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What’s Going On?
Axis Computer Networks wants to keep you up to date on the latest news that affects your IT strategy and investments, and also let you know about services and programs we offer to keep your systems and networks running efficiently and securely.
Keep Your Network Secure and Your Business on Track with Managed Services that Work the Way You Do
It never fails. You’re really rolling on your computer work—knocking item after item on that to-do list—and are on the way to having a great, productive morning. Then, it happens, you get the notification. Software Update Available.
Don’t worry, it will be seamless and easy! Just click “Update Now.” Then, enter the password (surely you know your password…)—no, not that one, the one for the operating system. Is the update from a trusted source? Um, you think so… Then watch your productivity grind to a halt as your Wi-Fi connection shifts all its resources to downloading a 9 GB file. How can the update take up more memory than the application? Now all that’s left is to restart your computer. Wait! Did you save all the work in your open files?
Is it any wonder we all click, “Try again later” when these updates come up? After all, those productive mornings seem to be more and more widely spaced on our calendars, as we’re pulled in more and more directions. The problem is, this can be a critical mistake. This kind of maintenance pays dividends down the road. It’s like doing the preventative maintenance on your car—you’re just less likely to have catastrophic failures down the road if you take a look under the hood now and again, and keep the oil changed, make sure the coolant and steering fluid are at the right levels, and other details.
Same goes for your computer network. If you don’t keep up the systems you rely on every day, they can let you down, often without warning. But unlike keeping up the systems on your car, your computer system maintenance includes patches and updates that plug holes in the security framework that your network uses to keep your data safe.
That’s where a proactive partner like Axis Computer Networks comes in. We help your team keep the software up to date, following manufacturers’ recommendations to ensure known problems are patched and addressed. We can help do this on individual workstations, but also on the network level so critical to maintaining data security.
Best of all, we don’t believe in the trends that many of our competitors follow, using long-term contracts to extract guaranteed money from clients on a regular basis. It’s our policy to offer the best service we can to all of our clients, whether they have a long-term contract or stick with us on a month-to-month basis.
We call our managed services program ProactiveIT because we keep an eye on the metrics and keys in all of your systems that allow us to head off problems before they affect your business with network downtime, data loss, or other issues that can damage your credibility with your clients, customers, and vendors. Put simply, we’re a medium-size business too, and we know what concerns our customers have, and how best to approach them.
Ransomware Is Bad for Everyone
For anyone following the news out of the world of cybersecurity recently, it seemed to just get worse and worse.
First, the major “fuel aorta” of the eastern U.S.—now known to everyone as The Colonial Pipeline—got hit with a ransomware attack that caused managers to take it offline. This caused price hikes and panic fuel-buying, leading to long lines at gas stations.
Then, word came out that the attack was conducted by cybercriminals affiliated with a shadowy hacker gang called DarkSide. DarkSide publicly claimed that it has “principles” and won’t target certain types of business including hospitals, funeral homes, educational institutions, nonprofits, or the government. DarkSide’s stated goal is simply to make money, not cause societal problems, according to their statements, and so they target businesses with the cashflow that would allow the victims to pay the ransom. Still, many cybersecurity experts thought DarkSide seemed suspiciously related to REvil, also known as Sodinokibi, a Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) operation. They were looking for $5 million worth of Bitcoin in exchange for providing the decryption key to unlock Colonial’s files.
Since this attack, the largest meat processor in the country and a major hospital system have also been hit. Remember, these are the attacks we’re hearing about—small- to mid-size businesses that are attacked don’t make the news, even when they are a key driver of the American economy, both locally and nationally, and employ millions of workers across the country.
Ransomware attacks can hamstring any business, causing lost time and therefore lost revenue, plus a crisis of confidence among customers who learn their data may be at risk of turning up on the dark web.
Let’s take this crisis as an example, and walk around in Colonial Pipeline’s shoes for a while. Imagine our hypothetical business is subject to a ransomware attack, we don’t hear anything from anyone, we just start losing access to file after file on our network. Reports indicate that the DarkSide attack requires just one networked computer to gain a foothold and seize our data and files.
Then the message is received—a text message explains that our files have been encrypted, and, in the case of the DarkSide attack, our data has been stolen. The message gives us an amount that must be paid, and a deadline. Usually the amount is exorbitant, but not completely beyond the realm of being paid (after all, the criminals’ goal is to get the money, right?). In this way, ransomware can be a nuisance—or worse—to owners of any size business.
