Demystifying the Cloud [Online Webinar]

Cloud ServicesDid your office productivity grind to a halt during last weeks winter storm? Are you interested in innovative ways to securely work remotely from any device?

Participants in the webinar will learn how advances in cloud services can provide employees of all size firms the ability to securely work from anywhere.

You will understand how the integration of servers, desktops, mobile devices and applications in the cloud can reduce expenses and increase your peace of mind. 

Remote and mobile productivity
Secure file sharing 
Mobile device access 
Reducing capital expenditures 
Back up and recovery 
Improved firm data security

Learn how more advanced cloud solutions can transform the way you work today.

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2016
12:00 pm -1:00 pm

Online Webinar

Dave Kile - Senior Vice President, Ease Technologies, Inc.
Pat Bubeck - Cloud Engineer, Ease Technologies, Inc.

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4 Steps to Prepare for a Major Storm

winter stormThe mild winter we started out with in the Baltimore-Washington Region last month has now turned something we hear about in movies.  Is your office prepared?  Follow these steps to weather the storm.

1. Keep an Off-Site List of Contacts
You probably have thousands of customers and vendors. Keeping an offsite contact list will allow you to stay in touch with them and keep your business running during downtime. This list should contain vendors that you need to contact every week, as well as any customers with current, unresolved issues. A printed paper version can be important and don't forget to keep a list of employee phone numbers too.

2. Back Up Critical Data Offsite or in the Cloud
You only have a day or two after forecasters tell you that a storm has a high chance of hitting your area. Power failures, melting floods, and even looting are all risks to your infrastructure and data that come with a severe storm.

A thorough disaster recovery plan will already accommodate the offsite storage of critical data. If you don't have such a plan, you'll want to start backing up critical data to an offsite location as soon as possible. This will give the data time to fully transfer before the storm hits.

One of the best options is to store your backups in the cloud. Data saved in the cloud is also readily available and redundantly stored.  Implementing cloud backups can take some time to plan, store and test.  

3. Have a Communication Plan
Work with your employees to create primary and secondary ways of to communicate during the storm.  You might want to forward your phones or extensions to cell phones.  Many newer VoiP phones systems provide a lot of options including just carrying your office phone home and plugging it into you home Internet connect.  Email and even texting should be part of the triage plan.  Not only do you want to have plans that include employees, but what is your message to your customers.    Some companies have used social media like Facebook and Linkedin as ways to stay in touch as well.

4. Practice Your Recovery Plan
Test restoring your data to your servers. Ensure that your local and remote backups can be used to restore operations in the event that you suffer extended downtime. Stepping through your recovery plan makes everyone familiar with what needs to be done to get your company back up and running.

Need help with your own disaster recovery plan? Automated backups are your best defense against massive data loss. These systems mean one less headache when worrying about your business during a winter storm. Contact us as soon as possible and we'll help you set up a complete data backup procedure to ensure that you don't lose data in case of a catastrophic event. Contact Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 and learn how our Ease Cloud Workspace can help keep your business secure in Baltimore-Washington Region.
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How to Create a Small Business Cloud Policy

cloud services

As you begin to move your company away from a physical infrastructure and into the cloud, it's important to make sure that proper security policies are in place. While you may have a general information security policy, don't think that absolves your organization from the need for a specific cloud security policy. The dangers that come along with using cloud software or infrastructure are markedly different than those of the typical security concerns encountered by most organizations.

The biggest risk for most cloud applications is a breach of the cloud provider's security. There is no real way to create a policy averting this risk, so the ideal solution is to look at things from the perspective of risk management—all cloud providers need to be evaluated for risk, based on their history, the architecture they use, stated security measures in place, and the value or risk of data being stored on that cloud platform.

The second biggest risk for organizations is employee negligence and inappropriate cloud usage. Curbing this risk requires several steps. First is identifying a point person in your organization, usually the IT manager, who will evaluate cloud services and approve or deny requests to use certain cloud providers. Next, employees need to be informed that they are not to use cloud services unless they have been vetted and approved by the point person. Finally, organizational data needs to be stratified by level of security it requires, so that cloud services can be evaluated for certain levels of security. For example, while one service may be perfectly fine to temporarily store or transport low–security information, it might not be secure enough for high–security information. Employees must be made aware that using cloud services is a major risk, and not to be done without authorization.

All cloud policies should integrate a worst–case–scenario plan. This can include plenty of redundant backups in case the cloud service storing your data goes down. It should also include a communication plan to inform your clients and customers in the event of a security breach at your cloud service provider.

Cloud services can offer your business a lot of flexibility and significant savings, but unless they are approached in a methodical and cautious manner, they can result in significant risk. A good cloud service policy is the biggest step towards minimizing this risk.

To learn more about how cloud services can cut costs and improve you company security check out the benefits of our Ease Cloud Workspace™ or call us today at (301) 854-0010.

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5 End of Year Technology Focus Areas

We are in the time of year when many business owners and CFOs think of their end of year business planning. It is a good time to look at your technology end of year needs as well.  I have covered these five tips:  

1. Technology Budget Planning

2016 tech planningCreating a budget or planning a tentative budget for technological needs is not an easy task. Similarly, to set goals for 2016, a certain type of reviewing is required, looking to the past year. The business requirements need to be incorporated into these plans.  Will business expansion require increased bandwidth on your Internet connection? What ways can you improve the security of your client data? What can you do to add more secure remote users? These are just some of the important questions business managers might ask and need to plan for in the New Year.  Start with your business goals and previous year challenges to map out new technology investments or enhancements. 

