Ransomware is a piece of malicious software that infects a computer or device and encrypts the data making it inaccessible to the user. A ransom is then demanded to regain access to the victim's data. A time limit to pay the ransom is often imposed (usually 24-48 hours) or you risk losing access to the encrypted data forever. If a backup is unavailable or the backups were encrypted too, the victim is faced with paying the ransom to recover personal files. Payment must be paid in Bitcoin and the ransom cost can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Once the ransom is paid, the attacker will send a private key that will allow you to decrypt the data.
If you are dealing with a ransomware attack now, here are some tips to handle it going forward.
What are license plate recognition cameras? License plate recognition, sometimes shortened to LPR, is a feature on some cameras that allow them to detect, read, and store video of a car's license plate. They are used primarily for traffic monitoring in parking lots, gated security entrances, drive-throughs, parking garages, and toll roads and allow the camera to capture a license plate number which is then stored in a database. They are usually mounted on street poles, streetlights, highway overpasses, or affixed to a building's structure.
One of the first things to consider when installing a license plate camera is where it will be mounted. LPR cameras are designed to focus on a single lane of traffic with the sole purpose of recording license plates. Because of their design, they are not good at capturing wide-angles or larger areas. We recommend having additional cameras that will be used to capture details such as passengers, make, model, and color of a vehicle. With that in mind, we recommend installing the camera in a location facing a choke point or area where cars and vehicles are forced to move through. The camera will need to be facing the rear or front of vehicles so they have a clear view of the license plates.
We recommend installing the camera somewhere between 6-18 feet from the ground and no more than a 30 degree angle between the camera and the license plate you are trying to read. If the camera is not mounted properly, it will have issues providing a clear view of the plate and could prevent you from capturing the license plate. For that reason, cameras facing directly head-on to oncoming and outgoing vehicles will have the best chance at capturing license plates.
Lighting should also be taken into consideration when planning the install. Well lit areas may have lower hardware requirements than lower lit areas. A good LPR camera however, will be able deal with low-light areas using infrared.
IP Rating - Any LPR camera you purchase should be rated at least IP65. This means the camera will offer complete protection from dust and can withstand at least low pressure bursts of water. A higher second digit rating will provide even better water protection. For instance, IP67 will provide temporary protection against a camera fully immersed in water for 30 minutes, basically making it weatherproof.
Resolution - A resolution of at least 2MP will work for most installations. A higher megapixel count will give larger and clearer images if needed.
Lens - A motorized lens will allow you to control the focus and zoom of the camera without directly handling the camera. This makes it easier to adjust the field of view (FoV) and focus of the camera when trying to get the optimal view.
SD Card - We recommend using an NVR instead of an SD to store images and data, but they can still be used as a backup in case of an NVR failure.
Warranty - Look for cameras with at least a 3 year hardware warranty.
Misc - There are many more hardware options like shutter speed, wide dynamic range, and video compression standard, but will vary depending on your needs. For instance, vehicles traveling at 5 MPH vs 60 MPH will have different exposure and shutter needs. We recommend talking with an license plate recognition camera installer to see what your specific needs are.
If you sit down and think about all the things that might cause your business harm, data loss should be at the very top of that list. Very few businesses in today’s day and age still operate on a pen-and-paper model and have instead shifted into the digital realm. Though this affords a great deal of convenience, things like cybercrime, natural disasters, and even hardware failure can mean the end of the line for your company. Disaster recovery as a service can change this.
The Three Biggest Disasters Facing Small Business
When it comes to unexpected data loss that could potentially close your business forever, there are three ways it could happen:
Disaster Recovery vs. Backup
Many small businesses currently pay for what is known as BaaS, or Backup as a Service. This essentially means that the companies’ data is backed up regularly and stored in a separate location. If a natural disaster, hardware failure, or cybercrime should occur, the data is not lost forever. This is incredibly beneficial, but it often provides business owners with a false sense of security. There’s no provisioning for network or computer needs with BaaS, which means that even though the data is safe, it cannot be accessed remotely, and this creates a significant amount of downtime.
DRaaS, or Disaster Recovery as a Service, solves this issue. It does include provisioning for network and computer needs. To better understand this, imagine that your company’s headquarters – including the onsite server – burned to the ground. Your BaaS provider has your servers and data saved and backed up on a server elsewhere, but it’s just a backup, so until you put a new server into place, your data and infrastructure is effectively useless. A DRaaS provider, on the other hand, allows your business to stay up and running with very little downtime (if any at all) thanks to offsite data redundancy.