What do we do? Aside from feeling quite powerless, we think about paying, as much as the idea makes us angry.
Who are we going to call? The police? More likely we’ll have more success contacting our IT consultant or managed services provider, though there’s likely little to be done to help our situation.
UNLESS we had the foresight to set up a disaster recovery plan. At Axis Computer Networks, we offer the only 100-percent-effective response to ransomware attacks. Network security is key of course, but the hackers eventually will find their way through any secure system. The only protection against ransomware is to expect it will happen, and plan accordingly.
According to Statista.com there were 304 million ransomware attacks in 2020. And while small- and medium-size business owners may think (read: hope) they’ll be overlooked by criminals, it’s actually quite common that these bad actors can make a good living targeting smaller companies who may not have the resources to build the security infrastructure that can make them a more challenging target.
Worse yet, imagine our company got hit, and we scrape together the cash and pay the ransom. Who’s to say they won’t come back and do it again next week? Or next month? Or tomorrow? Even if they say they won’t. What is the word of a criminal worth?
Take the upper hand. Learn about setting up a Disaster Recovery Program. We’re happy to talk to you about your options.
And now for the good news: As we wrote this blog, DarkSide’s servers were shut down, its Bitcoin accounts were drained, and all of its outstanding victims were said to receive their decryption codes. Whether the gang was broken up by an international consortium of law enforcement agencies, was threatened into submission by organized crime, or backed off because the attack became too high profile with round-the-clock media coverage, we may never know. Bottom line, no one wants to be in a position where they have to decide what their business is worth to them, as it hangs in the balance.
Let’s hope the only DarkSide we ever hear about from now on is that great Pink Floyd album.
[Contact us today to learn more about setting up a disaster recovery plan. You may be surprised how easy and reasonable it is. And how good you feel once it’s done.]
Hack Your Network to See Security Flaws
Security has become such a basic part of our everyday lives, we don’t even think about it. Consider the phishing calls, texts, and emails every one of us sees over the course of each day. Complacency can be dangerous, lulling us into that false sense of security. That’s why everyone deals with passwords all day every day. Every time we touch a computer or a smartphone, we’re either keying in a password or letting our device use a stored password to log on. In fact, many people, including your employees (and you?) are speeding through their logins with saved passwords.
Now, wait one second, you may be thinking: Does your company’s security policy and onboarding process address the fact that people use stored passwords to access your network on a device? Or, more importantly, do you know how this can impact the safety of your company’s data?
Now before you send out that scathing company-wide email, you should know: Stored passwords are not necessarily problematic on their own, so long as your team retains control over their devices—the laptops and cell phones that are used to access the data. After all, the whole idea behind those automatically generated “strong passwords” is that the users don’t need to remember a long and seemingly random sequence of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Instead, those passwords are meant to be remembered by a device, preferably one protected by its own strong (and not stored) password, and, even better, protected by a two-factor authentication system and/or a biometric authentication.
At Axis Computer Networks, we know data security and we take it very seriously. When it comes to protecting your data, we can help with a NIST security audit. This is a free service we provide, and there’s no obligation.
What is a NIST Security Audit?
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes industrial innovation. The mission of the agency also promotes competitiveness and maintains frameworks for cybersecurity, security and control, and risk management. The NIST cybersecurity audit is the first step to establishing the level of conformity to a standard.
At Axis Computer Networks, we will perform the audit to establish the level that a network or system conforms to a standard. While this audit is the initial step to provide guidance for a full NIST Assessment under the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, it can also serve to provide insight into the security levels of the network.
Hack Your Own Network?
If you don’t work with us already, our status as a true outsider to your network works to our mutual advantage, since it lets us approach the NIST Cybersecurity Audit with the same calculating, cold approach a hacker would use. The audit process shows us weak points in your network security. We then share the report with you, so you can see where the flaws are in your system. After that, you can decide how to proceed, whether you want our recommendations and assistance to secure your network, or use your own in-house resources to solve the problem.
We also can help you train your team to improve their personal security. The phishing programs and social engineering used to trick people into sharing their passwords are all carefully monitored and tracked, and we can apprise your team of the latest developments in the frontline battle of cybersecurity. The personnel on your team could present a security risk, and our training can help transform them into one of your strongest lines of defense.
