9 Cybersecurity Terms You Need To Know

June 28th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Every business should have a comprehensive cybersecurity plan and a competent team that can execute that plan. Otherwise, cybercriminals and malicious actors can and most likely will take advantage of security vulnerabilities to access company data and cause damage. But as important as it is to have skilled IT professionals looking out for your business, it is equally important to educate yourself in the basics of cybersecurity so that you can avoid compromising your valuable information accidentally.

The following list of cybersecurity terms is one that every business owner, manager, executive and other professional should be aware of. The more you understand the basics of cybersecurity, the better equipped you will be to protect your valuable business data and personal information moving forward.

Cybersecurity Tips

9 Cybersecurity Terms Every Business Professional Should Know

1. Malware

From the time the average family had a personal computer in the house, most people had heard of computer viruses. Today, it is still common for many people to think of all types of attacks to computer systems and networks as viruses. In truth, a virus is only one type of attack that you need to be aware of. There are many other types of attacks, which along with viruses, fall under the umbrella of malware. Anything that is made to access your network or data—or cause damage to your network or data—is referred to as malware.

2. Phishing

Like the common term it comes from, phishing can be thought of as throwing out attractive bait in hopes that someone will bite and give up their valuable information. Phishing involves making a website or application that looks just like a site or app that people trust. You might get an email from Google or the IRS that looks legitimate. It could claim that the company needs you to update your information or your password and then take that info and give it to a cybercriminal.

3. Antivirus

An antivirus program is just like it sounds—a program for fighting computer viruses. What it is not is a program that will handle all of your cybersecurity needs. It will search for common viruses and eliminate those viruses, but it will not necessarily protect against other types of malware. Your antivirus can only scan the drives it has access to, and can only identify viruses that have already been identified by the company that makes the program.

4. Social Engineering

Social engineering refers to deceiving people instead of computers. While creating malware requires focusing on technical aspects, social engineering focuses on ways to manipulate people into doing what you want them to do. The scams where people ask you to cash checks on their behalf and send them the money because they are out of the country are an example of social engineering.

5. Ransomware

A common type of malware being put out by cybercriminals is known as ransomware. Ransomware takes some of your sensitive data and encrypts it so you cannot access it. The cybercriminal then demands a ransom for you to get access to your data. All of the cybersecurity terms you see that end with ware are types of malware.

6. Zero-Day Attacks

One of the biggest weaknesses of antivirus programs or other anti-malware programs is that they can only detect and protect against malware that has already been identified. Cybersecurity experts are constantly on the lookout for new malware, but they are not able to catch every piece of malware before it compromises systems and networks. There are always holes in the protective layers offered by cybersecurity teams. When a piece of malware compromises a hole, or vulnerability, in standardized security layers, it is known as a zero-day attack.

7. Redundant Data

While cybersecurity experts and your IT team are always striving to protect your system and network from attacks, sometimes your data can still become compromised—like with a zero-day attack. The reality of cybersecurity is that there is always the possibility of compromise, which is why backing up your data is a necessity. Not only does backing up your data protect against cybersecurity threats, but it also protects against equipment failures.

A quality backup will be quarantined in a facility that is not in the same location as your business.

8. Patch

A patch is what software developers send out when they discover a gap in the security of their programs. You should download available patches regularly to ensure optimal protection.

9. Intrusion Protection System (IPS)

An IPS is placed between your firewall and your system to identify intrusions and stop them before they cause damage.

For more information about cybersecurity for your business, please contact our team.


Do You Really Need To Eject That USB Drive?

June 28th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Eject USB

USB drives offer so much convenience. A little storage device as big as your finger, you can carry it around without even noticing it—and with every passing year, the amount of data they can hold grows and grows. These small storage devices are so easy and convenient to use that they are found everywhere in the business world, from desk drawers to branded swag drives on keychains. And since they are so easy to pop in and out of your USB drive, if you are like many people, you probably do not even bother to eject them before you take them out of your drive. Is there really any problem with not ejecting your USB drive properly? Unfortunately, the answer is a definite “Yes.”

From losing data to ruining the drive, failing to properly eject your USB drive can lead to real issues. Read on to discover the way your USB drive works and why it is so important to go through the ejection process on your computer.

