7 Basic Network Security Tips for Small Businesses

7 Basic Network Security Tips for Small Businesses

Some small businesses might think it’s reasonable to assume that hackers and data thieves only go after large targets. Of course these same criminals are well aware of this assumption, which is precisely why they know small businesses are often ripe for exploitation. According to CNBC, in 2019 small businesses were the targets of 43% of all cyberattacks, and more than half of them suffered some type of breach within the previous 12-month period.

Thankfully, there are some basic strategies that small businesses can employ to help them reduce their risk of ever having to experience a cyber attack.

Strong Passwords

Using a strong password is such a simple way to discourage hackers, yet many people still avoid using them.  Employers can enforce the use of strong passwords by requiring their systems to only accept passwords that consist of a combination of letters, special characters and/or numbers, and are at least 8 characters long. For even better protection, enforcing the use of  two-factor authentication provides another layer of security as it requires those attempting to log in to identify themselves by entering a code sent to their phone or email.

Secure the Corporate Wi-Fi

Businesses should always secure their Wi-Fi signal by requiring users to enter a password before gaining access. Leaving a Wi-Fi signal unsecured is simply another point of entry that leaves corporate software and data at risk for exploitation. 

Controlling Access

Employees should only have access to data and software on a need-to-know basis. Access to confidential information should be password protected and access to certain software applications should only be given to those required to use the software. Needless to say, a company should protect access to their network, requiring users to identify themselves before allowing access.

Encrypt Confidential Information

Some employees must use portable and removable media as part of their job responsibilities. Especially when working with confidential data, it’s important for companies to ensure that portable data is encrypted to prevent unauthorized access in the event the media becomes lost or is stolen.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Companies should ask themselves if they are fully prepared if a long term power outage should occur, or worse, an event such as a fire, flood, or some other type of natural disaster. If the answer is negative, they are overdue to get serious about developing a disaster recovery plan. Even small businesses are very dependent upon their hardware, software applications, and corporate data to conduct their daily business operations. Preparing a disaster recovery plan in advance means a company will be able to easily replace vital technology if a catastrophic event should occur.

Applying Updates/Performing Backups

Applying the latest software and hardware updates and patches will allow companies to avoid malware and viruses that hackers often attach to outdated systems.  In addition, performing regular backups and making sure they can be easily restored is vital to ensure that a company’s data is secure and readily available.

Educate Employees

Most business owners clearly understand their ability to successfully conduct daily operations is very dependent upon having accurate and secure data to work with. However, sometimes employees may only consider how inconvenient certain security measures may make their daily tasks more challenging. Using a password of “1234” for every application they log into is convenient since it’s very easy to remember, but weak passwords also leave business owners vulnerable to exploitation. This is where training employees on the “why” of security measures is so important. Employers can also train their employees to spot potential issues such as a suspicious email or an unsecured web page asking for confidential information.

Summary 

Companies should not feel discouraged if they find that safely and securely supporting their IT infrastructure is challenging. These types of challenges are precisely why Bluwater Technologies can help.

If you would like more information on how we can provide the technological support and security you need, please contact us.

5 Outsourcing Questions for Choosing Small Business IT Support

5 Questions to Ask When Choosing Small Business IT Support

One true fact is that no company in the second decade of the 21st Century does business without leveraging some type of technology. Hence, no company in this digital age doesn’t need IT support.

When you’re getting your small business up and running, hiring a full-time IT professional, let alone a whole team of IT experts, is something that you probably can’t afford. Nevertheless, you cannot afford not to have an IT team, because you very much need it. What to do?

Luckily, many IT service providers offer small business IT support to those companies that cannot afford to hire full-time IT professionals. If you’re considering outsourcing the IT functions of your small business to an IT service provider, then there are several crucial questions to ask your potential partner in technology.

Do you specialize in any industry?

Finding out the specific industries that your potential IT company specializes in is a crucial first step. For instance, if they make 60 percent or more of their revenues from logistics companies and you are a law firm, there is likely going to be some issues.

It’s best to outsource to an IT company that is conversant with the ins and outs of your industry and offers technology solutions that are valuable for businesses in your specific industry. An IT services provider who has enough experience in your field will understand your unique software and hardware needs, thus will spend less time familiarizing themselves with foreign applications and more time optimizing technology for success.

What services are included in your IT support contracts?

“We cover everything” is an answer that sure sounds good, but it is not the one you are looking for. You have to ask yourself, does “everything” means that all their services are preventative, proactive, or both?

It is important to understand your business needs beforehand, and then ask the IT provider if they offer the services that your business needs. Also, should you experience technical issues with your server that necessitate a replacement, will the replacement be covered by the contract, or will it attract additional costs?

How flexible are your IT support options?

IT support providers offer varying degrees of support, depending on their clients’ IT needs and budgets. As a small business, you not only need an IT provider that fosters company growth, but that is also capable of adapting their IT services to fluctuations in your business environment.

A reliable IT support provider is the one that is able to provide a variety of customizable solutions. For instance, the IT company should not only serve as your fully outsourced IT department, but it should also provide expert consulting to help create a solid IT plan that supports our company’s long-term goals.

Will we have a dedicated account manager?

It is of essence that you know who to contact in case of IT issues. Ask the IT provider whether you should reach out to an account manager, support desk, or the IT technicians themselves. A good IT support provider is one that appoints a dedicated account manager to handle responsibilities such as answering your questions, scheduling face-to-face meetings, etc.