Does Your Computer System Support Your Business? Or Is It the Other Way Around?
Small- and mid-sized businesses have never been built to grow and scale like they have today. In large part, that’s thanks to technology. Some companies build their systems for what they need at the moment, but today many of them create their networks to be ready to take them where they’re going. At Axis Computer Networks, we’ve seen both kinds of businesses at work, and we know how to help set them each on a path to success.
Axis Computer Networks believes in the power of small- and mid-sized businesses to lead the way with smart innovation, creative solutions that fill market needs, and the best customer service around. These companies need networks and systems to support them that are built to the same principles, and that’s where we come in.
Every business is different, and they all have a different set of goals and challenges. Think about how a business is built and grows: A founder has an idea, and builds the business into a reality, nurturing it by providing the tools it needs, seizing on opportunities, and overcoming complications. The company continues to grow with good planning and investment in the future, but not every management team has expertise on what technology is available to help.
Understand three things about Axis Computer Networks:
- We’ll never hold your IT hostage with long-term service contracts.
- We believe in transparency, so we provide a record of our work you can access any time.
- We strive to provide clients with institutional knowledge of their systems.
Plan your business now to be what you want it to be. IT strategy is good business—it allows your business to remain responsive and reap the benefits of advanced systems. We can help you create a tech strategy that won’t hold you back, but also works with your needs today.
Protect your business from security threats and ransomware. We have tools that allow us to create a foolproof protection against ransomware—it’s the only 100-percent effective solution. It also works on other issues, including physical disasters, including fire and flooding. The only problem: It has to be set up in advance.
Security is on everyone’s mind these days. How protected is your business? Let Axis Computer Networks audit your systems and identify any weaknesses. We can find missing software updates, neglected patches, and other flaws—and help you find ways to fix them.
Axis Computer Networks Introduces Scott Wonkka as a New Business Development Manager
Axis Computer Networks is pleased to announce Scott Wonkka has joined the company as business development manager and key accounts manager. Bringing his varied business experience to the role, Wonkka will use his expertise to understand the goals of each client, and to customize Axis Computer Network services to the particular needs of each business. This will be Wonkka’s second stint with the company.
“We’re excited to welcome Scott Wonkka back to Axis Computer Networks, and we know his focus will help us expand our services with existing clients as well as broaden our customer base,” says Josh Molin, president of Axis Computer Networks. “His top-to-bottom understanding of Axis made him the ideal person for this job, and our clients will benefit from learning about how to choose and utilize our service offerings effectively.”
Wonkka understands what makes businesses work and, with management experience ranging from lumber to digital imaging to media services, he knows how successful employers empower their teams to be more effective, and that the network can play a key role in success.
“Axis Computer Networks helps companies use technology to maximize efficiency, share information, and improve communication,” Wonkka says. “My role here is making sure business owners and managers understand the services available to them to eliminate downtime and optimize productivity. At Axis, we feel the equipment should help a business achieve targets and make people’s lives better. We pay attention to the systems so businesses can focus on growing and making money.”
Axis Computer Networks sets itself apart from other service providers by letting clients maintain control of their networks without requiring long-term agreements. Clients also get transparent service tracking, so they can see what work has been completed on their network, and when it happened. Consulting with Axis about IT strategy helps companies ensure a secure network keeps up with trends and developments, adding a disaster recovery plan is the only 100-percent protection against ransomware.
“The technical knowledge of our team means we’re able to fix network problems quickly, and our clients always appreciate the results,” says Scott True, chief operating officer at Axis Computer Networks. “Scott Wonkka speaks our clients’ language, so he can explain our solutions and also help them to head off future problems.”
Why Is a Disaster Recovery Plan So Important for Network Security?
A network that goes down for any reason is just plain down—critical functions are on hold, valuable employees are wasting time figuring out workarounds and stopgaps, business grinds to a halt. Outages caused by fire, flood, or power cut at the server location, or a devastating hardware failure can hamstring a business and may even shake the confidence of some clients.
Even worse, a network can also be brought down by a targeted ransomware attack, where hackers manage to get some nefarious malware onto the network. Axis Computer Networks has had clients receive just such attacks. In all of these cases, a disaster recovery plan is the only 100-percent guaranteed way to put things right.
