Too many small to medium business owners increase the risk to their survival by being reactive rather than being proactive in managing their IT infrastructure, hardware, software, usage of cloud services, smartphones and the internet.
One must ask the question why? The answer has a variety of answers. Some of it is because that’s the way we have always done it, sometimes it’s a lack of understanding of how reliant small to medium businesses have become on IT, however the main reason is an attitude around perceived cost. Yes, they see managing IT proactively as, not delivering a return on investment but rather, a cost that reduces the bottom line.
The key considerations for small to medium business owners is to understand that being reactive is more expensive than taking a proactive prevention approach to the management of IT. Why? because every minute of downtime is costing a business, it is not only the direct cost of the technician and his time but also the time the businesses employees are being unproductive and the cost of not being able to respond to customers. Poor response time and lack of availability of your technician combined with the unexpected cost of replacing equipment impact the viability of the reactive IT management model.
Can this be avoided?
The simple answer is yes, which raises the question of how? Again, the answer is an easy one for small to medium businesses by investigating the option of outsourcing the management of their IT under a managed services agreement to an IT service provider like Computer Troubleshooters.
The challenge for many small to medium business owners is to make sure they have a process that answers questions such as; having a defined selection criteria, clear articulation of their needs and what needs to be managed, clear understanding of the costs and what is covered and not covered by the agreement, ensuring there is clarity around the key deliverables for the small to medium business. This article aims to help you in developing that process.
What are the steps involved in selecting a provider?
Like any exercise a small to medium business owner needs to plan and have a structured process otherwise you increase the risk of making a bad decision.
Commence by understanding what you need in terms of services and the type of company that you are looking for. As an example, do you need your applications (accounting software, Office 365) to be managed or is it just making sure that you are fully protected against cyber threats? Is it managing passwords and ensuring email is available 24/7, or does it include patch management, ensuring your data is being backed-up regularly and being notified when a back-up fails or does it include making sure the network is running at an optimum level?
Start by identifying what is critical to your business and set that as the original scope. At the end of the initial contract period review and expand the scope if you are satisfied with the service.
Develop a selection criteria that includes the concept of value for money when selecting a provider. Remember selecting the cheapest price option is not necessarily the best result for you. Talk to some of the provider’s customer to establish their capability to deliver on what they are promising.
A guiding principle should be ensuring that your provider has the right people with the right skills doing the right things using the right tools to deliver the service.
Factors to consider are:
- experience of the provider, customer base who they work for, industries, size of businesses
- flexibility and capacity to adapt as your needs change
- capacity to respond, hours of operation, do they have a NOC centre
- their technology and the skill set of the provider and knowledge including emerging technologies such as cloud services
- pricing, what is included and excluded from the plan, termination process of contract.
One last factor to consider is the way the provider manages the relationship and the way they interact with you and the frequency they are providing updates to you. Ensure you have a set of performance indicators by which you will judge the performance of the Managed Service Provider.
What does a managed service plan look like?
The first element to look at is how the provider charges for their services. There is a variety of models with the most common being charged per device and per server. All providers will have per hour or daily rates for services that fall outside of the defined services.
Managed service plans generally work under a monthly subscription model and the monthly fees billed directly to a credit card. One area to investigate in any plan is to understand the required termination time-period and the process for moving to another provider. Make certain you are not beholden to the provider.
What are the services I should look for that are provided by a Managed Service provider?
Service providers package services in different ways. This means a potential customer needs to know their requirements. Examples of services are:
- Monitoring this is where a provider is using a tool to that creates visibility of what is happening in your network. This capability allows a Managed Service Provider to be proactive in ensuring that a IT system’s uptime is maximised. Establish what is included in the monitoring package from your provider.
- Remote remediation of incidents this again is work completed by the provider to ensure your network is operating at its greatest productivity. An example would be to automatically clear a device of all temporary internet files.