Removing a USB Drive Without Ejecting—What You Need to Know

How USB Drives and Computers Communicate

Using a USB drive is such a seemingly simple task. But when you look more closely at what goes on with your drive and your computer when they interact, you will discover that the way they work together involves a lot more than just plugging in and unplugging.

When you plug a USB drive into your computer or laptop, the first thing that happens is the computer delivers power through the USB port to the USB drive. The drive does not have its own power source, so it requires power from the computer to operate. After the computer has supplied power, the computer and the drive must communicate with one another.

Proper communication between a computer and a drive requires having the right drivers installed on your computer. Fortunately, today’s drives come equipped with drivers that your computer can download to allow it to communicate with the drive—which is why modern USB drives are considered “plug-and-play.”

When the computer and the drive have established communication, the computer does what it needs to do to figure out what is on the drive. There are multiple steps to just this process, including reading the directory structure, Master Boot Record or Partition Boot Record (the process can vary by drive).

Every one of the things described above happens before you are able to see your USB drive contents on your computer—all within a matter of seconds. There are numerous other things that go on behind the scenes as you use the USB drive as well. While it may seem like the changes you make to your drive happen instantly, in reality, there are multi-stage processes occurring that may take longer than you realize.

Alterations to Your Drive Happen in Batches

As your computer is reading your drive, it is changing the information in the metadata on the files, such as changing the time and date that the file was last modified. Then, when you make changes to files, such as adding or deleting a file, the changes you make will first occur in your computer’s cache. Eventually, your computer will make the actual alterations to the information on your drive. Again, these things happen quickly, but it is important to understand that they do not happen instantly, which is one of the reasons why pulling the drive out can cause problems.

Other Programs May Be Using Your Drive

You see a very small portion of what actually happens with your computer at any given moment. While you may not be interacting with your drive right now, other programs on your computer could be doing so. For example, your antivirus and anti-malware programs could be busy scanning your drive while you are doing other things. Removing the drive while such programs are doing things on your drive can cause the files to be corrupted.

What Happens When You Eject the Drive?

Your computer and your drive have to go through a process to say goodbye just like they had a process to say hello. By pressing the eject button in your system you are telling the computer to start this process and finalize everything so that the drive can be removed safely. The computer will make sure that all of its interactions with the drive are completed before it says that you can safely remove the drive—like waiting until the antivirus is done scanning the drive.

Always Eject the Drive to Avoid Damaging Files or the Drive

Failing to properly eject your USB drive can damage files or corrupt the entire drive. That is why you always want to go through the proper ejection process. Failing to do so could cause you to lose your data on the drive or cause you to lose the ability to use the drive at all.


What Is The Fake DHS Phishing Email Going Around?

June 24th, 2019 by Julie Lough

How Can You and Your Employees Avoid It?

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is warning about an email phishing scam that tricks users into clicking on malicious attachments that look like legitimate Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notifications.

The email campaign uses a spoofed email address to appear like a National Cyber Awareness System (NCAS) alert and lure targeted recipients into downloading malware through a malicious attachment.

DHS Phishing Emails

CISA says that users should take the following actions to avoid becoming a victim of social engineering and phishing attacks:

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails, even if the sender appears to be known; attempt to verify web addresses independently (e.g., contact our helpdesk or search the internet for the main website of the organization or topic mentioned in the email).
  • Use caution with email links and attachments without authenticating the sender. CISA will never send NCAS notifications that contain email attachments.
  • Immediately report any suspicious emails to our helpdesk.

What Is A Phishing Attack?

Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to solicit personal information by posing as a trustworthy organization. For example, an attacker may send email seemingly from a reputable credit card company or financial institution that requests account information, often suggesting that there is a problem.

When users respond with the requested information, attackers can use it to gain access to the accounts. Phishing attacks may also appear to come from other types of organizations, such as charities. Attackers often take advantage of current events and certain times of the year, such as:

  • Natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, earthquakes)
  • Epidemics and health scares (e.g., H1N1)
  • Economic concerns (e.g., IRS scams)
  • Major political elections
  • Holidays

Why Can Email Attachments Be Dangerous?