Empower Remote Employees with Technology
Many businesses have learned the benefit of remote employees: hard-working staff that reduce office space needs while expanding the reach of the company. These far-flung staffers often enjoy levels of autonomy and work-life balance that make them more productive, and help keep them happy. It’s technology that allows this arrangement to work well and seamlessly, and, when problems arise, it’s often technology that’s the culprit when things don’t work. At Axis Computer Networks, we understand the best ways to optimize productivity, and make the most of those outlying workers with their free-form schedules and entrepreneurial dedication.
[Planning to grow staff remotely? Axis Computer Networks can help you analyze your network and develop a smart roadmap for expansion over the coming one to five years. Learn more about planning and strategy here.]
1. Capitalize on your network. The network is key for your in-house team to share information, stay up-to-date on market trends and check on the health and productivity of your business. It’s no different for remote staff. Get them on your network so their contributions are weighed and measured in just the same way. You may be surprised how far this goes to changing the conversation among your staff from “us and them” to “we.” One aspect of the network that cannot be overstated: regular backups. This is a key strength of any well-managed network, and every staffer everywhere can, and should, benefit from this insurance.
2. Cloud services almost turns the idea of remote employees inside out: Everyone is remote to the cloud. Bringing network function to cloud-based servers means even more seamless sharing, and even software can be shared this way. The cloud makes it easy to keep software updates and bug fixes universal across the entire team, meaning there are no conflicts with outdated versions, and “saving down” a version of files so the sales team can have full access to the data. Best of all, it’s not an all-or-nothing decision. Hybrid solutions that move some functions to cloud-based servers often make sense.
3. Security is as important as it ever has been, mostly because many businesses are being targeted for data hacks and ransomware. Companies with remote employees need to pay close attention to their networks to prevent unwanted exposure. At Axis Computer Networks, we understand the technology side of managing network security, but we also know about the human factors. Let us help you to develop protocols and train staff to reduce the dangers presented by hackers.
Fire, Flood, and Hackers: Secure Your Network and Keep Data Safe
Natural disasters seem to be more common these days from wildfires to flooding to earthquakes. These may not be the first items on your list of What Keeps Me Up at Night, and we certainly would not want you to lie awake worrying just because we mentioned it. But there’s a lesson in each one: No one anticipates these incidents will happen to them, and it’s always a shock when it does. But it’s a lot easier to recover when you have a plan in place to keep moving forward.
You may see where we’re going with this, but it’s the same with your company’s network. No one starts their day in the office by saying, “Today’s the day a pipe will burst, and flood the server room,” or “I bet a bag of microwave popcorn will catch fire and burn this place to the ground.” Instead we walk into the office and take whatever each day brings.
Anything can happen, and the amount of preparation you do is key. Here are four considerations to help you avoid the long-term effects of any disaster.
1. First of all, back up your network, regularly and completely. As we have already said, no one can predict the future. Your network is the trusted resource, and it may be hard for your business to cope if some or all data or functionality is lost or damaged. That can happen due to a hardware failure, either because of damage by outside factors or if the unit itself fails (hey, it can happen—more on that below). Another way your network server can let you down is because of hackers, who can infect your server with ransomware, or breach your security and steal important, valuable data. “Whenever something bad happens and they call us, we know our clients are in good shape,” says Scott True, COO of Axis Computer Networks. “But sometimes a call comes from a company that’s not a client, and we have to ask, ‘Are they backed up?’ If the answer is yes, we have a good starting point. When the answer is ‘no,’ or ‘we don’t know,’ then we have to figure out where we stand.” The time frame of the last backup will help you determine the data you have lost, and the degree of a setback the event has caused. And if the backup is from last night, well it may just be that, with some system checks, you can continue business as usual.
[Hardware failures are a fact of life. But today they can be easy to avoid with a server monitoring program. Not only will your network run more efficiently, but it won’t be hardware problems that slow you down. Learn more here.]
2. Plan for the disaster. Think about what could happen to your business, and put plans in place to mitigate the effects. Having a backup program in place is a great first step, but the more planned out you are for the days and weeks following an unplanned event, the faster your business will begin to emerge from its effects. Any recovery plan should include staff assignments to triage damaged or suspect data, and also a review to see if security was breached simultaneously. You cannot solve your problems without knowing their full extent.