How much does your service cost

When talking to a prospective IT support provider, you should be able to get a very close estimate of what it will cost to manage and support your IT network. Besides providing you with an estimate, they should also give clear and understandable reasons to justify their service cost. With these estimates, you can be able to compare the provider with other prospective IT support providers to find the one that offers the level of support your business needs at a cost that you can afford.

Conclusion

Deciding to outsource your small business IT support services is a big smart decision. The above five questions can help you to choose the IT company that is best suited for the job.

With the right IT support company, you will be able to establish a favorable client-provider relationship and set your business up for success.

Stepping it up for the Small Business

Small Business

Successful businesses usually start off as visions to be realized only through a duration of hard work. Regardless of whether the business is started in the home or in a more industrialized area, however, a successful business will generally grow and when that happens, in most cases, the computer technology-needs of the business will change — computer equipment will need to be upgraded. Entrepreneurs, particularly those running relatively small businesses, typically start off with gear that’s being stored in a closet or already sitting on a desktop. When there’s a strong speculation that profits will be coming in or that upgrading equipment will help generate more profit, it’s time to upgrade computer equipment. 

Coming to understanding as to what equipment is needed does not have to be a painstaking task — neither does learning how to use it. Learning to use computer equipment could be considered a business expense at first, whether it’s time or money being spent. But once the minimal knowledge is obtained, it will pay off in the long run saving costs on having to outsource technical support to computer-support firms. There is no exact science, however, on how or when the assistance of computer-support technicians may be used — through self-study, one may learn what is needed only as it becomes necessary. Whatever the case, the internet is generally the best friend of the small business owner when starting the business — a plethora of information exists therein that can save on having to consult computer-help firms.

In many cases, entrepreneurs starting out don’t have time to research some of the money-saving bits of information that can be obtained from the internet to efficiently run the computer equipment they’re using — in some cases, self-managing computer equipment can also bring on damaging results due to a general lack of insight as to how the technology works. Bluewater Technologies specializes in helping to start, build, and maintain successful businesses — please contact us if assistance is needed in the management of computer equipment.

IT Support: Protecting Your Small Business

Small Business

Often times, the largest holes in a business are created by employees. Since there is no surefire prevention method for employee errors, this is why one small or big human error can cause a breach of security. In order to reduce any risks in your workplace, Bluewater Technologies want to suggest some policies that we think you should consider implementing if you want to avoid security breaches and other security threats.

Company Data

Do you allow your employees to complete work-related assignments on their own devices? Whether you do so or not, it is still important that your workplace has a policy regarding BYOD. If you have some employees who are not fully aware of where the company stands on bringing their own devices, you may have some employees who are using their own devices to work. Establishing a policy about BYOD and adding it into an updated handbook will leave no doubt on where you stand on BYOD. You should also make sure your employees understand that data that is located on any workplace system belongs to the business. Employees will not be able to remove any data from business properly without being authorized to do so. 

Passwords

We know there have been many discussions about passwords and the importance of creating one that is complex. Unfortunately, many employees still create passwords that are easy for someone to hack. If your business does get hacked due to an employee business account using a simple password, the entire business will be at stake. A password policy can explain the importance of complex passwords and encourage your employees to avoid using passwords that are easy to crack.

World Wide Web

Employees spend quite some time on the internet on a daily basis. In order for you to ensure none of your employees are putting your business at risk, we encourage you to create an internet policy. Your policy can prohibit any downloads that have not been authorized or it can restrict various websites during work hours. You may also want to include policies related to using business laptops, mobile devices, etc. on networks outside of the workplace, especially if those networks are public.

We understand how complex it can be to create internet policies, password policies, and more, but taking the steps to ensure your business is safe is important to keep the hackers away. If you think your business needs to make changes in regards to security practices or if you need the proper IT support to protect your business, do not hesitate to contact us today.

Benefits of IT Support for Small Businesses

IT Support

The probability of thriving in an environment with huge corporations and established companies is minimal if you are a small business operator without the necessary support you need. Several strategies can help small businesses surmount the competition in their respective industries including the adoption of the right marketing strategy and investing in technology.

Unfortunately, small enterprises do not have adequate resources to invest in IT services, which is a prerequisite for achieving success. Outsourcing your IT services from reliable vendors can help your small establishment achieve set objectives as it grows. Here are the benefits of seeking the help of external IT support service providers for your small business.

It Reduces Downtime

Experiencing lengthy downtimes is a severe setback for small businesses that rely heavily on technology. Since systems are prone to failure on various occasions due to diverse reasons, you cannot afford to remain without a backup plan as a small business operator. Engaging a credible third-party IT service provider in offering support services for the systems within your small firm, will eliminate the frustrations of unnecessary downtime.

IT support service vendors can provide several services including data backups, regular maintenance, and system updates, in addition to ensuring quick response in case the unexpected happens thus taming system downtime.

Ability to Leverage Latest Technology

It is needless to say that in the world of technology what is relevant today will become irrelevant tomorrow. The demands of customers are also changing every day, and you need to remain informed to stay ahead of the curve. As a small business operator, you may have difficulties researching on the latest innovations to incorporate in your operations to promote productivity.

A professional IT support services provider will help your small business to leverage the latest advancements in technology so that you can compete favorably with others in your industry.

It Promotes The Achievement of Core Objectives

Most small business operators lose focus on what they should pursue as the primary objective of their enterprises when they shift attention to their IT requirements. Divided attention will undoubtedly lower the productivity of your business, and that is why you need to hire third-party IT support service providers.

Releasing the responsibility of IT support to a qualified vendor of these services allows you to commit more time and resources to projects requiring your attention for your company to achieve set objectives. If you need more information on the benefits of IT support services for small businesses, contact us today!