- IT security ensuring all devices are protected and have the latest security updates and company policies are applied across all devices being managed
- Business continuity services covering back up and business disaster recovery plans
- Email and communications management of users, policies and ensuring you can communicate on any device at any location
- Application management of cloud services and software such as Office 365
- IT planning and growth ensuring your business can take advantage of the latest technology trends
- Capacity and capability management e.g. infrastructure management
What are the deliverables for a small to medium business?
- increased productivity as the uptime of the IT infrastructure has significantly increased
- being more strategic in their IT investments leading to greater returns
- a predictable monthly spend on IT that is now an operating cost rather than a capital cost
- up to date IT infrastructure
In closing speak with your local Computer troubleshooter provider about how they can help you make the shift to managed services. www.computertroubleshooters.com.au or phone 1300 28 28 78
Protecting yourself against cyber security is in the news every single day of the week. Yet every day I hear another story about a small business that has had a breach. When talking to the owners, the anger, frustration and disbelief is evident to see. The shock is expressed in the following words; this is costing me so much, it’s the inconvenience, it’s the damage to my reputation and worst of all I am losing customers and I know they will not come back.
What is the cost for small to medium business?
- The statistics on the cost to small business are hard to establish but one can only suspect that if big business is $142 per compromised record (Ponemon Institute Research report 2016) that is something similar for small to medium business.
- From my personal experience, I know a podiatrist whose business incurred a breach of their booking system that it took three months before their business was back to normal. Even after this time they continued to lose customers. The Ponemon Institute Research Report 2016 clearly indicates that the loss of business customers is the largest financial consequence for an organisation that experiences a data breach.
- A breach becomes more costly to resolve the longer the breach remains undetected.
Is a small to medium business subject to fines?
All businesses no matter what size are subject to the very stringent privacy laws of Australia. These laws place a significant accountability on businesses to keep customers’ private information secure or face potentially large fines as well as bad publicity and damage to their reputation.
Why is small to medium business a target?
This may be obvious but every cyber- criminal is looking for a soft target, in effect every small to medium business has more information (data) to target than an individual consumer and, because of resource restrictions and lack of knowledge they have a less secure environment than a larger organisation. This is not only in terms of software but also in having security policies that are effectively implemented. For example; passwords, network access, usage of personal devices and external storage devices such as USB sticks.
Too often small business owners are not proactive because they do not believe they have anything worth stealing. This is not the case as every small to medium business holds customer credit card information, customer personal details such as bank details and emails. Every bit of information is useful to a cyber-criminal who can make money, for instance, by selling an email address.
Are the hackers and criminals becoming more sophisticated?
The short answer to this question is YES. The 2015 Australian Cyber Security Centre Threat Report 2015 identified that the number of cyber criminals with capability will increase, that the sophistication of the current cyber adversaries will increase making detection and response more difficult, ransomware will continue to be prominent and there will be an increase in electronic graffiti such as web defacements and social media hijacking. This is all occurring because every day no matter what size business you are there is a greater reliance on technology to run and conduct a business. This represents opportunity to the cyber-criminal.
How to minimize and protect your small to medium business against cyber – attack?
Suggested guidelines for protecting your business are:
- Complete a risk assessment so you are aware of the areas you are most vulnerable. The suggestion would be to complete this with an It expert or use an assessment provided by the Australian Taxation Office.
- Educate your staff about the various types of scams such as ransomware. Ransomware is a piece of malware that is often sent via email and when executed it kidnaps your machine via encryption that blocks the user from accessing their machine. The kidnapper then demands payment for the decryption key. Ransomware is often referenced as Cryptolocker, Cryptovirus or Cryptotrojan. Examples include Australia Post deliveries, Australian Taxation Office, Microsoft support etc.
- Ensure you have policies that are enforced around passwords
- Use up to date security systems such as anti-virus software, ensuring firewalls are in place, proper controls around network access.
- Ensure you are backing up your data and protecting sensitive data in accordance with the privacy laws of Australia.
- If you have limited capability and resources, consider the proactive approach of engaging an IT service provider on a managed services contract.
