How to Build an Efficient IT Budget

Technology continues to advance at a rapid rate, and every industry has been affected. IT plays a role in most aspects of doing business, from connecting with clients to producing products and services.

Allocating an IT budget is no longer optional.

You simply can’t compete without digital communication and efficiency tools, so a certain amount of investment in IT solutions is crucial to your success. However, unrestricted spending isn’t practical. The key is finding a balance between the IT expenses that are critical to your business and those that add unnecessary costs.

Category 1: Basic IT Expenses

At first glance, it may appear that your basic IT expenses are non-negotiable. Many organizations carry the costs of IT hardware, infrastructure, applications, and related maintenance over from year to year with minimal review.

Related: 3 Ways to Save Your SMB Money with Technology

However, this assumption can be costly. As technology advances, replacing obsolete systems can add efficiency and productivity with little or no additional expense.

For example, if you still use an on-site storage system, you may wish to explore the opportunities offered by cloud storage solutions. If you are struggling with an outdated software application, look into cost-efficient, cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) options.

The bottom line is that none of your expenses should be carried over without proper examination.

Category 2: Projects with IT Components

Once you have considered the must-haves, review your plans for developing and expanding your business in the upcoming year. As your business grows and changes, your IT needs will change as well. Avoid unpleasant surprises by budgeting for related expenses.

Some examples of project-related expenses to consider:

  • New licenses for additions to the staff.
  • Additional offices that may require improvements to your infrastructure.
  • Regulatory changes that may bring IT-related compliance obligations.
  • Branding campaigns, client engagement strategies, and upgrades to business efficiency platforms.

All of these rely heavily on your IT capabilities, and you will need to account for them in your IT budget.

Related: GDPR: How Does This New Regulation Affect U.S. Firms?

Category 3: IT Safeguards

The final group of expenses to include in your IT budget are the services that keep your systems secure and operational. No business is totally safe from cyberthreats, as today’s rogue actors target organizations of every size, in every industry. Schemes typically involve various forms of data theft, such as holding your data for ransom and stealing personal information for sale or use in identity theft schemes.

Related: 5 simple ways to achieve IT device security

In 2017, ransomware payments exceeded $2 billion – double the figure from 2016. Cybercrimes have grown more sophisticated, and the number and variety of schemes is difficult to measure. Fraud through business email is particularly difficult to combat, and associated costs are expected to exceed $9 billion in 2018. Protecting your company must be at the top of your priority list, and standard security software may not be enough. In today’s complex security environment, engaging an experienced IT support service may save you the costs associated with a data breach.

Building an IT Budget with Expert Assistance

Organizations that rely on a salaried IT professional often learn that a managed IT services firm offers more value per dollar when it comes to preventative maintenance, troubleshooting, and repairs. Such firms ensure real-time support on an as-needed basis, and they have an expert staff with diverse skill sets to ensure a fast solution to any IT-related issues.

If you’d like more information on managed IT services or IT support (including IT budgeting), reach out to us today.

How to Meet the New GDPR Compliance Requirements

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) went into effect May 25, 2018. These European regulations ALSO apply to US companies who collect, maintain, or process personal data for individuals living in the European Union.

The monetary fees for non-compliance can reach over €20 million (approximately $23.2 million USD), but the reputation damage incurred can cost you your entire business.

Learn how to comply with GDPR and avoid costly mistakes with these tips.

1. Know Your Data

You likely know what your business process flows are, but map them to review what data you generate. Look at the types of personal data your business collects, stores and shares. Don’t forget to review internal data like personnel information as well as customer data.

2. Determine What Data You Need

Create lists and categorize data. Look at the purpose of personal data you keep to decide what you really need. Remember, the more you have, the more you can be fined for.

3. Decide What to Keep and Delete

Is your company a data controller, data processor or both?

Data controllers are companies that decide how customer data is to be processed and the purpose of the data. Data processors are companies that process that data for the controllers. Based on how your business fits into the controller and processor roles, start weeding out unnecessary data.

Related: Keeping Your Business Secure Online

4. Choose How Long Data Must Be Kept

Now that you have a clearer picture of the personal data you need for business operation, choose a relevant time period for storage. Your customers will need to know how long you plan on keeping their data and the process for requesting copies of their data usage. You’ll also need a process for how they can request to remove their data from your system.