Some of the characteristics that make email attachments convenient and popular are also the ones that make them a common tool for attackers:

  • Email is easily circulated. Forwarding email is so simple that viruses can quickly infect many machines. Most viruses don’t even require users to forward the email—they scan a users’ computer for email addresses and automatically send the infected message to all of the addresses they find. Attackers take advantage of the reality that most users will automatically trust and open any message that comes from someone they know.
  • Email programs try to address all users’ needs. Almost any type of file can be attached to an email message, so attackers have more freedom with the types of viruses they can send.
  • Email programs offer many “user-friendly” features. Some email programs have the option to automatically download email attachments, which immediately exposes your computer to any viruses within the attachments.

DHS Phishing

How Do You and Your Employees Avoid Being a Victim?

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, visits, or email messages from individuals asking about employees or other internal information. If an unknown individual claims to be from a legitimate organization, try to verify his or her identity directly with the company.
  • Don’t provide personal information or information about your organization, including its structure or networks, unless you are certain of a person’s authority to have the information.
  • Don’t reveal personal or business financial information in an email, and don’t respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent in an email.
  • Don’t send sensitive information over the internet before checking a website’s security.
  • Pay attention to the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of a website. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Don’t use the contact information provided on a website connected to the request; instead, check previous statements for contact information.
  • Ask us to install and maintain anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters to reduce some of this traffic.
  • Take advantage of any anti-phishing features offered by your email client and web browser.

Get New School Security Awareness Training

You must train your employees to be constantly vigilant to identify attackers’ attempts to deceive them. New-School Security Awareness Training will provide the knowledge they need to defend against these attacks.

What Is New-School Security Awareness Training?

More than ever, your users are the weak link in your IT security. You need highly effective and frequent cybersecurity training, along with random Phishing Security Tests that provide several remedial options in case an employee falls for a simulated phishing attack.

With world-class, user-friendly New-School Security Awareness Training, you’ll have training with self-service enrollment, completion logs, and both pre-and post-training phishing security tests that show you who is or isn’t completing prescribed training. You’ll also know the percentage of your employees who are phish-prone.

And with the end-user training interface, your users get a fresh new learner experience that makes learning fun and engaging. It has optional customization features to enable “gamification” of training, so your employees can compete against their peers on leaderboards and earn badges while learning how to keep your organization safe from cyber attacks.

With New-School Security Awareness Training You’ll…

Have Baseline Testing to assess the phish-prone percentage of your users through a free simulated phishing attack.

Train your users with the world’s largest library of security awareness training content; including interactive modules, videos, games, posters and newsletters, and automated training campaigns with scheduled reminder emails.

Phish your users with best-in-class, fully automated simulated phishing attacks, and thousands of templates with unlimited usage, and community phishing templates.

See the results with enterprise-strength reporting that show stats and graphs for both training and phishing, all ready for your management.

New-School Training…

  • Sends Phishing Security Tests to your users and you get your phish-prone percentage.
  • Rolls out Training Campaigns for all users with automated follow-up emails to “nudge” incomplete users, as well as point-of-failure training auto-enrollment.
  • Uses Advanced Reporting to monitor your users’ training progress, and to watch your phish-prone percentage drop.
  • Provides a New Exploit Functionality that allows an internal, fully automated human penetration testing.
  • Includes a New USB Drive Test that allows you to test your users’ reactions to unknown USBs they find.

Plus, you can access Training Access Levels: I, II, and III giving you access to an “always-fresh” content library based on your subscription level. You’ll get web-based, on-demand, engaging training that addresses the needs of your organization whether you have 50, 500 or 5,000 users.

Keep your business from being victimized by phishing attacks.

We can tell you more about New School Security Awareness training for your employees.


What Can A Business Impact Analysis Do For Your Organization?

June 21st, 2019 by Julie Lough

Business Impact Analysis

When a company functions at a high level, productivity and profitability appear seamless. But it’s also incumbent on decision-makers to understand the potential ramifications for business disruption. Without a working knowledge of how a breakdown in one area of an operation impacts the other moving parts, viable solutions remain out of reach. Determined industry leaders take proactive measures to conduct a business impact analysis (BIA), so they are prepared for adversity.

Importance of a BIA

One of the primary reasons that some organizations fail to conduct the initial and subsequent BIAs is that it seems abstract. It’s common for CEOs and other decision-makers to have earned their position through experience and expertise. That offers a sense of confidence they can captain the ship during a crisis. A decade or two ago, that may have been sound thinking. However, today’s technology-driven companies are far removed from nuts and bolts fixes.