For many small businesses who are still trying to build a reputation and make a name for themselves, several days or even hours of downtime can be devastating. It is important for small business owners to maintain their online presence through thick and thin, even in the midst of a natural disaster. This is exactly what disaster recovery as a service was designed to do; it provides small business owners with unprecedented peace of mind by ensuring things continue to run with minimal downtime – even in the midst of a true disaster.
Whether you’re an employer who’s concerned that your employees might lack motivation or you’re an employee who looks forward to seeing your coworkers every day, you might be feeling some anxiety regarding working from home. Below are five awesome benefits of working remotely that everyone should consider.
Many people out there don’t really mind getting up and going to work in the morning (or at night). It’s the commute that they dread. Some people drive an hour or more to and from work each way, and it can be difficult staying motivated or entertained. Employees who can work remotely can avoid that commute, and it may even help them feel more productive. If they drive an hour each way, they’ve just gained two more hours a day, and that’s an extra 10 hours per five-day workweek.
When it comes to the best and brightest talent in all the hottest industries, workplace flexibility is a key consideration. They want the ability to work from home, and if a company doesn’t provide it, they’re likely to keep searching for a job that does. By opening your mind to the possibility of hiring remote workers – or at least giving people the option – you’ll have access to a much larger talent pool. Better still, you can hire someone across the country since commute time no longer has an effect on who you choose to fill positions.
When people have the option to work the way they choose, whether that’s in their pajamas with a laptop on the couch or dressed in their best business casual in the home office, they are more autonomous, and that makes them more productive. Employees who work with deadlines rather than being forced to be at a desk from nine until five tend to be happier overall, too.
There’s no getting around it: providing employees with office space is incredibly expensive. In fact, for many companies, office space is one of their largest expenses. When you choose to allow employees to work remotely, you can save money on the office space and the utilities that go along with it. As an employee, you’re saving money on your commute, your business wardrobe, and even lunches in the office. It’s truly a win-win situation for everyone, even if it is only temporary or only part-time.
With everything from managed IT service to VoIP and cloud-based apps as a service, there’s truly a technology to make everything possible. When you give your employees all the right tools, they can and will succeed. It’s up to employers to choose the right technologies and the right protections. As an employee, you may find yourself learning how to use new technologies that can benefit not only your work life and your resume, but your personal life, as well.
Working from home can be quite the transition, and it can cause anxiety among workers and employers alike. Nevertheless, more people are working from home now than ever before in history, and many of them are succeeding, too. Consider the five benefits above and it will be much easier to decide whether working remotely is the right choice for you.
If your small business still relies on a standard copper telephone line, you may be missing out on some very important benefits. In fact, VoIP is far superior to a traditional landline in several interesting ways. Below, you can learn about five of the most important things VoIP can do for you and your business that a traditional copper telephone line cannot.
If there’s one thing that VoIP can do for your business that a standard telephone line just can’t, this is it. From setup to running cost, utilizing VoIP telephone service is far, far more affordable. Installing a single copper-line based telephone jack can cost you well over $100, but with VoIP, you can attach as many phones as you need as long as you have the right modem and router setup. What’s more, with standard phone service, you are charged a great deal for every single line you have. This simply isn’t the case with VoIP. You could save as much as 50% on your running costs by switching to VoIP.
With VoIP, you can do a lot more than just make telephone calls. You can transfer video or any other type of multimedia just as you would over the internet. This simply is not the case with traditional telephone service. Though you can sign up for DSL internet service, or internet service delivered to you via a copper telephone line, it is a completely separate service – and it isn’t cheap, either.
If you utilize things like call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, call parking, and others with your traditional landline, then there’s a very good chance you’re paying a great deal extra for them. If you have more than one telephone line, you’re probably paying for these services for each line, too. With VoIP, these features are typically included in your package. Better still, because VoIP is delivered over the internet, you gain access to numerous other features that are incredibly easy to set up, which include automated answering and the ability to give your customers the option to press a button to connect to the right department – all without exorbitant fees.
If you work out of an office building with a single telephone line, expanding your operations to include three or four more telephone lines for separate departments as your business grows can be a complex, time-consuming, and expensive ordeal. A technician will need to come and install the jacks and wires, and you will need to pay separately for each individual line in your building. With VoIP, all you have to do is contact your service provider and tell them you need access to more phone numbers, then connect the phones. It really is that easy for your phone network to grow along with your company.