5. Review Who Has Data Access

If you employ a 3rd-party processor, review its privacy policies to ensure compliance. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on GDPR issues. When the data originates with your company, you’re responsible to whoever you grant data access.

Related: How to Manage Your Business Technology

6. Define Who You Share Data With

Your processor may not be the only entity you share data with. Now is a great time to define exactly who data can be shared with as well as why. Be sure to include this in your own privacy policies.

7. Review Security Measures

Security breaches are a major issue in GDPR compliance. Look at past and present security for all of your protected data. Make any necessary changes, address training gaps and make certain that personal data is secure in all your business process flows.

Related: GDPR: How Does This New Regulation Affect U.S. Firms?

8. Implement Safe Storage Protocols

Know where you store your data. How safe is it? If you can’t answer that, it’s time to reevaluate storage protocols. Implement awareness trainings for staff so that protected data isn’t being stored in places it shouldn’t be. Also remember to focus your time on robust security tools and strategies.

9. Update Your Privacy Policies

As previously discussed, under the GDPR, customers have the right to request records and removal of their personal data from your systems. Update all of your privacy policies to include these process requests.

Companies can no longer assume consent to policies in the absence of an action. Make policies clear that the customer must give consent. When policies are updated, customers must also accept the new policies, even if they had previously given consent.

10. Appoint a Data Protection Impact Process and Officer

Implementing a data protection impact process means non-stop management of data. It may be suitable to assign these duties to a single data protection officer or a small team of data managers to ensure that testing and data protection processes run smoothly. This person or team can also address issues quickly without the distractions of other duties.

 

Still not sure if your company falls within GDPR compliance? Let’s have a chat and explore your unique situation. With proper preparation, you can gain and maintain GDPR compliance and avoid hefty fines.

GDPR: How Does This New Regulation Affect U.S. Firms?

Remember getting a bunch of emails in May from websites changing their privacy policies? You can thank the GDPR. Enacted by the European Commission, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a law in the European Union that seeks to give individuals more control over how organizations store and use their personal data.

The GDPR has much more significant implications for your U.S. business than a few annoying emails, however. Unfortunately, 84% of U.S. companies confess that they don’t understand what the GDPR means for their business.

In this article, we’ll discuss the impact that the GDPR is having on companies in the United States. We’ll also cover what steps you should take to address that impact.

GDPR: What It Does and Who It Affects

The goal of the GDPR is to strengthen the protections that EU citizens and residents have over their personal data. This includes any information that organizations can use to identify a unique person. We’re talking about names, physical addresses, email addresses, ID numbers, and even online identifiers such as IP addresses and cookies.

In particular, organizations must be able to justify why they are storing personal data, and delete the data when it no longer has a justifiable business purpose. Organizations must also be transparent about how they use this information in response to an inquiry.

The guiding philosophy of the GDPR is that people, not companies, have ultimate ownership and control of how their personal information is used.

One of the biggest stipulations of the GDPR—and one that far too many U.S. companies are unaware of—is the fact that it doesn’t just affect businesses in the EU. Every organization that stores the personal information of EU citizens and residents must comply with the terms of the GDPR. Or, they could face the potential penalties: fines up to 4% of annual revenue or 20 million euros, whichever is higher.

Related: 5 simple ways to achieve IT device security

Companies that refuse to comply with the GDPR will be effectively shut out of the EU market, with an estimated population of 508 million people. This makes the GDPR’s impact effectively worldwide.

Because the EU is so large, it’s a near-certainty that any company over a certain size will do business with an EU national. That’s especially true for those that operate online.

GDPR: How It Affects Your Business

The GDPR has come into effect in May 2018. Therefore, your company should already be in compliance—or at least taking steps to do so. The sooner you prove that your business is GDPR-ready, the less likely you are to face penalties and fines.

Many websites have chosen to display a notification the first time that a EU user visits the site. This window either informs visitors how their data will be used, or asks them for their explicit consent to use their data in a certain manner (such as for marketing purposes).