- Have a remediation and recovery plan to a cyber security breach.
- Take insurance against a security breach
From a technology viewpoint aim for the following:
- End user security – workstations and laptops all have anti-virus malware protection, scheduled back up and regular preventative maintenance.
- Centralised user control and back up – critical company information and local files need to be protected and still require regular back up, possibly with offsite duplication or in the cloud.
- Unified threat management and content filtering – can offer maximum external threat protection and enhanced business productivity to your internal network.
- Disaster recovery and data restoration – business continuity can only be guaranteed with adequate backup and recovery procedures in place
The four key elements in thinking about preventing cyber security breaches are to know your environment, to secure your environment, effectively control your environment and proactively monitor your environment.
The best approach is to make sure that the challenge of cyber security is at the forefront of the business owner’s mind and that of employees.
Australian Taxation Office
Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network
Ponemon Institute; IBM sponsored 2016 Cost of Data Breach Study Australia
Do you have young children who risk being exposed to pornographic or inappropriate websites?
Do you feel you should control the type of applications your children use and the amount of time they spend on the internet on websites such as social media?
Are you worried your children are using gaming, gambling, or in-app purchasing applications?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you are part of a growing movement of concerned family’s’ who are struggling to control their childrens’ exposure to the internet.
Why is access to internet content so hard to control?
There are 3 main reasons why internet consumption by children is hard to control:
- Multiple Access – The internet can now be accessed in a variety of different ways. Traditionally the home network was the only access method for most families. Now we have access by mobile data access via 3G & 4G networks, plus the increased availability of free Wi-Fi public access networks, then the additional opportunity of roaming as guests on other private Wi-Fi Networks. Internet access is now available everywhere so managing access through gatekeeping devices such as routers is increasingly ineffective.
- Multiple Devices – With internet access everywhere comes the proliferation of multi device access with many children now using a range of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and workstations. Internet access is now available almost anywhere on any device, so managing access of devices is increasingly difficult.
- Knowledge – Our children are developing skills and shared methodologies that can circumvent traditional control network mechanisms (such as routers) and device profile user management (such as Windows Parental Control).
With anywhere anytime internet access from multiple devices, is it still possible to regulate internet access to our children?
Thankfully development of cloud technologies has enabled user management to be lifted above the physical network layer and enables user profile management to be delivered across multiple access networks and devices. Effectively the cloud allows an additional layer of control above the traditional approach to user management and content control.
Here is what a cloud based portal can enable:
- Block porn and adult content
- Restrict access to social media
- Restrict access to YouTube and gaming content
- Limit access to mobile games and apps
- Limit app downloads and in-app purchases
- Disable device features including cameras
- Set restricted access periods and sleep times across devices
- Cover devices in and out of home.
- Managed from a single cloud based portal
Given all this is possible, how it is achievable?
As a business who has been help protect Australian families for over 20 years we have watched the evolution of different internet security software and hardware struggle to keep up with these changes. In our view, if families wish to take control of how internet is consumed they must consider using a cloud based portal to provide comprehensive protection.
To the best of our knowledge the most comprehensive and accessible product for family internet management is called Family Zone. Family Zone is a new generation cloud based product that allows for all these changes in technology from anywhere access from multiple devices.
Family Zone brings together the best Cyber Experts, organisations and technologies into one easy-to-use system. They developed it, tested it and now we want to share it so that everyone can enjoy the same peace of mind that their customers do. Family Zone was built on the belief that only through working together, as a community, can we build a cyber safe generation of kids.
What is unique about Family Zone?
- Cloud based user & content management portal
- Specific age profile restriction based management
- Multi Network management
- Remote device management (through VPN and MDM)
- Individually configurable to each family member
If you are looking for the most comprehensive family content management system to protect your family we recommend you investigate Family Zone further.
2 months Free Trial Offer
We’ve have recently partnered with Family Zone to provide a full a cyber safety solution to keep the whole family safe while online; both at home and when they are out and about on their phones. While the service can be configured by parents, Computer Troubleshooters can help set up Family Zone at your house so that you’re confident when the kids are online their cyber safety is sorted.