Last, but most certainly not least, switching from a standard landline to VoIP can help your employees become more productive. A survey conducted by Cisco Unified Communications found that people who used VoIP at work spent an average of 32 fewer minutes on the phone each day. That’s two and a half hours per work week! What’s more, 74% of employees use a mobile app to take business calls with VoIP service, which not only improves productivity, but also improves customer service.
In today’s high-tech day and age, there is really no good reason to continue paying exorbitant fees for traditional telephone lines – especially if you plan to expand your operations in the future. Instead, switch to VoIP so you can enjoy a great deal of savings, improved productivity, free features only VoIP can provide, and so much more.
Microsoft recently completely ended support for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, leaving many companies scrambling to find affordable alternatives. However, there are still some companies out there unsure of what end-of-life really means. After all, they are still utilizing Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 and everything seems to be fine. Unfortunately, continuing to use either of these products puts businesses at risk. Here’s what everyone should know.
Many people believe that when a company ends support for one of its products, that product will essentially vanish into the ether, never to be seen again. That isn’t how end-of-life works, though, and it’s actually a little more complicated than that. When Microsoft ends support for software, a couple of things happen (or don’t happen):
The product no longer receives updates. When a product reaches the end of its life, Microsoft stops working on it. That’s really all it means. The company will no longer update the product. You can still use it if you choose to, but doing so could be problematic in several ways. First, because the product is no longer being updated, it isn’t receiving any further security patches, which leaves you vulnerable to the latest threats.
New products are no longer designed with the product in mind. Technologies improve every minute of every day, and some of the biggest software providers (things like CRM platforms, etc.) are constantly improving their services to work better with current technologies. When Microsoft stops supporting an operating system, the companies providing those platforms no longer work on updates specifically for those platforms. In other words, even though you may still have access to Windows Server 8, the various applications and platforms you use may simply cease to function.
If your company relies on either Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008, the best possible course of action is to upgrade to the latest technologies. Windows 10 is in constant development and many people agree that it’s the best iteration of Windows yet - and it keeps getting better. Windows Server 2019 offers many benefits that Windows Server 2008 simply did not, including synchronization of files to Azure, access to System Insights, VM protection, and much, much more.
Windows 10 is superior to Windows 7 in many ways, too - it’s far better for multitasking with features like Aero Snap, driver installation, and it supports multiple desktops which makes it incredibly easy to utilize a variety of full-screen windows, even when you’re reduced to a single monitor. The best part is that you can’t forget to update Windows thanks to Windows 10, which automatically downloads and applies the latest updates in the background. It even analyzes your computer usage and chooses a time when your PC is typically asleep to restart.
If you are still running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008, now is the time to make the switch to the latest versions of these technologies. They’re much improved over previous iterations, and they will allow you to continue reaping the benefits of today’s latest security enhancements along with so much more.
Image Source: https://ia.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Windows_7_logo.svg
If you think of your company’s IT infrastructure like you’d think of the human body, the server is the brain. It’s where all the data is stored, and it enables all the various processes and computers in your business to operate effectively. If your server is not working optimally, it can negatively affect your entire business. If you aren’t sure whether your server is still right for your company’s needs, or if you think it may be time to replace it, ask yourself the following questions to find out.
One of the biggest signs that your server is giving up the goat, so to speak, is the sound it makes when it is operating in the middle of the day. On any given workday, go into your server room and listen. If the fans are noticeably loud – much louder than they were when they were new – consider this a cry for help. As servers age, they become hotter far more easily, and this makes the fans run faster more frequently. Over time, the fans wear out, and noise indicates they are reaching the end of their lifespan.
Ideally, a business server should always operate at less than 80% capacity. Though there may be times when your server surpasses this mark, such as when more computers than usual access it at the same time, for the most part, it should operate at less than 80%, even during the busiest part of the day. If your server is regularly over that 80% mark, it’s time for an upgrade. In some cases, you may be able to reduce the strain with cloud computing, too.
Microsoft is slowly phasing out many of its older operating systems (OS), and when this happens, there will be no further support for them. For example, in January 2020, Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will reach the end of their lifecycles and support will end. This essentially means that Microsoft will stop working to create things like security patches that protect your system in the wake of the newest threats, and if you continue to use a server with an unsupported OS, you will be leaving your entire IT infrastructure – your hardware, applications, databases, and more – at risk. If your server cannot support the latest OS and its current OS is nearing the end of its lifecycle, it is time to consider alternatives.