Data loss, hackers, malware infiltration, or just lost connectivity between departments can down an outfit’s productivity. Such realities create a burden to have multi-level solutions available that often are outside a CEOs area of expertise. Business leaders are wise to tap department heads to review likely and even unlikely vulnerabilities and develop a contingency plan for as many critical interruptions as imaginable. Consider this pair of foundation ideas in terms of your operation.

  • Idea 1: Your company functions like a living organism with each system relying on the others for its health and vitality.
  • Idea 2: Certain parts of the whole are more crucial to survival and long-term success. These areas require heightened resources.

With this anatomy analogy in mind, consider your operation with the perspective that specific departments and systems are vital. If the heart, brain, or lungs of your operation shut down, so does the entire company. Stubbing your toe, on the other hand, may only slow things. The point is that certain aspects of any business are critical, while others are support.

Once department heads are tapped to conduct a BIA due diligence and submit a report, leadership is tasked with understanding how all the moving parts work. With this in mind, first-run BIAs generally require interdepartmental meetings or communication to ensure key stakeholders are on the same page.

Motivation for Conducting BIA Due Diligence

Having the support and blessing of the leadership team remains critical to a thorough BIA. When such stakeholders view this as just an additional duty impeding their daily, profit-driving work, potential challenges are unlikely to get the due diligence necessary for improved success when a crisis occurs. Before moving forward, direct communication and articulation of why thoroughness is a priority must be established. Clarifying the following benefits of a BIA early in the process may improve team motivation.

  • BIA delivers management with vital data to make real-time decisions to ensure business continuity
  • BIA delivers insight about interdepartmental reliance
  • BIA provides a playbook for employee roles in critical situations
  • Identifies company-wide priorities for sustaining operations during crisis
  • Provides a tangible road map to restore full operations

At the end of the day, the BIA removes the fear of the unknown and puts guidance in its place. That offers otherwise panicking employees the confidence their jobs are secure and empowers them to work through adversity.

Working through the Tedious BIA Process

Getting leadership and rank-and-file employees on board to undertake a BIA is not a difficult sell. The bottom line for everyday workers is that it provides a rare level of job security. Infusing that positive attitude will likely go a long way toward working through the sometimes tedious information collection process. For each department or aspect of the company, data collection is necessary.

  • Lead function of a process or department
  • Detailed analysis of department function and processes
  • Disruption analysis and timetable regarding increased impact
  • Identify interdepartmental disruption
  • Analysis of the financial, legal and regulatory impact of disruption

With a detailed report, departmental leaders garner an enhanced understanding of impacts across the organization. Each department head can identify likely and unlikely disruptions and craft realistic solutions or ways to bridge crisis. This information can be compiled and shared with the goal of building a final report.

Value of a Comprehensive BIA Report

The final report moves beyond the data collection and single department solutions. The concept is to deliver a company-wide plan of action. It generally proves beneficial to make a hardcopy or online report that articulates reasoning, goals, strategies and empowers employees during duress. These are headings often found in a comprehensive BIA report.

  • Executive Summary
  • Analytic Methods Used
  • Potential Department or Function Disruption
  • Impact of Disruption
  • Protocols to Mitigate Disruption
  • Guidance for Organization Restoration

CEOs and other decision-makers generally enjoy enhanced confidence in their leadership abilities following a comprehensive BIA. It’s also imperative to set a schedule for BIA updates and create a policy that requires emerging technologies, business developments, and other evolutions to be included in the report. In many ways, a BIA gives everyone in your organization security.


Cyber Security Advice: 6 Crucial Strategies

June 21st, 2019 by Julie Lough

Computer Security Tips

Cyber security is more important than ever before. The news is full of stories of leaks and breaches large and small. Some of these result from sophisticated, targeted hacks, and others occur thanks to enterprising hackers taking advantage of security holes in insecure or out-of-date software.

At the end of the day, though, just about every organization has the same weak link: its employees. The finest security tools are no match for bad (or just naïve) behavior from your employees. With that in mind, today we’ll review 6 strategies and tips crucial to improving your employees’ cyber security behavior.

1. Use Long, Complex Passwords

People tend to be lazy. It’s a part of human nature. If your IT policies allow people to set their passwords to “password” or “12345”, you can be assured some of your employees will do just that. Short, simple, easy-to-guess passwords are a security threat to your business. Not only can passwords like these be easily guessed by a human, they take next to no time to be brute forced by hacking tools.

