware pop up almost every day, and businesses are constantly on the defense trying to keep up. According to Kaspersky, a leader in antivirus software, not only are malware attacks exponentially higher than they were even a few years ago (and much higher than most people think), but the quality of the malware has also increased dramatically.

Moreover, the dangers to your business that this malware now poses is greater than ever. Whereas in the past, many viruses and infections were the works of lone hackers (a surprising number were seen as little more than practical jokes by their creators), the majority of new malware is manufactured in a methodical way by organized crime.

More than ever, it’s important to keep your computers virus-free. Here is our guide to doing just that.

  1. Keep Systems Updated — Make sure all computers are patched with the latest versions of operating systems, browsers, and anti-virus.
  2. Keep Anti-Virus On At All Times — Stress the importance of keeping the antivirus software on at all times on all computers to every employee.
  3. Back Up Critical Files and Systems — The easiest way to remove difficult malware is to simply wipe the system and start from scratch.
  4. Have a Strong Browsing and Download Policy In Place — Many virus and malware infections can happen from very legitimate-appearing websites. Make sure browsing is safe, and downloading is prohibited, except for trusted files.
  5. Avoid Personal Emails — Personal emails can be easier to compromise than business ones, if your organization has a strong email security policy. Don’t let employees access personal emails on company computers.
  6. Don’t Let Personal Devices In — Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, policies are becoming increasingly popular. Always make sure these devices have several layers of security between them and your main network.
  7. Train Employees to Be Suspicious — The number one cause of malware infections is still user error. Train your employees to be suspicious of websites, attachments, and emails (even if they look like they came from a trusted source). Always double check!
  8. Don’t Forget Mobile — While it’s still not a huge percentage of overall attacks and infections, mobile devices are an exceptional risk, since most people forget they can get viruses.

Please feel free to contact the Total Cover IT Team to find out more on how to better protect your systems.

24 Jul 2015

Simple Email Mistakes That Can Cause Serious Data Security Breaches

Careless human error is one of the main causes of IT problems. Many companies know how disastrous these mistakes can be. As the Ponemon Institute’s 2014 Cost of Data Breach Study pointed out, nearly one-third of all data breaches were caused by careless human error.

Email mistakes in particular stand out as significant causes of data breaches. While these mistakes are understandable in many cases, they are still very costly.

Major Examples of Email Mistakes

One notable example of an email mistake that caused a data breach involved the Goldman Sachs investment management firm. In June 2014, a Goldman Sachs contractor accidentally sent a message to a gmail.com email address instead of the corresponding gs.com email address. The latter email address is connected to the company’s in-house email network.

The email contained a confidential document, and the mistake sent Goldman Sachs scrambling for a solution. To prevent the gmail.com recipient from opening the message, Goldman Sachs took Google to the New York State Supreme Court. In its petition, the investment management firm said that the message contained “highly confidential brokerage account information” and asked Google to help it prevent a “needless and massive” data breach.

The case was unprecedented, in that Goldman Sachs argued that email senders should have the right to “unsend” an email if it was sent by mistake. In the end, however, the court did not have to rule on the case, since Google voluntarily blocked the recipient’s access to the email.

Another noteworthy email mistake occurred in April 2014. An employee at the risk advisor and insurance brokerage firm Willis North America accidentally sent a spreadsheet to a group of employees enrolled in the company medical plan’s Healthy Rewards Program. The spreadsheet contained confidential information, including employees’ names, email addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, employee ID numbers, office locations, and the details of their medical insurance plans.

Willis North America agreed to pay for 2 years of identity theft protection for the 4,830 people affected by the breach. Although the leaked information did not include details about the victims’ health conditions or the health information of their dependents, Willis North America was still cited for violating the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

A similar incident occurred in September 2013, when a Cisco employee accidentally sent an email to a “sept_training1” mailing list. The list included thousands of other Cisco workers. A large number of these workers replied to the email by asking to be removed from the list, and many of them accidentally clicked “Reply All” when responding to the message. This resulted in millions of unwanted email messages taking up space on Cisco’s network. The mistake severely damaged the employees’ productivity, and cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Costs of Email Mistakes

According to the Ponemon Institute, data breaches caused by careless human error cost companies on average $117 per compromised record. If an email mistake affected thousands of people, as was the case for Willis North America, then it could result in sizable losses. Several issues can cause these high costs.

As the Cisco case showed, losses in productivity can cost a company a significant amount of time and money. Another cost stems from paying for identity theft protection for the victims. Additionally, if the email mistake led to a data breach, then the company could find itself facing lawsuits or punitive fines. Data breaches like these could also reveal sensitive company information to the general public.

Email mistakes, especially those that cause data breaches, can also tarnish a company’s reputation, which can lead to lost business opportunities. As one example, Goldman Sachs faced substantial damage to its reputation after its email-related data breach in 2014.

Avoiding Careless Mistakes

To prevent any mistakes, create clear-cut policies and procedures about sending emails, especially those with sensitive information. You will also need to educate your staff members about the problems caused by carelessly sending emails. Employees are more likely to think twice about sending a message when they know just how costly a mistake can be.

By the same token, you should develop a workplace environment in which employees feel comfortable talking about their IT concerns. By making your staff members feel comfortable about discussing these issues, you can improve the odds that one of them will ask a question that could avert a mistake.

Data loss prevention (DLP) software can also help in this regard. This software can stop employees from sending confidential information by accident. Look to your IT staff or service provider for help when searching for a DLP solution that matches your individual needs.  Please contact the Total Cover IT team to further discuss how to develop safe email practices for your company.

24 Jul 2015

How to Change the Setting for the Sleep Timer in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

The sleep mode is designed to save energy and battery life when you are away from your computer for a short time. It kicks in after a period of inactivity on your computer or when you select the sleep mode. Before going to sleep, the computer stops non-essential activities and stores information about any open applications or documents in memory. When you press a key, the computer wakes up within seconds and you can resume working where you left off.

Most computer operating systems have a sleep mode. Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 have this mode, which is enabled by default. Some computer manufacturers also include a sleep mode in their laptop and desktop machines.

How long a computer will wait before going to sleep varies. The default setting for the sleep timer depends on the power plan being used and whether the computer is plugged in or using battery power. Take, for example, the Balanced power plan in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. By default, plugged-in computers will go to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity and computers running on battery power will go to sleep after 15 minutes of inactivity.

You can change the default setting for the sleep timer in the power plan. Having the sleep mode kick in sooner saves electricity and increases battery life. Having the sleep mode kick in later increases the availability of the computer’s processor.

If you want to change the sleep timer setting in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel, click or tap the “System and Security” icon.
  3. Click or tap the “Power Options” icon.
  4. Select the “Change plan settings” option next to the power plan that’s being applied.
  5. Change the “Put the computer to sleep” setting to the desired number of minutes. If you have a desktop computer, you only have to set this option once. If you have a laptop computer, you need to set this option twice: once in the “On battery” column and once in the “Plugged in” column.
  6. Click or tap the “Save changes” button.
  7. Close the Control Panel.

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