[Disaster planning is part of any good IT strategy, and that’s where Axis Computer Networks comes in. We can help you and your team plan for any eventuality, and show you what the costs will be as you grow. Get in touch and make an appointment.]
3. Prepare your team. Depending on the scope of the disaster, be sure to communicate with your team to make sure they and their loved ones are all right. Rather than training your staff to use physical devices to back up their own machines, a network backup eliminates the headache of figuring out who was backed up properly and who wasn’t. Another advantage of a system-wide backup, it frees up staff to be ready to roll up their sleeves and get their parts of your business back to functioning normally. Understanding their roles in this window in advance of the crisis, will help them work effectively to shorten recovery time.
4. Communicate priorities to your team, and reach out to clients and vendors, when appropriate. When you know when your goods or services will resume normal delivery, or have a time frame and relevant details for recovery, it may be a good idea to share your plans.
[Axis Computer Networks uses its ProactiveIT approach to managed services to keep your network running smoothly. So you have time for more important things, like creating a disaster-recovery plan, and growing your business. Contact us to learn more.]
What Should You Look for in a Managed Services Provider?
Nearly all businesses can benefit from a good relationship with a managed services provider. In the not-too-distant past, managed services meant remote monitoring and management, or RMM, which was the key workload of managed services. The managed services provider would administer an IT function on a company’s servers and network, making sure hardware was working properly and keeping an eye out for trouble spots and early indicators of problems.
Managed services have not changed at its heart, but as the IT-outsourcing business grew more and more competitive, providers began to offer additional services to try to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Some would dial up their focus on a certain kind of client, such as medical or legal offices or financial services. Another twist: cloud computing began to alter the server landscape in a meaningful way, and added a twist to the needs of many companies who chose to manage their data this way.
[Axis Computer Networks consults on managed services for a wide variety of businesses, and also works with cloud and hybrid solutions, routinely managing cloud network solutions for clients setting up and migrating systems. Learn more here.]
Managed services providers protect the client from network outages and data loss, chiefly through hardware monitoring and regular backups. As contractors, they set up systems that they use to do this an efficient manner, but sometimes a contract that’s bid at a lower price may result in a lack of service when a problem does arise. One way to spot this is that after-hours calls are routed through a call center, which adds a layer of delay in service at a critical time. (Tip: The contractor will tell the client they are a 24-7 operation, and, if they really are, they won’t need to be asked about that. They will readily volunteer this information as early as it makes sense. And sometimes before that.) The good providers will give you a guaranteed response time.
Axis Computer Networks also takes into consideration that on-site service visits will occasionally be required, and has the infrastructure to manage it. Not all managed services providers plan for this, and often, if they do, it’s considered a premium add-on to the service.
Some managed service providers focus on data security and it’s pretty easy to understand why. Network security will always be a hot topic for all IT managers. A managed services provider should act as a partner to your in-house team, and their programs should dovetail with yours and provide an effective backstop for them. Checks of critical systems and disk health, monitoring firewalls, helping to train staff and network users, and other factors all contribute to network security, and a frank discussion with prospective contractors will give you an idea of what to expect. If a managed services provider listens to your needs and responds to your concerns with details about your network and ideas for solutions, that may show someone who won’t shoehorn your network into a one-size-fits-all program. At Axis Computer Networks, we build a program that will protect critical data, while allowing your team to gain access whenever they need it, keeping hackers at bay, and backing up regularly to ensure any kind of fault causes a minimal disruption of your business.
Managed services may seem like an additional expense since it’s a new line on a budget spreadsheet, but when a managed services provider does its job properly, it frees up in-house IT personnel and resources to attend to other projects. Your staff is able to work creatively and use the parts of their skill set that made them desirable hires in the first place. And when people work at challenging, fulfilling projects, they tend to have better job satisfaction and are less likely to leave, reducing recruitment costs.
Three Reasons to Consider Moving Your Business to the Cloud
The idea of moving your company’s network applications and data to the cloud may be a daunting prospect. After all, that comforting hum of the servers in the data center let you know right where everything is—business is flowing smoothly, there’s easy access to data, applications, the back end of the website…everything is there. Everyone who needs to get to these functions has proper access, and it’s all just fine.
One big factor to consider: While you take comfort in that server hum, others may hear the heartbeat of an organism with a limited lifespan and a failure in its future, one as unsurprising as it is inevitable.