Encourage (or, better, require) your employees to use long, complex passwords. A phrase that’s memorable to the employee is a good start. Add in some complex characters (symbols, mix of capital and lowercase) to increase the complexity further.

2. Understand That Everyone Can Be Targeted

Don’t think of cyber crimes in the same way people used to think about military conflict: as something that occurs between large entities with high-powered offensive and defensive capabilities. Yes, it’s the Targets and Experians of the world that make the national news when they are breached, but those high-profile cases are the exception, not the rule.

Smaller hackers aren’t going after hard targets, like governments or Wall Street. They’re going after soft targets: small and medium businesses that think they “can’t afford” good cyber security. In other words, they’re going after you.

3. Don’t Go Swimming and You Won’t Get Phished

One of the best tools hackers use is phishing. Phishing starts with your employees receiving a fake email. It could look like a legit business message or like a message from a vendor or service that you’re already using (like Microsoft Office 365). In other cases it looks interesting, tantalizing, or even salacious. These emails will contain a link or an attachment and will encourage users to click the link and log in or to open the attachment.

But the links and attachments aren’t what they appear to be. Once users do those actions, their credentials or devices are compromised.

Our best advice here is don’t go swimming so you won’t get phished. Don’t click on suspicious links, no matter how interesting they look. Don’t open attachments from unfamiliar accounts. If the email looks to be from a legit service (like Office 365), navigate to that service manually instead of by clicking the link. Lastly, if you’re not sure about an email, check with your IT group before continuing.

Computer Network Security

4. Consider the Security of the Network You’re Using

One of the advantages of cloud services is the ability to access many work systems from anywhere. As more and more firms move to cloud software and cloud services, those firms’ users need to stay up to date on security best practices. Employees dealing with sensitive company information or accessing customer data should only do so on secure networks. Public computers, free Wi-Fi at the corner café, and your cousin’s open Wi-Fi network are all examples of insecure network environments. Save the sensitive stuff for a more secure environment like the office.

5. Be Physically Aware

Many cyber attacks are perpetrated through actual, physical access to systems. Employees can be shockingly careless with company tech. If you walk away from your computer, phone, or tablet — even just for a second — lock the device. This is true even in your own cubicle or office. You never know when a disgruntled coworker might attempt to compromise something while posing as you.

Also, make sure employees understand that devices can be compromised by anything that’s plugged into them. Computers can be compromised by plugging in a flash drive or SD card that’s infected with malware. Be sure you trust the source of any external device that’s coming into your company.

6. Beware Social Engineering

Employees also need to watch out for social engineering schemes. These are similar to phishing schemes, but instead of stealing credentials using a fake form or website, thieves convince employees to hand credentials over outright. Don’t be afraid to hang up on (or stop emailing with) someone claiming to be from an important vendor (we’ll use Microsoft again). If anyone is asking an employee to supply credentials or to take actions on your computer or network, that’s a huge red flag. Legitimate vendor contacts likely wouldn’t need the employee to do this for them. Employees can call back directly using a number they know is legitimate. If the concern is real, the real support team will know about it.

Conclusion

These 6 strategies will help your employees resist cyber intrusions, but there is so much more for your team to know. For more comprehensive help with your cyber security strategy, contact us today.


How CEOs Can Use Their Blog To Communicate With Staff & Customers

June 18th, 2019 by Julie Lough

CEO Blog

As a CEO, you have tremendous influence over your company’s brand, messaging, values and strategies. You also have a personal brand that increasingly today needs its own shaping, nurturing and feeding.

One powerful way to improve your personal brand and your company’s messaging is to have your own blog. Your voice, insights, opinions and news needs a vehicle that can project your thoughts across multiple channels.

Knowing why a blog makes sense and best practices is an ideal way to get started.

Why Should I Create a CEO Blog?

First, consider the multiple audiences to which your voice matters. There are stakeholders and in some cases shareholders that value your communication.

Internal blogs allow you to communicate to employees in a very different way. The benefits include:

  • Providing an up close and personal insider perspective on work, values and messages you want to convey
  • Promoting your internal persona
  • Promoting and reinforcing key messages
  • Building and celebrating a positive company culture
  • Fostering two-way communication between the c-suite and other employees

What Is the Difference Between Internal and External CEO Blogs?