2.  Passwords 

With so many security compromises occurring, following good password management practices is critical. If it has been a while, now is the best time to change and update your passwords.  Using passwords with long complex characters and unique to each site can’t be over stated.   A good New Year's resolution would be to start using a password manager to help you keep up with the tasks, such as LastPass or 1Password. 

3. Backups

Backups are the cornerstone to all disaster recovery plans.  Each business has its own backup and recovery requirements, but they should be reviewed regularly.  The biggest questions around backups tend to focus on the time to recovery and archiving data.   Do you have new accounts that are depending on you to work all the time?  Does the information you provide need to be stored and retrieved in a certain way, within certain time frames?  Updated back up plans will help your company to recover from a cyber attack, major equipment failure, or catastrophic mistake made by one of your staff members. 

4. Safeguarding Data

An annual review of all company and client data is important for obvious reasons, but may have compliance implications as well.   Putting safeguards in place can help to prevent fraud and identity theft, as well as enhances customer confidence and trust.  Safeguard reviews should start with an observance to HIPAA, IRS guidelines or other industry standards that may be necessary for your business. You will want to preserve the confidentiality and privacy of all data by restricting access and disclosure. This may not be a costly effort, but one that takes awareness and often simple procedures.  The recently updated Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide For Your Business from the IRS, offers many ideas on how to approach the topic, even if you are not an accounting firm.

5.  Policy Reviews

IT policies establish expectations and regulations for behavior related to company technology and networks. Liaise with managers to review past issues and update policies with the organization.  Review your current acceptable use policy and find ways to communicate expectations to your employees about proper technology handling. Also the Bring Your On Device (BYOD) policy and the Social Media Use Policy should be considered as a part of your policy review. 

Ease Technologies can help you determine the best ways to help you plan for prepare technically for 2016. Please contact us today at (301) 854-0010.
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8 Ideas for Preparing Your 2016 IT Budget

Taking the time to plan ahead for your 2016 IT budget can be quite useful. Besides helping you manage costs, a budget can highlight areas where you might need to invest more resources. It can also keep you on track in meeting your financial goals.

Here are eight tips that can help you prepare an effective IT budget for 2016:

1. Take the Time to Set Your Goals

2016 IT Budgeting

An IT budget is not something you can throw together in a day. It takes time and thought to create one that will help your company grow. It also requires input from your management team, as your IT systems are likely being used in many different areas of your business.

Further, an IT budget is something the begins with your business goals for the new year.  Are you looking for more revenue growth?  Are you looking to costs?  Are needing to update new laptops or servers?  Keep these priorities in mind before you start.

2. Look to the Present and Past to Predict the Future

A good way to begin your 2016 IT budget is to create a baseline budget that shows your IT expenses and income for the current year. You can then adjust it to account for anticipated changes in 2016. Examining your IT budgets from previous years can give you an idea of how variable revenue and costs have fluctuated from month to month, quarter to quarter, and year to year.  Three to four years can help provide data on capital expenditure cycles.

3. Do Not Try to Budget Down to the Last Cent

IT budgets are designed to only estimate where money will be coming in and going out. They are not accounting ledgers, so you do not need to account for every last cent.

Because you are just estimating your IT expenses and revenue, do not be surprised if your projections are wrong. You can adjust them as needed when you review your budget each month.

4. Align Your IT Budget with Your Company's Strategic Goals

IT systems can help or hinder a company's efforts to meet its strategic goals. For example, meeting the goal of improving customer retention is more easily achievable with a fast, reliable web ordering system than a slow, quirky one. Budgeting IT improvements in areas that support your company's strategic goals will help turn IT into a profit center rather than a cost center.

5. Budget for Hardware and Software Updates and Replacements

Many companies have outdated hardware and software because they do not keep track of when these resources should be updated or replaced. As a result, employees often use them until they fail. These failures can lead to many other problems, including lost productivity, security risks, and even system downtime.

A better approach is to use an asset management system to track when hardware and software need updates or are approaching the end of their life. That way, you can budget for upgrades and replacements. This will help you avoid the additional costs and hassles of dealing with failed hardware and software.

6. Invest in Measures That Will Improve Security

Cybercrime is on the rise, as studies by Symantec and ThreatMetrix show. However, many companies do not adequately invest in IT security.

A Spiceworks study found that 59 percent of IT professionals feel their organizations do not adequately invest in IT security. This is corroborated by the finding that those organizations plan to spend only 9 percent of their software budget, or 6 percent of their total budget, on security measures in 2016. Given the prevalence of cybercrime, spending more on security measures is a wise investment.

7. Do Some Calculations before Treating Cloud Costs as Operational Expenses

A Computer Economics study found that 56 percent of organizations plan to increase spending on cloud applications. In budgets, companies often list cloud costs as operational expenses so that they can increase or decrease them as needed. This gives companies more flexibility to meet financial goals. However, if you plan to use a cloud application for many years, it might be cheaper in the long run to treat the cloud costs as a fixed amortization expense.

Learn about how new innovations with the cloud can reduce capital costs, increase your security and let you work from anywhere here.

8. Get help

There are always new innovative ways to reduce costs and increase productivity with technology.  Seek help from IT experts to uncover ways you can fit these new solutions into your plans.  Contact us today and see how Ease Technologies can share new ways to keep your business more secure, improve your productivity and reduce your IT costs. 

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