Once the company collects this information, they must store it securely to minimize the risk of a data breach. In the event that a cyberattack does occur, you must notify an EU regulator within 72 hours of discovering the breach.

The GDPR has undoubtedly had an impact on the operations of U.S. companies with a strong web presence. Organizations that understand the GDPR requirements and take action will be able to thrive in this new regulatory environment.

Understanding GDPR with EaseTech

Have more questions? No problem.

Talk to an expert in online data privacy and security to see how you can make your business compliant with GDPR today.

4 Ways to Avoid Internal Security Threats

From malware and viruses to data breaches and denial of service attacks, it’s all too easy for companies to focus on external cybersecurity threats. Although they’re frequently overlooked, however, insider security threats are even more dangerous.

Nearly 75 percent of security breach incidents are due to insider threats, whether due to mistakes or malicious intent. What’s more, a majority of organizations agree that remediating the effects of an internal security breach could cost them $500,000 or more.

Because employees’ activities are so easy to slip under the radar, insider threats can go undetected for months or years. However, you’re by no means defenseless. In this article, we’ll go over the top 4 ways for you to prevent internal security threats at your organization.

1. Have a Strong Security Policy

Many internal security breaches occur due to employees’ misunderstanding of how they should be using enterprise IT resources. To prevent this from happening at your company, establish a clear, binding security policy and make sure that everyone knows and adheres to it.

Go over your existing security policy (if you have one) and add content that specifically addresses insider threats. Make sure that sensitive and personal data is only disseminated to people with a genuine business need for it and that this access is revoked when no longer necessary. Train your staff on the best practices for preventing attacks, and keep them up-to-date on the latest cybersecurity developments.

Related Content: 4 Business Benefits to Outsourcing Your IT Support

2. Do Background Checks

While they’re not an uncommon business practice, background checks should be absolutely essential for new hires who will have access to sensitive information. If you don’t have the funds to do a full investigation, even a cursory Google search can verify important details about employees’ education and employment history.

Because background checks can turn up new information and find new records all the time, it’s important that you screen employees at regular intervals. Your hiring contracts should include an “evergreen” clause that authorizes you to perform screening now and in the future.

3. Scan for Anomalies

Modern organizations generate reams of data about the activities of users within their IT environment: Unix and Windows logs, firewall data, intrusion detection system (IDS) logs, security reports, and more. With so much valuable information at your fingertips, it would be foolish to treat this data as little more than background noise.

Instead, you can use management and monitoring tools to keep a closer eye on what’s going on within your network. Insider threats typically lack the technical sophistication of external attacks, so they’re usually easier to detect. Common patterns to look out for include visiting suspicious websites and moving large amounts of data onto an external device.

Related Content: 8 Things to Include in the Perfect Disaster Recovery Plan

4. Identify “Problem” Users

While it’s true that any one of your employees could be an insider threat, there are certain types of users that pose a bigger risk. You should pay special attention to:

  • Employees who have recently been fired or received disciplinary action. They may feel that they need to retaliate by leaking your data or trade secrets to the world.
  • Privileged users who have access to more information than the average employee.
  • Third-party contractors and vendors who need to be granted access to your system. Make sure that these entities follow the same security policies as your internal users. For example, the devastating Home Depot data breach occurred after hackers gained entry to their systems using the credentials of a third-party vendor.

Internal security threats are just the beginning. If you want to keep learning, check out how to better keep your business secure online.

The HTC 2018 End of Summer Bash

We’re sponsoring the HTC 2018 Summer Bash. Come celebrate the final days of summer with the Howard Tech Council!

Enjoy an evening of live music, networking, summer refreshments, and food in the VIP backstage area of Merriweather Post Pavilion. This event is the HTC’s largest party of the year, drawing hundreds of local professionals together for the evening.

When:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018 |
5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Where:

Merriweather Post Pavilion |
10477 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044

Register Now At:

Enhance your Business with Desktop Video Conferencing

Desktop video technology is already a part of almost everyone’s phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.  Organizations can make use of existing conferencing systems to accomplish enhanced communications today.