Ask yourself this question: Why are literally thousands of successful companies switching their strategy and moving workloads to a remote cloud environment? The answers are as myriad and multifaceted as each one of those enterprises. It’s important to note that the size of the company does not necessarily matter—depending on how your business is set up, the cloud could offer many features that would help you dial in your efficiency and optimize your technology investment.
Here are three ways to think about cloud computing that may help you make some decisions going forward:
1. Right-Sizing Resources
Moving to the cloud helps businesses to use their resources in different ways, potentially with better productivity and reduced IT costs. Because of the horsepower behind the cloud, you may see reduced response time. Other benefits from that robust computing power are increased operational durability and improved security. The downsides: Internet connections must be completely reliable, and some staff may not like any change, even the kind that improves their productivity. The bottom line is, the cloud is a commitment. It’s more like a long-term relationship with your cloud services provider. It makes sense to work with a company you trust and with whom you have experience.
2. Seamless Transitions
The cloud is a tempting option though, with software-as-a-service functions that keep critical applications up to date and patched so your team can evolve seamlessly along. All business operations, sales, and fulfillment can all be managed on the cloud. And it all happens with the benefit of disaster recovery without the expense of maintaining an additional server location off premises, and the way the cloud is intertwined with your business function, recovery is quicker than ever. Of course, the cloud will only yield its benefits to your company if your business can function effectively during a phased migration of assets from your existing servers, and hit the ground running when it’s complete. So that means a full understanding on the part of your IT staff, and training and support for anyone who’s going to see changes to their day-to-day functions. At Axis Computer Networks, we work with teams of all sizes and experience levels.
3. The Key to Cloud Success
It is wise to have a legitimate business reason for moving some or all network functions to the cloud. If your management team cannot assess the business and come up with a coherent explanation for the move, it may be best to consider all the options for a while longer. Here are two things to get the discussion started: First, the cloud can offer many advantages to all different types of businesses, but it may not necessarily be the least expensive option. The team should weight the benefits carefully before pulling any triggers. And second, moving computer function is not an all-or-nothing prospect. Taking some functions to the cloud and leaving some in the server room—a hybrid solution—may be a good starting point. In fact, some companies are restricted by regulations that say some of their customer data cannot be stored beyond state lines. In that case, an on-premise server and a local backup server will be a winning combination. Your managed services provider should be able to help you design a system to your needs.
Of course, every enterprise is different, and your Axis Computer Networks representative can work closely with you and your team to show all the options for your system that would best elevate your business to the cloud.
Learn more about Axis Computer Networks cloud services by visiting here, and if you’re interested, fill out the form to set up an appointment.
Cyber Threats Target All Companies—Here’s What You Can Do About It
The sheer size of the data breaches that compromise some large companies makes them newsworthy: From Equifax to Yahoo! to Doordash, each enormous breach exposed an eye-watering number of customer data files to the nefarious end of the Web. The customers and clients of those businesses must just shake their heads as they glumly reset all of their passwords hoping to avoid any measurable fallout. The only plus side for the businesses victimized by these hacks is that the news cycle will move on to the next breach—and it won’t be a long wait.
The truth is, cyber threats affect all businesses, and the vast majority target small- to mid-size companies. These smaller companies may face a withering number of attacks because the perception among hackers is they’re low-hanging fruit—they don’t have the kind of resources those huge corporations employ to protect themselves.
Some studies indicate that more than 40 percent of all cyber attacks target small businesses, with other polls suggesting the figure is well over half. The attacks can be frequent—40 percent reported more than one attack according to one report—and they can cause damage beyond what many of the large companies sustain.
The damage can be substantial. Ask yourself: Can your business withstand having all its computer- and network-based systems down for two weeks? Not many can, and some statistics say that 60 percent of businesses that are attacked go out of business within six months. Having data backed up properly takes nearly all the stress out of a hack or ransomware attack. The worst part: Some companies think their data is backed up, only to learn the bad news when their system is put to the real-world test.
The resulting expense of recovering data, reformatting all the machines on the network, and training staff to thwart the next security threat adds up. These unforeseen costs can be considerable, often eating up more than a balance sheet can easily accommodate. While the resulting loss of customer data may measure only a fraction of the size of those national-news-making attacks, an attack on a small business can cause irreparable damage to its reputation, particularly if its customer base is a niche market.
