NEPA Geeks Blog

5 Ways Managed Services Can Grow Your Business

5 Ways Managed Services Can Grow Your Business

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) help businesses take a proactive approach to managing their technology without the expensive step of hiring an in-house team. Your MSP is essentially a collection of niche technology experts working behind the scenes to keep your data safe, generate solutions to IT problems and keep your software updated. Even larger businesses who already have an IT person will often call in an MSP when daily support becomes overwhelming or a specific certification is required.

Let’s explore 5 specific business breakthroughs an MSP can give you:

  1. It’s extremely cost-effective: There’s only so much in the budget for IT and responding to events on a break/fix basis will quickly exhaust your accounts.
    An MSP works by getting ahead of problems before they occur – making equipment last longer, defending against costly security breaches and keeping the business up and running. Instead of calling for a repair at a high hourly rate, you get a wide array of expert services for one predictable monthly fee.
  2. You have access to multiple experts: Businesses usually end up adding extra tasks to an unqualified but enthusiastic employee’s workload, resulting in costly problems. With MSPs, you have access to many people who are experts in very specific areas, and your existing staff can focus on tasks within their job description.
  3. Speedy problem resolution: Downtime and business don’t mix, so your MSP will provide a reliable expert on call (usually with 24/7 options) to troubleshoot and resolve any problems. Much of the time, you can also skip the delay of an on-site repair with rapid remote support available in just moments.
  4. Fewer problems: A large part of your MSPs service is fixing problems before they happen. While fixing things as they break isn’t the worst approach to IT management, it generally means you’re also suffering productivity losses, downtime and losing money by the second.
    Your MSPs primary goal is to ensure these problems are avoided completely, through system monitoring and robust security measures. They’ll also make sure every important software update and security patch is applied immediately, closing breach points and keeping your business safe.
  5. Shared responsibilities: As your business grows, so will your IT systems. A good MSP is on top of what your future needs will look like and knows which products and infrastructure are suitable to help you get there. Your MSP doesn’t just monitor your system and repair as required; they share responsibility for your system. This means measuring, reporting, analyzing and optimizing, working with you to introduce new technologies and processes.

Depending on your level of contracted services, your MSP can actually become a catalyst for growth.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? With managed services, your business always has the maximum security against threats, downtime and productivity drops. But for the savvy business owner, it’s also a way you can afford to leverage cutting-edge technologies, with complete peace of mind and ongoing support.

Boost your business with managed services. Call us now at 570.235.1946

4 Important Reasons to Use Anti-Spam Filtering in your Business

4 Important Reasons to Use Anti-Spam Filtering in your Business

Remember when spam was obvious, and unless you desperately needed a special blue pill, it was easy to identify and ignore? Those were the days! The impact on your business would have been minimal, as spam was more an annoyance than anything else. Unfortunately, spam has matured into an aggressive threat, marked by sophisticated attacks and rapidly evolving techniques. It’s not just random electronic junk mail anymore and it’s putting a costly strain on your business resources.

How Spam Impacts Your Business

Spam now contains malware, with hackers sending cleverly disguised emails to your business. Once clicked by an employee, it infects your computer system (virus) or steals your private data (phishing). The malware can then spread across the entire computer network and beyond, including to your clients and vendors. The very fact that your employees must pause and examine every single link and attachment adds hours of lost productivity. Occasionally, spam is so convincing that only an expert would be able to visually identify it. Employees are also more likely to miss an important email, either not seeing it arrive at the same time as a spam attack or becoming overwhelmed with the sheer number of emails.

How Anti-Spam Can Save Your Business

  1. Block threats: The spam filter’s purpose is to block the spam from ever reaching your employees’ screens. The threat is automatically identified and either held securely or immediately deleted. This is the best way to avoid activating spam malware, as it’s so easy to click through links in an email that seems authentic and important. The effects of that one spam click may be instantaneous or may lie hidden for months. Removing the email before it becomes a risk is a much better option.
  2. Filter legitimate emails: Real mail needs to be able to stand out and avoid the trash. Anti-spam filtering has sophisticated recognition abilities which block spam only and allow real mail to land safely in mailboxes.
  3. Meet data regulations: Many businesses are subject to strict privacy and data storage regulations, some more so than others. To continue operation, they have to meet conditions including always using spam filtering to reduce the risk of data breach.
  4. Protect your business reputation: You can see how uncomfortable CEOs are when they hold press conferences to admit a breach. They must acknowledge that they failed to protect client data, or that users may be infected with a virus. Not only do they then face financial loss, their business reputation takes a nosedive. Anti-spam filtering can ensure these types of scenarios don’t happen to you.