Technical hiccups in the workplace happen from time to time despite your best efforts to prevent them. However, if you find yourself suddenly dealing with unexplained server crashes, or if your server starts to crash frequently, this is a sign that it’s time to change something. You might opt to buy a new server, which can resolve the issue for a while. You might also choose to move to the cloud or go for a hardware as a service model to help save you some money.
Server warranties are absolutely critical as they help to ensure that you can get your server replaced in the event of a complete failure. Servers are not inexpensive, and for small business owners – or any size business in the midst of a slow period – replacement can be difficult. Rather than waiting for that failure to occur and then scrambling for a solution, consider a replacement right now if your server is no longer under warranty. Again, you have numerous options available to you, so choose the one that works best for you.
The business software you use is tied to a license, and that license is tied to each CPU for each server in your company. The CPU’s performance is dependent on things like memory and processing power, too. This means that if you choose to consolidate multiple older servers into fewer larger servers with better overall performance, you won’t have to pay for as many licenses. In fact, depending on the size of your company and its overall needs, sometimes downsizing your licenses is enough to pay for a new server.
If you do need to upgrade your company’s server (or servers), you may want to consider virtualization. Server virtualization is a process by which you can create partitions within a single server to create numerous instanced servers. Essentially, it turns a single server into numerous virtual environments that are capable of running independently of one another. Virtualizing your servers can save you a great deal of money in terms of hardware costs, and it can also significantly reduce your energy consumption, the cost of ongoing maintenance, and more.
If you’ve been wondering whether it’s time to replace your company’s server or move your apps to the cloud, ask yourself the five questions above. Then, determine whether you want to purchase new onsite servers outright or contact a managed IT service provider who can help you with hardware as a service or cloud computing that can save you money.
Many companies make the mistake of believing a firewall is a “set it and forget it” type of network security. In fact, a firewall requires constant maintenance and updating in order to protect your company from cyberthreats and data breaches. Below are some signs that your firewall is not properly protecting your company’s best interests or your sensitive data.
No matter the size of your company, whether you have only one computer connected to your network or you have dozens, it is critical that you have access to network traffic reports. You must be able to prioritize applications that are important to running your business while limiting those that might have a negative effect on productivity, but if you can’t see who is accessing what, this is impossible. What’s more, without this comprehensive visibility, there’s no way for you to know if you are complying with local and federal regulations.
In 2017, a study conducted in the UK pointed out that companies spent an average of seven full workdays each month on identifying and repairing computers that had been infected with some sort of malicious software or virus. The costs associated with paying someone to spend this much time repairing computers on your network can be astronomical, and over time, it can really tap into your bottom line. For this reason, businesses of all sizes should carefully consider the benefits of outsourcing their entire IT department to trusted professionals. It costs less and provides better peace of mind.
Another good sign that your network firewall is causing more problems than it solves is a noticeable lack of performance from your network. If your network is slow despite a good internet connection, this typically indicates an overloaded firewall. In other words, there is too much traffic attempting to pass through too few ports. At this point, you can either completely overhaul your IT infrastructure to allow for more traffic, or you can change the features of your firewall so that more traffic can come and go as needed at the expense of greater risk. Neither of these is a good option for many companies, but there is an alternative: outsourcing your IT department altogether.
Finally, perhaps the most common sign that your firewall is hurting your business is a lack of effectiveness. Simply put, if computers continue to become infected or if employees continue to access websites that you thought you blocked, this is indicative of a serious issue – and one that can frustrate business owners who are not as familiar with network security as they should be. The best way to resolve this issue is to hire IT professionals to configure your firewall properly, but it can be expensive to add another person to the payroll. Outsourcing these tasks is far more cost-effective, and when you choose the right managed IT provider, you can feel confident that your configuration will always be correct.
Most companies don’t spend much time thinking about their firewalls until a serious problem arises. If you have noticed things like repeated malware or virus infections, a lack of network performance and employee productivity, or even problems with the configuration of your firewall, it is important to address them right away to protect the integrity of your company’s network.
Whether you’re just getting your business off the ground or you’re ready to make the transition to the digital world, there’s a lot that goes into building a network with the right infrastructure and security. In some cases, outsourcing your IT needs is the best course of action. Here are a few signs that you should consider outsourcing to a managed IT service provider.