Computer Troubleshooters on behalf of our clients have negotiated a 2 month free trial of Family Zone, plus we can offer a fixed installation of $139 should you require our help.
To find out more go to http://www.computertroubleshooters.com.au/family-zone/
Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and will be happy to discuss your particular situation and see if Family Zone is the right solution for you.
Does your computer seem unresponsive, sluggish, and unreliable?
Do you feel you spend time waiting for things to happen on your computer?
Is your productivity slowing down as a result of a slow computer?
One of the most common questions we get in our business is “Should I get a computer repair or replace my computer?” While it is an individual decision there are several key factors that should help determine your course of action. Obviously, the price difference can be huge and the disruption painful, but what are the key determinants of your choice;
3 key determinants to upgrade your computer?
We suggest you use a 3-step process to determine the correct course of action
- Computer Age; If you existing computer is over 3 years old the risk of catastrophic failure due to hard drive or part failure is much higher, and the overall expected life of a PC that is constant use is rarely over 5 years. Life expectancy is generally lower for laptops that are moved & carried around regularly. Doing maintenance on an old machine might not be the best answer, especially if you are critically dependent on it working correct & if it fails you will end up in an emergency.
- Computer Specifications: Check the specifications of your current computer; with the evolution of new software & applications, especially video applications such as Facebook and news services, means your current computer just may not be able to process fast enough to give you performance that is satisfactory. Most new computers now offer significantly more processor speeds & RAM than what was available a few years ago. If you are looking to run the latest versions of Windows 10, Internet browsers (like Google Chrome), Office 365 or Microsoft Office 2016 then it is difficult to get the maximum benefits without modern specifications. If your old computer has low specification components a Computer Tune Up may not resolve all your speed issues.
- Computer Maintenance: Assuming you have agreed the first 2 steps are not a problem; then if you are experiencing slow startups, slow application opening, application time outs or regular restarting requests this can generally mean your computer needs a Tune Up. A computer Tune Up is where we do a deep clean to remove unwanted programs and files then the operating systems cleaned of unnecessary bloat. Often just normal use on the web can accumulate, without your knowledge, thousands of small unwanted programs, cookies, and tracking code that ultimately accumulates slowing everything down. The final area of a Tune Up is defragging your hard disk, where the storage space can be reallocated and made more efficient, giving improved performance.
Just like servicing a car we suggest that even the best computer will need tuning at least every 12 months or more frequently if you’re a business user, this can be done using a maintenance plan with automated routines and processes that can be run remotely by your local Computer Troubleshooters.
Repair or Replace?
Given the 3 critical factors above and your individual circumstance you should have formulated your own view of whether you should repair or replace your computer. So what are the options?
Repair – You can simply call in an expert like Computer Troubleshooters to do a computer Tune Up to get your machine back to optimal performance. They will do a series of deep scans and maintenance processes that should remove the bloat. We also would recommend joining a maintenance plan that regularly does this process to keep you at the optimal performance level. Part of this is also reviewing your backup regime to ensure that you will not experience data catastrophe should a failure occur in the future.
Replace – Once you decide to replace your machine there are few options you can consider;
- Upgrade – Simply replacing the hard drive on an existing computer with SSD (solid state drive) can significantly improve processing speeds and memory without the need to replace the full system. This also significantly reduces a key point of failure risk from an old system.
- New Packaged– a new system ultimately will give you a new experience in performance, you just need to ensure the specifications will deliver on your expectations. Lower prices can often mean lower performance, you generally get what you pay for. We generally suggest a minimum of 4GB of RAM and an i5 or better CPU. Just bear in mind you may need to repurchase software that was on your existing machine.
- New Custom – if you have a specific need or application we can help put together a custom-built system option that can take into account your specific user requirements. We can spec, order & install a system specifically for your needs. Ask us for a quote.