Filtering has come a long way in recent years, with complex algorithms identifying and catching spam before it becomes a risk to your business. Real emails can now pass safely through without the classic catchcry of ‘check the spam folder’, and businesses can work with greater productivity and safety than ever before. You need email, but you definitely don’t need spam or the chaos it brings to your business.

We can block spam and keep your legitimate emails flowing. Call us at 570.235.1946 today!

6 Brilliant Ways Managed Services Can Work For You

6 Brilliant Ways Managed Services Can Work For You

Wouldn’t it be great to know you could access the internet from every room in the house – including the outdoor entertaining areas? How about printing wirelessly from wherever you happen to be? Many homes are embracing the flexibility of having multiple devices and users, but with each new addition come increased headaches when trying to make it all work together. They know what experience they want, but actually assembling a complex network can be like trying to juggle a live, angry octopus!

Most people don’t realize just how complex their tech setup has become. Ask around and you’ll discover homes commonly have 4 mobile devices, 2 tablets, a desktop or laptop, a printer…plus a smart TV, media streamer, and a games console …ALL of which need access to the same secure internet connection, backup systems, and protection from digital threats. Yikes!

While businesses immediately default to calling in the tech experts to make sure their system works exactly the way they need it to, residential users haven’t had that option – until now. Our managed IT services can assess your unique needs and create the perfect solution for you –everything working the way you want and within budget.

Using managed residential services has the added benefit of providing one, predictable bill for every part of your technology services, including:

Advice and setup: Our experts love to talk tech and can help you make product decisions, plan and create your ideal network environment – building in all the parental controls and security your unique situation needs. They’ll even help educate your family on best practices, cyber safety, and common threats.

Remote support: Save time and energy if something goes wrong, our experts can securely log in to remotely diagnose and repair many issues – just let us know and we’ll take care of it.

Backup: You’ll never have to worry about losing all your personal files, photos, video and music if your device is broken or stolen. Our experts will make sure everything that’s important to you is backed up regularly.

Maintenance: While your devices are pretty durable, they still need regular maintenance and cleaning. This extends the life of your device greatly and has the added benefit of making it run like new again.

Security: Every device under your managed IT plan will be automatically monitored for security issues and updated regularly. Our tech experts will ensure your network is secure, protecting you and your family on autopilot.

Cloud: We’ll make sure you have access to all your files, no matter which device you’re on, giving you true digital flexibility and (a safeguard against forgetting homework!).

With new connected devices finding their way into homes each year, it’s more important than ever to ensure your network can grow easily, with security at all levels. Remember, it only takes one unprotected device to let the malware in, even something as innocent as a remote-activated lightbulb! Our managed IT services will free you from worrying about security and maintenance, while at the same time giving you the performance and flexibility your family needs.

Find out how Managed IT Services can help you by calling us at 570.235.1946

Why Your Windows Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Why Your Windows Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Stories about hackers and virus attacks seem to be making the news almost every day, and many of these news stories include tips on how you can avoid becoming a victim. One common theme among these tips is making sure your Windows operating system up to date.

Every day hackers are trying to figure out new ways to break into Microsoft Windows and once they do find a weakness, they try and find a way to spread it. This could be through a malicious email attachment or even something that spreads without your involvement.

Updates Explained

Whenever Microsoft discovers a potential flaw, they push out a small piece of software to all Windows computers running a supported version. If set correctly, your computer will check if there’s any updates or patches and install them automatically. In new versions, this usually happens when you’re shutting down or starting up, and doesn’t impact your experience at all. Unfortunately, some users will manually disable or delay their updates, creating a risky situation.

The update may include security patches, drivers or a simple tweak to address bugs or issues with Windows. Sometimes, they even include new features or applications to improve the stability of your operating system. They’re a good thing!

Not All Versions Get Updates

Some older operating systems are no longer supported, which means unless there are extenuating circumstances, Microsoft won’t issue any new updates. Not a single one – generally, if cyber criminals discover a flaw after support ends, they’re free to exploit it. For example, Windows XP support ended in 2014, and Windows Vista just ended in April this year. The moment an operating system is retired it becomes a playground for cyber-criminals.

It’s not just Microsoft walking away from these old versions either. Third party software like the Google Chrome browser will still work, but they’ve also stopped supporting old versions with crucial updates and patches. It might seem like everything is working fine because your anti-virus isn’t pinging in alarm, but it just becomes a case of risk, upon risk, upon risk.