How can you protect your business? There are ways to ensure peace of mind and protected data. Here are four simple steps to take:
1. Know what’s going on with your network. It may be hard to hear, but often small businesses don’t even know they’ve been hacked for three to six months. Meanwhile, their clients or customers may be learning about it, as their data gets out there, their email addresses start bombarding everyone in their contact list with annoying links (and even more hack attempts), and more problems arise. The simple solution? Network monitoring. Hacks cause unauthorized network activity, and if someone is watching, and has monitoring parameters set properly, they’ll know when something is up. This is a service we can provide, and it helps keep a network healthy from all kinds of failures and business-stopping problems, in addition to security. Learn more about this service here.
2. Back up your network regularly. A hacker can’t hold your data hostage if you keep a recent, updated copy safe and sound. We can help any business back up its data regularly. We also can help by keeping your network current with the latest software patches that, when they are not done, can be critical points where hackers find their access to your network. It’s all part of our managed services, and if you want more information, read about it here.
3. Train your team. It’s remarkable when you realize that people are still a key weak point in the cyber-security spectrum, but it shouldn’t be surprising. Everyone always says: Never open an email from an unfamiliar person. But try telling that to a sales team whose whole job is to drum up new business—by definition that’s unfamiliar people, if they’re doing their job properly. Cyber-security training can clue in your team for the warning signs, the ways to protect them from malware, ransomware, and any other method the hackers try to tilt the odds in their favor. If you’re thinking about getting your team trained the right way, have a look at why customers choose to work with us here.
4. Know where your security holes are. You can’t guard the castle properly if you don’t know every potential weak point of the walls, the gate, and even that old drawbridge. Best to have it inspected and let you know. This security audit is a service we provide you for free. There’s no obligation to work with us. We deliver the report with our recommendations, and you decide the rest. Get in touch and learn what’s going on with your network here.
Blog: What Will Happen to Windows 7 Computers in January 2020?
The beginning of autumn may seem to be an odd time to think about New Year’s Resolutions. But plan now for January 2020 if your company has any computers running Windows 7—and remember that includes remote staff, trustworthy (usually) contractors who have network access, and even devices relegated to mailroom duty, running the shipping software. Microsoft will officially stop supporting the venerable operating system on January 14, 2020, and that means no more service, including patch updates. The result: Any computers on your network that still use Windows 7 will become a target for hackers looking for a weak point in your defenses.
“Patches and bug fixes are a key aspect of any operating system,” says Scott True, COO of Axis Computer Networks. “The usable life of any software is limited by technology developments that streamline how things work behind the scenes. But the utility is really cut short if updates are ignored.” Because the Axis team knows how to head off problems and also the best way to upgrade, they’ll be able to help you keep your business running.
Here’s what you need to know. First of all, the computers won’t stop running just because the operating system is no longer supported. That’s actually bad in the grand scheme, since you want these devices out of your network and cloud servers, where their weakened security may be exploited by nefarious players. But it’s good because you’re reading this now. The first step is to get your team on the same page. They need to back up their critical data and photos (something you hope they’ve been doing right along).
While your upgrade may take time, communicate to your staff that they should keep Windows 7 up to date until they are upgraded with a new operating system (or potentially, a new computer). In the past Microsoft has offered substantial patches and upgrades in the wind-down leading up to the end of life (as the end of support is often known). These final updates will be key if the budget doesn’t allow everyone to get their upgrades until Q2 2020. But best to try to upgrade as much of the system as possible now.
If you think an upgrade to Windows 10 is your next step, here are the minimum specifications required for those machines: a processor of 1GHz process or faster, 1 GB of RAM for a 32-bit installation and 2 GB of RAM for a 64-bit installation, and up to 20 GB of hard disk space may also be needed. The machine needs a screen with a resolution of 800 by 600 or higher, a DirectX 9 graphics chip, and Internet access.
Full disclosure: Microsoft is offering to continue offering security updates for Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise versions until January 2023, but there has not yet been any indication about the price of that service.
“Upgrading a system can be relatively inexpensive insurance, compared to a security breach and the headaches that come from data loss,” True says. “We want to help get it done for you, long before the deadline. And remember, Axis will never try to hold your IT hostage with long-term contracts.”
Reach out to Axis to find out what an upgrade can mean for your business.