You can transfer all your data and settings on to your new computer so that your new machine is setup is the same as previously, this can be done relatively easily by your local Computer Troubleshooters. Just bear in mind that Windows 10 is now the standard operating system for PC’s, so you may need to adapt to the new Windows environment.
At the same time we also recommend reviewing your backup regime to ensure your critical data is protected.
Optimal Computer Performance
Regardless of your situation whether it is repair or replace we can help you optimise your computer experience to help you get the best performance. You don’t have to put up with a slow computer. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of their technology professionals will be happy to evaluate the status of your current computer and help you choose the correct course of action.
Is your business struggling to keep up with technology change?
As a business owner are you swamped with IT issues and user requests?
Do your business’ systems seem old and stuck in the past?
IT for most business has changed significantly in the last 5 years. Traditionally Small and Medium Businesses felt they needed to own their own hardware, software and support infrastructure. To have everything located in your office seemed safe and reassuring that your business was in safe hands. Then along came smartphones, Gen Y, and cloud computing!
So how do you take your business IT systems to the new frontier?
Surprisingly the change isn’t as hard or expensive as you think, you just need to see ownership as an old-fashioned way to view IT, you need to think more about access and scale as the key to better IT systems. By leveraging off broadband and cloud technological advances you can now achieve large business outcomes on a SMB budget.
Microsoft Office 365 is now the default software architecture for Microsoft products in Small & Medium Business, it forms the core of new business IT environments with over 80 million users worldwide and growing fast, it has proven to be reliable & solid.
Office 365 Advantages
Office 365 has been built as a cloud “software as a service” product so it is relatively device agnostic, controlled centrally with security top of mind. This means the Microsoft business office 365 environment is flexible, duplicable, accessible & remotely administered. Beyond the standard Microsoft Office suite benefits we have enjoyed for years it delivers additionally on 4 major areas;
- Bring your own device – particularly smartphones & iPhones (BYOD).
- Multi Device with Syncing between devices on multiple operating platforms.
- Tablets, Smartphone & PC smoothing (same software on different device types).
- Anywhere access – Security enabled and administered remotely.
This translates into 4 key benefits for users;
- Same Operation – Outlook 365 looks feels and operates similarly on all device types.
- Cross Platform – Microsoft, Apple, & Android all just work the same.
- Simple Downloads – once your Outlook 365 tenant has been professionally setup, data migrated, & deployed – downloading the software on extra devices is easy if you know your admin stuff. Software is updated regularly automatically.
- Syncing – it just works seamlessly regardless of what device you are using, it stays updated and syncs without any drama, knowing that the Microsoft data centre is doing all this in the background makes the value equation easier to swallow.
Personally, having used the combined office software now for some time, and having downloaded my Office 365 on 4 different devices and types (PC, Smartphone, Laptop, & Android Tablet) I am impressed, particularly with Outlook 365 with corporate grade email access from anywhere across the globe, on any device, and all synced and backed up at the Microsoft data centre. This alone is enough to justify Office 365.
Business Owner Considerations
- Capital investment – do you prefer to invest to upgrade systems or use a pay as you go subscription model?
- Space and operating requirements – do you need to run your own infrastructure?
- Maintenance – would hosting dramatically reduce staff or outsource costs for your IT support?
- Scalability – will you need to add or reduce users in the future?
- Operating control – can you trust an external IT expert to remotely manage your systems?
- Applications – can you use hosted applications or do you need to host locally?
- Data usage and file sizes – are your business characteristics suitable to use hosted applications?
- Broadband speed and capacity – can your internet bandwidth handle hosted usage?
- Statutory data retention – does your business have a requirement to hold and protect data?
End user considerations
- Access anywhere – do your users need access from PC, tablet and phones?
- Syncing – do your staff need synced email and data?
- Information sharing – would accessing business information on the move be helpful to your staff?
- Seamless networking – would eliminating the need for a VPN reduce access complexity and increase productivity?
- Backup and central control – would automatic backup and centralized control reduce your risk of user originated data loss?