What to do with older Windows

As much as you’re comfortable with your older version of Windows, each time you boot up you’re exposing your system, important files and entire network. It only takes one weak entry point in the chain to allow malware into all connected devices. That could mean your photo storage, media center or even smart appliances. It’s not worth it – if you’re running Windows XP or Vista (or older), you need to update to a more modern operating system ASAP. Give us a call to upgrade your computer.

We can also monitor your system remotely and apply your Windows updates with our Managed Services packages, ensuring you are always up to date and protected. Give us a call at 570.235.1946.

Internet Lingo 101: Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Internet Lingo 101: Cheat Sheet for Beginners

The Internet is growing and evolving so fast even the dictionary has trouble keeping up. Here are 12 suddenly common terms that are helpful to know.

Browser

A browser is a free piece of software that lets you view web pages, videos and other online content. It’s a core requirement of going online, as it converts the computer languages HTML, Javascript and XML into human-readable form.

The most popular browsers in 2017 are Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge*. (*Internet Explorer has been superseded and is no longer recommended due to security concerns)

Email

Electronic Mail (formerly spelled with a hyphen: ‘e-mail’) is typed messages sent from one person/business to another via the Internet. It’s delivered almost instantly and then waits patiently for the recipient to open and read it.

You’ll need a webmail service (e.g. Gmail) or installed software (e.g. Outlook) to read, write and send, but you can also set your smartphone up for this. Most emails are in the form of letters, newsletters or catalogs, often with a more casual tone. Email can include text, links to the internet and images, but not video/sound.

Encryption

Before important data is sent over the internet, it’s scrambled to turn it into gibberish that means nothing to anybody who might intercept it. Unless there’s been a massive security breach, only the sender and intended recipient will have the decryption key to turn it back into readable data.

You don’t have to encrypt your own data as it happens automatically. Your email provider and important places like banks and online stores have digital security systems that take care of the encryption/decryption for you.

Firewall

A firewall is a security measure designed to act like a door bouncer to your network. When an unauthorized user attempts to gain entry, the firewall blocks their path until it’s checked them out thoroughly. If there’s anything suspicious, the firewall refuses to let them in.

HTTP and HTTPS

These are acronyms for the rules of how data is transmitted to your computer screen. The actual mechanics are incredibly complicated, but the terms have one very important distinction:

HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) means the images, text and links should appear in your browser.

HyperText Transfer Protocol Secured (HTTPS) means the page has an added layer of security to hide your personal information from hackers. Data sent through pages with this prefix is securely encrypted before transmission.

IP Address

Every device that accesses the Internet is assigned a unique IP address to identify itself. It’s used to make sure when you request a page or document, it’s sent to you – and not someone in Alaska. Your IP will look something like ‘202.9.64.55’ and may be referred to as fixed or dynamic.

ISP

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the company that allows you to connect to the Internet. They’ll also offer extra services like email or web hosting. It’s impossible to bypass the ISP level and connect directly to the Internet.

Malware

A broad term to describe viruses and malicious software from hackers. Malware can manipulate you into paying money, take control of your computer, steal your private details or break your computer in some way. Instead of listing each specific threat, you’ll commonly see them lumped together under ‘malware’.

Router

The traffic system for your network, connecting computers and devices within the home and acting as a defensive gateway to the Internet. These hardware devices can be wired or wireless, and allow you to share one Internet connection amongst all the computers/devices in your home.

Social Media

A broad term to describe all the websites and applications that let you share and interact with others online. To fit this umbrella, the site needs to allow user profiles, live updates and the ability to add friends/followers.

The most common social media applications are Facebook and Twitter.

Spam and Filtering

Any unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, usually in bulk, are called spam. Usually, it’s electronic junk mail, but it’s also a technique hackers use to trick people into clicking links to their malware.

Email applications are reasonably good at identifying spam and should shift it automatically to a spam folder before you see it. Occasionally, the filters get it wrong and you may find a relevant email needs to be dragged back to your inbox.

URL

Each website has a unique address on the web known as a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). URLs commonly end in .com but can also end in a country specific extension like .com.au or .fr, or more recently, in new and exciting extensions such as .xyz or .me

Cyber Security: 4 Ways to Travel Safe For Business

Cyber Security: 4 Ways to Travel Safe For Business

Working from anywhere is now as simple as accessing the internet on your device. Managers, owners, and employees are all embracing the flexibility of working while traveling, making it the new global norm. But while you were in the office, you were protected by professionally designed firewalls, security infrastructure, and robust software. As soon as you step away from the building, those protections disappear, leaving your device and the data inside at great risk.