External blogging has its own advantages. The tone and content of internal and external blogging likely will be different but the tone, themes and messaging should remain consistent. The advantages of external blogs are:

  • Thought leadership. Insights on industry trends, needs, challenges and transformation help establish you as a leader in your field.
  • Valued added. Customers and potential customers are more likely to choose your business if you can provide them with valuable, needed information that helps them do their business better.
  • Authenticity. Build authenticity with external stakeholders with consistent valued content, especially in challenging times or crises. That’s when your voice should be loud, not silent.
  • A face with a brand. Too often companies, especially as they grow larger, become faceless. A blog helps put a human face on your business and brand. Your blog helps keep your business front of mind, especially when they see your information popping up regularly in email inboxes and on social media.
  • Brand loyalty. Customers are going to come back when the products and services they receive are of high value. A blog can help in reinforcing your commitments to quality, customer service and continuous improvement.
  • Spreading your message. When your content is compelling, readers will like, share and forward it to others. This viral marketing, at no additional cost to you, spreads your brand and your thought leadership.
  • Beating the competition. It’s likely some of your competitors are blogging. Get ahead of them with better, regular and more valuable information.

In a 2016 New York Times article, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who focuses much of his energy now on his philanthropic foundation, spoke about why he blogs. “It … helps to have a platform for talking about the work I’m doing, both through the foundation and separate from it, because I find people are curious about it,” Gates said.

What Makes for a Successful CEO Blog?

The best CEO blogs are authentic. They don’t just regurgitate press releases or quarterly results. They inject humanity and persona into the work that your company does and gives you a visible, recognizable brand. Here are some other elements of a successful CEO blog:

  • Personalization to a point. This is not the place to talk about your son’s high school graduation. However, personalization is important. Instead, offer glimpses behind the curtain about why and how decisions were made or what you see as key issues or opportunities in the industry.
  • Design matters. You want your blog to be easily readable, especially on mobile devices.
  • Onmichannel. Content is valuable … and you and your marketing team should strategize about how to get the most out of what you provide. Longer blog posts can be followed up by other content — written by you or others — that points back to your hub information. Posts should be teased or delivered via multiple social media platforms. Depending on your business, that may include LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
  • No jargon. Inside baseball is cool, but not when no one can understand what you’re writing. If you’re going to use jargon, be sure that it commonly used within your industry. Otherwise, you could alienate existing and potential customers.
  • Focus on customers. All of your blog content should have a singular focus: What do our customers need? Whether it’s product information, industry news or company information, be sure that it is written to help customers solve problems. Ideally, those problems are those your company is uniquely qualified to address.
  • Use humor … if it’s funny. Humor is a lot harder to write than you would think. Written words cannot easily express tone, pace and intent. Humor adds a personal element to your writing, but it has to be done with care and strategically.

Where Can I Find Good Examples of CEO Blogs?

Looking for inspiration for your own blog? There are plenty of sources of great CEO blogs and leadership blogs from which to take inspiration. Here are a few examples to review:

CEO blogging can have a deep impact on internal and external messaging. With a clear understanding of goals and tips, your blog will be ready to be published.


These 4 Issues are Paralyzing CFOs from Moving to the Cloud

June 14th, 2019 by Julie Lough

CFO and Information Technology

CFOs have long been challenged by the value proposition of capital technology investments, often requiring in-depth analysis and reviews before making the plunge. While the lower monthly costs of cloud-based computing may overcome this inertia in some instances, CFOs are understandably nervous about committing to “rentals” of software or services that don’t have an extended life beyond the end of the subscription. While the CFO may not be reviewing each purchase for IT fit, they are likely intensely interested in whether they are getting the expected value from any technology purchases that are made. The CFOs leaning may help influence purchases for quite some time, making it vital to ensure that your CFO fully understands the benefits of moving to the cloud so you can break through their paralysis of analysis. Here are 4 of the sticking points that are pushing CFOs away from adoption of a more agile, extensible model for technology.

1. Communicate Key Risk Factors for Adoption

Like any technology, cloud platforms are only truly valuable if you gain widespread adoption throughout your user base. CFOs may have been burned in the past with projects that had an extensive upfront cost, yet didn’t deliver the expected business value after an extended implementation period. CIOs and other IT leaders can help mitigate this risk by addressing the root causes behind the poor adoption rates. Cloud solutions can be particularly challenging to sell, simply because they are predicated on the concept of continual change — something that is a struggle for many organizations.