In assessing these considerations, you may need some additional help to determine if the Office 365 alternative is applicable, feel free give us a call to discuss your situation.
Are you ready to IT enable your business?
So hopefully you can see a clear path to IT enable your business using Office 365 as the core software architecture. Office 365 offers a range of advanced tools that enables your employees to be productive anywhere and at any time across a range of devices. With Office 2016 & Windows 10 now fully proven you can combine to get the very latest software across your business knowing it works and is fully compatible.
Checkout our Office 365 Solutions Catalogue that sets out in detail how Office 365 can IT enable your business view either online or we can give you a printed copy.
If you wish to upgrade your IT Systems it will still requires guidance to get it right, so give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call today and one of our technology professionals will be happy to discuss how Office 365 can benefit your business.
Do you suspect your laptop or computer has a virus? Is it running slow or do random windows pop up as you browse the web? Your computer may have an infection, or two. The good news is this can be fixed with a few helpful tips and programs. During this four-step process, Computer Troubleshooters guides you through the actions you can take to remove these irritating computer viruses.
4 Steps to Virus Removal – please note this information is regarding simple virus and malware removal – if you have a Ransomware virus such as Cryptolocker or a Locky variant we immediately recommend you turn off your computer and disconnect from the internet then seek professional advice from Computer Troubleshooters on Cryptolocker removal and data recovery, or risk losing all your data.
Step 1: Enter Safe Mode
To enter into Windows Safe Mode, first shut down your laptop. Turn it back on and as soon as you see anything on the screen, press the F8 key repeatedly. The Advanced Boot Options menu will appear, select Safe Mode with Networking, and then press Enter.
If you have Windows 8 or Windows 10, at the Windows login screen, select restart and hold down the Shift key. A window with options to troubleshoot your system will appear and you can choose the option to boot into Safe Mode.
If you log in and see a black screen, press CTRL, ALT, DEL to bring up the selection screen, and choose logout and then restart. Next, hold down the Shift key and select choose Safe Mode.
Step 2: Delete Temporary Files
Deleting any temporary files that you have on your laptop will speed up the virus scanning, free space and can even remove malware. Select Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup > Select Delete Temporary Files
Step 3: Download and Run Malwarebytes
First, download, install, and update Malwarebytes onto your laptop. Once the program opens, keep the default scan option “Perform Quick Scan” selected and click the Scan button. Although it offers a full-scan option, Malwarebytes recommends that you perform the quick scan first. Depending on your device, the quick scan can take about 5-20 minutes and the full scan about 30-60 minutes.
If the quick scan does not find any infections, it will show you a text file containing the scan results. If you still think that your laptop has a virus, consider running a full scan. If Malwarebytes finds any infections, a dialog box informing you of the detection will appear. To see the files detected, select Scan Results. It automatically removes the infections that are known to be unsafe. If you want to remove other identified items, select those as well, and then click Remove Selected.
After removing the viruses, a list of the scan and removal results will appear. Review the results to confirm that the antivirus program successfully removed each item. Malwarebytes may prompt you to restart your laptop to complete the removal process.
Step 4: Tying Up Loose Ends
Your laptop should now be free of viruses, but your device may not be free of the effects the infection created. You may experience glitches to a particular search engine or homepages may come up that you did not choose. It is vital that you change all of your passwords and login data for anything that contains personal information like email and social media accounts.
If you are still having issues with your laptop or experiencing virus related behaviours, such as pop-ups or slow operation, get your device serviced at your local Computer Troubleshooters.
Of course, if removing the virus yourself seems dangerous & complicated or just don’t have the bandwidth to DIY, we can do it for you.
Alternatively, on our managed plans you get Anti-Virus and Malwarebytes included so they prevent the infections in the first place. Prevention is always better than cure.
We are here to advise you with the best security services and can install security measures on all of your computers and devices, provide information about online safety, place hardware to protect your private information and more! To keep your devices protected from hackers and viruses, call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today!
Call us on 1300 282878