Cyber attackers love to collect any data they can obtain, often preferring to hack first, assess value later. It doesn’t help that almost all data can be sold, including your personal details, those of your clients and suppliers, as well as your proprietary business data. These days, the information stored on your device is usually worth much more than the device itself.

Here are 3 ways a hacker will attack:

Flaunting Opportunity: Whether your employee left their laptop at a café or a thief stole the phone from their pocket, the outcome is the same – that device is gone. Hackers will take advantage of any opportunity to gain access to a device, including taking them from hotel rooms and even asking to ‘borrow’ them for a few minutes to install spyware, before handing it back.

Spoofing a Wi-Fi Hotspot: We’ve all come to expect free Wi-Fi networks wherever we go. Hackers will take advantage of this trust to create their own free, unsecure network, just waiting for a traveler to check a quick email.

Intercepting an Unsecure Network: Hackers don’t need to own the Wi-Fi network to steal content from it. Data traveling across an unsecure network is visible and available to anyone with the right software.

It’s okay, you don’t need to lock all employees inside the building or cancel all travel plans. Taking these four precautions will increase cyber safety and help protect your business data while on the go.

  1. Make a backup before you travel: In the event your device is lost or damaged, you’ll be able to replace the device with a new one and quickly restore all the data from a backup, all with minimal downtime.
  2. Don’t use public Wi-Fi: Wait until you have access to a secure network before going online – even just to check email.
  3. Use passwords and encryption: At a minimum, make sure you have a password on your device, or even better, have full drive encryption. That way, even if your data storage is removed from the device, the contents are inaccessible.
  4. Act fast after loss: If your device is lost or stolen, immediately notify the appropriate people. This might include your IT provider so they can change passwords, your bank so they can lock down accounts, and any staff who need to be aware of the breach so they aren’t tricked into allowing further breaches.

Need help with mobile cyber security? Call us at 570.235.1946

How Much Could A Ransomware Attack Cost You?

How Much Could A Ransomware Attack Cost You?

Have you ever thought about how much your data is worth? Information is possibly the most valuable part of your business – there’s your client database, accounting software and inventory management, and of course, any intellectual property you may own. When the ransomware, WannaCry, tore through the world recently, many businesses were suddenly forced to re-assess the value of their data: was it worth saving, and what would be the deeper cost of the attack?

Most ransomware attacks cost $150-$600 to get your files released, but that’s only IF the cyber-criminals honor the payment and actually give you the decryption key. Meanwhile, new client calls are still coming in and you may find yourself unable to operate with your systems down. Paying the ransom or restoring from an unaffected backup seems like a quick fix, but it doesn’t end there. There’s still the downtime involved to restore all your data – possibly days – and that’s a lot of lost productivity. Plus, if word gets out that your data has been compromised, you may find confidence in your business plummets and your existing clients head elsewhere. That $150 ransom may end up costing well over $150,000!

Prevent Ransomware Attacks on your Business

Keep your systems up to date: WannaCry took advantage of a flaw in older versions of Windows, one that was since patched by Microsoft. But to be protected, businesses had to be up to date with their patches AND be running a supported version of Windows. Delaying patches and updates puts your business at risk – we can help you update automatically.

Lock down employee computers: Very few staff will require full administrator access to your business network. The higher their level of permissions, the more damage a person can do – either accidentally with a whoopsie click, or by inadvertently installing malware. By locking down your employee computers, you have a better chance of containing a malware attack to non-vital systems. Our experts can design an access management plan that gives you best of both worlds: flexibility PLUS security.

Educate your workplace: Most employees believe they’re being cyber-safe but the reality is quite different. Many malicious links and embedded malware have become hard to spot in an instant – which is all it takes to click and regret. We can work with your staff to establish procedures around checking links for authenticity before clicking, awareness around verifying the source of attachments, and the importance of anti-virus scanning. We’ll help get the message through!

Have a solid backup plan: When ransomware hits, a connected backup = infected backup. Unfortunately, synced options such as Dropbox immediately clone the infected files, rendering them useless. The only safe backups will be the ones both physically and electronically disconnected, with systems designed to protect against attacks like this. Our experts can set you up with a backup system that makes recovery a breeze.

Be proactive: The best way to avoid the financial cost of a ransomware attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Remember, many businesses were able to watch WannaCry from the sidelines, completely unaffected and seizing opportunities while their competitors were down.

Our managed services can help protect your business against the next cyber-attack.