2. Reassure CFOs That Technology Will Be Analyzed and “Rightsized” for Cloud

Financial business leaders are rarely happy with having assets on the books that aren’t being utilized, but legacy technology has a way of hanging around long after its useful life has been expended. When you reassure CFOs that you won’t simply be transferring efficiency problems to a new type of infrastructure — that you’re first resolving and appropriately sizing the solutions for your future business needs — they are more likely to be open to the conversation about a move. Gaining efficiencies and improving operations are always topics near and dear to the heart of CFOs. This could manifest in a variety of ways such as analyzing server and peak memory usage, looking for system vulnerabilities that can be addressed and reducing overall software licensing requirements.

3. Yes, There Are Ongoing Variable Costs — But They Are Balanced by Added Value

Traditional software models include an upfront purchase cost and an associated ongoing maintenance fee to obtain upgrades. Over the life of a contract, maintenance fees can increase and there may be charges over time for significant upgrades that aren’t covered in your service model. Newer options are introduced to the market on a regular basis, but a high sunk cost in a particular platform serves to discourage new investments in other platforms. With cloud-based platforms you may still have a multi-year contract, but once that time is over it may be significantly easier to shift to a new platform. Granted, there are likely integration costs and training and general disruption to your business to consider, but you may be able to recognize compelling benefits by changing to a new cloud-based service. Plus, most cloud software has the benefit of regular releases that will provide enhanced usability, resolve bugs and create a more secure computing environment. The financial equation becomes slightly more difficult to sell to your CFO if your usage is expected to vary considerably from month-to-month, as it can make cash flow more difficult to project.

4. Cloud Performance Has Improved Dramatically in This Decade

Sure, there are still some platforms that are not fully optimized and don’t run as quickly as they would on a local server — but we are no longer in a world where “cloud” equates to poor performance, latency and a lack of security. Ultra-fast connections throughout the country and the world and high-performance data centers offer a new level of service deliverability. While it’s still important to carefully review contracts to ensure that SLAs and reliability levels are up to your expectations, these should no longer be used to deliver a no-go decision on moving to the cloud.

Having an honest internal conversation with top leadership helps determine which — or all — of these concerns are holding back your CFO from approving cloud-based projects. While financial considerations are often top of mind, there are other risk factors that need to be openly addressed in a way that communicates the overall value to the organization.


Happy Father’s Day!

June 14th, 2019 by Julie Lough

June 16th is Father’s Day, a great reason to spend a little quality time with the family doing a few of Dad’s favorite things.

 

Whatever your plans are, take some time this Sunday to let Dad know how much you appreciate everything he’s done for you over the years, and how glad you are to have him in your life.

And if this is your day? The Micro Visions Inc. team hopes that it’s a great one!

Happy Fathers Day


How Much Should A Small Business Spend On Information Technology?

June 13th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Investing In Technology

For small businesses, information technology spending is always a balancing act. On the one hand, you need to keep to your budget to maintain financial stability and weather the unexpected. On the other hand, you are well aware of the constant tech advances happening all around you and the last thing you want is to be left behind by the competition. So, how do you determine your IT spending? The answer is, “It depends.”

Spending on IT technology needs to be based on your unique business needs. While it can be helpful to know what the average spending is for businesses, particularly businesses similar to yours in your industry, duplicating what another company does will not necessarily yield optimal results. You have a limited budget. You need to make it count. Doing so requires carefully examining your business, your options, and most importantly, your company objectives. Only when you know where you are and where you want to go can you determine exactly what you need to spend on IT.

What is Everyone Else Spending on IT?

Just because you need to define your own path does not mean you should ignore what everyone else is doing. It can be a helpful starting point to examine how much other small businesses are spending on technology. According to one study, the average spending on IT across all industries was 3.28 percent. The average came from considering a wide range of industries, with the lowest spender being construction at less than 2 percent and the biggest spender being banking and securities at 7 percent.

A study focusing on industry alone does not give a clear idea of what small businesses are spending, though. Other studies that looked at the size of the business found that small and mid-sized businesses actually spent more on IT as a percentage of their revenue than large businesses. Small businesses spend around 6.9% of their revenue on information technology, while midsized businesses spend around 4.1% of their revenue on IT. For large companies, the percentage drops to 3.2%. The smaller percentage spent by larger companies is often the result of scale—they put so much money into IT that they get better rates, perform the work in-house, etc.