It’s the digital age, and if your business is still dealing in pen and paper, it’s time to make the switch. The benefits associated with keeping your data digitally are innumerable, particularly when it comes to things like filing your taxes or even creating a marketing plan. Simply put, making the transition and giving your company an internet presence – and perhaps even utilizing the wonderful realm known as the cloud – will absolutely propel your business forward. In fact, failing to do so may leave you falling behind your competitors.
If something were to happen right now and all of your in-house records were suddenly destroyed, do you have a plan in place to keep your business running, or would your data be lost forever? In today’s day and age, this is a critical consideration and one that far too many small businesses have failed to take seriously. If you need help with data redundancy and disaster recovery, outsourcing your IT needs may be one of the best moves you could make.
Believe it or not, setting up and maintaining a network is a time consuming process and one that many business owners believe they can handle until they find themselves struggling to focus on core business competencies. Your ultimate goal should always be delivering products or services to your customers as efficiently as possible – and marketing your ability to do so, as well. If you find yourself falling behind because you are spending too much time dealing with network issues or maintenance, it’s time to consider outsourcing to a managed IT service provider.
When you ran your business by yourself from home, your IT needs weren’t very complicated. However, now that you’re starting to see the potential for growth, you should be considering the best ways to expand your network capabilities, as well. If you know that your IT needs are changing – or even if they will be changing in the future – contact a trusted managed IT service provider to find out how they can help you grow. These services are far more flexible and scalable than you might think, and the best part is that they are more affordable than ever before, too.
If you and your employees are spending more time sifting through emails and dealing with viruses than actually doing your jobs, this is a real problem. Junk email is a serious issue in business environments and opening the wrong one could have disastrous effects. Though you can absolutely install your own email filters and antivirus programs, it takes time to keep them updated, and it takes even more time to configure them properly. Fortunately, this is yet another area where managed IT service providers excel. They can help you manage your emails and your antivirus in the background so you can focus on your job.
If you are struggling to keep up with your company’s IT needs, you are falling behind with your business’s core competencies, or you simply want to make certain that your company’s future is in the hands of capable professionals, outsourcing your IT team may be your best option. You can even customize a service package that perfectly suits your company and grows right alongside it both now and in the future.
No matter the size of your company, having an appropriate IT budget is critical to your operations and ultimately your success. This involves first coming up with a budget that works for you and your company’s needs, then following that budget closely while ensuring you do everything you can to squeeze the most out of it. Below are five tips for doing just that.
Those new technologies you saw in a magazine or in an ad may look tempting, but it’s important to turn your focus back to the basics and take the time to understand what you really need. Sit down and make a list of your company’s priorities. Determine what you absolutely must have in terms of your infrastructure as opposed to what you would like to have at some point. Be sure to consider things like buying hardware, upgrading things as necessary, and keeping up with maintenance.
If you’ve never had your business network assessed for potential security issues, now is the perfect time to do it – and the sooner, the better. Network assessments are designed in such a way to figure out where your network is strong as well as where it is lacking. This can go a long way toward helping you prioritize what you absolutely have to have to keep your company’s data safe.
If you will be undertaking an IT project of any kind in order to get your network up to par, see if you can move funds around from one area to pay for a little extra IT help. What’s more, consider outsourcing your IT projects and consulting in order to save even more. Outsourcing may seem a little scary, but when you pick the right local company, it’s just like having your own employee on the payroll. They work with you very closely and truly get to know your business.
Don’t look for the cheapest solutions because like anything else, when it comes to IT, you often get exactly what you pay for. Instead, look for cost-effective solutions that provide you with the absolute best value for every dollar you spend. Outsourcing is often cost-effective, as is utilizing VoIP phone service as opposed to traditional landlines or even choosing hardware as a service rather than buying all your own equipment. These things can really give you the best bang for your buck in many situations.
Though it may seem impossible to spend money to make money when it comes to your company’s IT, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind. As an example, if you invested in cloud-based software that you really love, consider offering that same solution to your client. Though you may not make a lot of money, it could help you get more for what you’re already spending, and ultimately, this stretches your IT budget even more.
Getting the most out of your IT budget doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s all about understanding what your company’s priorities are, then finding ways to get the most value out of the budget that you have. To do this, manage your resources appropriately, schedule a network assessment so you can better understand your network issues, and then find the best and most cost-effective solutions to address those issues.