Call us today at 570.235.1946.

Does Dropbox Make Sense For Your Business?

Does Dropbox Make Sense For Your Business?

It seems so easy! Drag your files into a Dropbox folder and you’ve got yourself a file sharing system that brings your business in line with modern expectations. But then again, maybe not.

Dropbox has grown to become one of the main file sharing and cloud storage solutions of choice, with a core simplicity that’s hard to deny. But for business, that simplicity comes with a catch. In some cases, sticking with the familiar blue box can provide good value, and of course, it never hurts when your staff already know how to use your software. In other cases, you’ll need to consider alternatives designed to meet your needs more explicitly.

When Dropbox is a Good Choice

Micro-sized: If your business is small with no more than a handful of employees (or none);

No sensitive information: This includes accounts, customer details, vendor, staff or proprietary data; plus

Nobody ever accidentally deletes anything: Dropbox is a syncing service, which means when a file is deleted, it deletes it from all machines. While the file is recoverable from the Dropbox website within 30 days, by the time you notice it’s missing, it might be too late.

If you’re thinking those attributes sound more like a fictional business, you’re not far off. Somehow, Dropbox’s popularity in the consumer sphere has snuck into business environments, despite the risks. Key amongst these is the fact that Dropbox is designed for syncing, NOT backup. This means while your data is sprawling across all connected devices, it’s a mirror of the source only – when you delete or change the original file, the Dropbox version immediately syncs with it. In some cases, this can spread malware between your connected devices and put all of them at risk.

Your business also misses out on important security controls, such as user-level access control and password protected links. Rather like a free-for-all, the shared files are sitting there available to anyone with either a connected device or an unsecure weblink. You’ll also miss collaborative editing, losing out in productivity and data resilience as multiple employees overwrite each other simultaneously, with no record of who even opened the file, let alone changed it.

If Dropbox makes sense for your business, there’s no reason to change. But if it’s clearly not a good choice for you, there are multiple corporate grade syncing solutions. These are designed for business with security, encryption and collaboration controls built in. Rather than the easiest solution which may pose a risk to your business and digital security, consider implementing a scalable solution that meets all your needs.

Call us at 570.235.1946 to discuss syncing solutions for your business

How Many Good Battery Habits Do You Really Have?

How Many Good Battery Habits Do You Really Have?

Batteries are rarely talked about – until they’re drained – then we’ll tell everyone as we beg desperately for a charger, hoping to get enough juice to last the day. The truth is, they’re a miracle of engineering that gets taken for granted when full and cursed when flat. If it feels like your battery is running out faster, you might be right.

But it’s not because of ‘battery memory’ and needing to be cycled (that’s an older battery type called NiMh), it’s because the modern LITHIUM-ION batteries in phones and laptops just simply wear out over time. Fortunately, extending your battery life is easier than you think! Which of the following GOOD battery habits do you have?

  1. Charge whenever you can: Lithium-ion batteries don’t like being charged all the way up and then drained all the way down. No wonder, it even sounds exhausting. Give them a little charge here and there, and they’ll be happy.
  2. Leave your laptop plugged in all the time: You can’t over-charge the battery, it will just sit there waiting to be used. The laptop also helps out by cutting the flow of power when the battery registers as fully charged.
  3. Watch for overheating: If you can, remove your laptop battery while charging, because while it won’t overcharge, it may overheat. You might also consider removing the battery if you’re using your laptop plugged in all the time. Sure, you might lose data if there’s a power outage, but overheating is a far more common occurrence and it’s been proven to degrade battery life considerably. Check your vents are clear with good airflow, and if necessary, help it out with a cooling laptop stand.
  4. Leave your phone plugged in all night: Just like your laptop, your charger knows to stop when the battery is full. Those chargers do generate heat though, so make sure you have enough airflow around both charger and phone, and never sleep with it under your pillow.
  5. Charge batteries before storing: If you’re blessed with backup batteries, make sure to give them a half charge before storing. They’ll naturally discharge and age over time, so this gives them a fighting chance to still be viable when you need them.
  6. Keep your cool: We know to avoid water with our phones, but we’re less careful about exposing it to heat. This includes leaving it in your car all day, placing it on top of your PC, or even in a sunny spot by the window. Wireless and rapid chargers can also be an issue, as the amount of heat they generate will affect your battery.

How did you do? Is keeping your lithium-ion battery happy easier than you thought? Your battery will wear out over time, but you can push that day a few years into the future if you remember to keep it charged and keep it cool.

Having battery issues? We can help! Call us at 570.235.1946