How to Decide What You Should Spend on IT

The best way to choose how much to spend on IT is to ask targeted questions designed to paint a clearer picture of what your IT needs actually are. These questions should include:

What are you spending on IT right now?

Every business needs an IT budget, regardless of size. If you don’t have an IT budget, now is the time to make one. To see how much you have been spending on IT, add up your expenditures on information technology over the past year.

What are your business goals?

With so many options available, it is normal to feel a little overwhelmed when you consider information technology. Clarifying your business goals gives you perspective on your IT needs. Your IT expenditures should help you achieve specific business objectives. If the money you are spending on IT is not helping you achieve those objectives in a measurable way, it can likely be better spent elsewhere—either on different IT tools or on other areas of your business.

How is your current IT spending related to your business goals?

Each IT area that you invest money in, can and should be connected to your business objectives. Go through all of your information technology spending and verify that it is doing something for your business. If it is not working for you it is time to make some changes.

What specific IT spending can improve your ability to achieve your objectives?

There are specific areas in IT that offer leverage for your industry. You will need to identify what these are and determine how they fit into your overall strategy. Collaboration, security, data collection, marketing—what tech are you fairly certain will make a substantial impact if you add it to your business?

In what ways can you delegate or outsource the IT budgeting process?

If you are like most owners or managers, you have limited bandwidth that is already mostly consumed by running your business. Assessing your IT needs and embarking on a path to meet those needs will take time, energy and expertise. Consider who you can get to help with this process, whether internally or externally.

Are you interested in learning more about your IT options? If so, please contact our managed IT services team. We can help you clarify your IT needs.


How to Install Microsoft Launcher on Android Devices

June 12th, 2019 by Julie Lough

If you haven’t looked lately at what Microsoft’s mobile offerings, it’s time to look again. Microsoft’s first forays into the iOS and Android mobile spaces (circa 2010) were underwhelming to say the least, but in recent years the company has turned things around in an impressive fashion. One of these recent developments, Microsoft Launcher, is an immensely powerful tool and an Android exclusive. We’ll review what Microsoft Launcher is and then walk you through the installation and setup process on your Android device.

Microsoft Launcher Android

What Is Microsoft Launcher?

Microsoft Launcher is an app available on the Google Play store, but it doesn’t operate in the way most apps do. In the Android ecosystem, launchers are essentially replacement interfaces for your home screen. When you select a launcher besides the default one that comes with your phone, you gain access to whatever functionality is built into that launcher.

I’m an iPhone User and I’m Confused

It’s OK; we understand. There’s not really any parallel to this on iOS. Android phones offer far more customization on the home screen than iPhones do. It’s a difference in philosophy: Android users who customize effectively benefit from a polished, streamlined home screen. Those who don’t end up with a mess. Apple prevents both extremes by providing their own polished home screen and limiting what users can modify.

What Microsoft Launcher Can Do

Microsoft Launcher gives you system-level integration with your Microsoft accounts. This is powerful stuff if your business is using Microsoft 365. Integrate your contacts, calendar, documents, and more at the system level. Once installed, swipe right for deep Microsoft interactions, or swipe two fingers down to access Launcher settings.

How to Install Microsoft Launcher

To install and configure Microsoft Launcher, first download the app from the Google Play store. Next, choose Microsoft Launcher as your new home screen. In most versions of Android you’ll tap the square soft key from the home screen to bring up a “select launcher” pane. If that doesn’t work, try opening the app from your “all apps” menu.

When you choose Microsoft Launcher as your new launcher, you’ll get a system warning about setting the app as default. Click OK.

What Just Happened?

When you clicked OK, your home screen changed, perhaps drastically. Congratulations, you’re now running Microsoft Launcher! Customize your home screen with your favorite apps (Microsoft apps encouraged, of course), and be sure to sign in to your Microsoft account in settings.

Swipe Right

When running Microsoft Launcher as your home screen, you can swipe right for all sorts of Microsoft interactions. See your calendar, task list, and recent OneDrive documents. You can interact with these here, and changes will update across all your devices. You can even send a photo directly to your PC, similar to Apple’s Airdrop feature.

Conclusion

Microsoft Launcher is a powerful tool for Android users who use Microsoft 365 at work. We recommend downloading right away!