What we’ll cover:

  • Current desktop video technology
  • How to evaluate your needs
  • Desktop video solutions
  • Video and audio tips

5 simple ways to achieve IT device security

Hackers, malware authors, and identity thieves are all on the prowl for ways to access your IT devices and harvest your enterprise data. Fortunately, you can take measures to defend yourself by following a few common-sense steps. Below, we’ll go over the 5 most important yet accessible protections that you can take to keep your IT devices safe.

Use Strong Passwords

This is rule #1 of protecting your IT devices, but far too many businesses continue to overlook it. Set a minimum length for employee passwords, and enforce a certain degree of complexity in the characters (such as capital letters, numbers, and symbols).

Make sure employees don’t use the same password in multiple locations and consider implementing two-factor authentication, which combines passwords with another layer of security (e.g. a code given to the user in a phone call or email). If passwords are stored on your local network, you should encrypt or hash them so they’ll be useless to any hackers who break in and find them.

Install Patches and Upgrades

Installing new software updates is like going to the dentist—you may not particularly enjoy it, but it’s essential to keep yourself protected. Software updates contain valuable bug fixes and patches that cover up security vulnerabilities.

In fact, countless data breaches could have been prevented if IT had installed new security patches in a timely manner. The Equifax 2017 breach, for example, occurred due to a vulnerability in third-party software (the patch had been available for months before the attack).

Related Content: How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Back Up Your Data

IT devices, particularly mobile ones like smartphones and tablets, are highly susceptible to physical damage — which can obliterate all the data they contain.

But when you back up your data in the cloud, your data will be safe from physical damage. Whether your laptop refuses to turn on, your smartphone is stolen, or your workstations are wiped out by a natural disaster, your data will be okay and easy to recover.

Related Content: 8 Things to Include in the Perfect Disaster Recovery Plan

Avoid Suspicious Emails

Emails remain a common attack vector for bad actors to spread malware or steal your personal data. If your employees receive an unusual email from someone they don’t know, they should report it to your security staff. They should also never open unsolicited email attachments.

“Phishing” emails attempt to impersonate a trusted entity, such as a bank or government institution, in order to trick you into providing sensitive information. Train your employees on how to recognize phishing messages, or use an email provider with advanced phishing detection capabilities.

Use Secure Connections

If you connect your IT devices to the Internet using an unsecured connection, it’s all too easy for malicious third parties to “listen in,” eavesdropping on your potentially confidential data. Never use a public network unless you’re protecting your connection with a VPN that encrypts the packets you send and receive.

Instead, make sure you use secure protocols such as SSL, TLS, and HTTPS, which will help safeguard your sensitive data. When browsing the web, look for a padlock icon next to the URL, which indicates that the website uses a secure HTTPS connection.

 

Want to keep reading? Check out 5 Ways to Speed Up Your Computer.

The 4 Most Common PC Issues (And How to Solve Them By Yourself)

From mysterious slowness issues to the infamous “Blue Screen of Death,” your computer is liable to experience many different problems throughout its lifetime.

The good news is that most of these problems are fairly rare.

It’s only the most common errors and failures that you’ll likely run into, which have already been well-documented with potential solutions.

You don’t need to be an IT genius to solve some of the most frequent problems with your PC. Below, we’ll go over 4 of the most common technical difficulties that you might face, as well as how to tackle each one of them.

1. Your Computer Won’t Turn On

One of the most basic, and most common, issues is a computer that simply won’t turn on. First, make sure that the battery isn’t dead and that the computer is connected to a power supply. If you’re using an external monitor, also check to make sure that it’s working.

Related: 5 Common IT Support Questions, Answered

If your computer turns on and then off again, it’s likely an electrical or hardware issue. Make sure that you’re using the right voltage for the power supply and that there are no electrical shorts inside your computer. Next, try reseating the different components of the computer, such as the RAM and CPU.

2. Your Computer is Slow

Slowness issues can stem from multiple sources, which makes them initially more challenging to deal with. Fortunately, once you know which one applies to your situation, most of these causes are fairly easy to address.

Related: The Top 5 Apps to Boost Your Productivity

The first step is to make sure that it’s your computer that’s slow, and not your Internet connection. Videos and websites that take a long time to load might be due to a slow Internet connection, but applications that are slow to open nearly always indicate a problem with the computer itself.

Both hardware and software issues can be responsible for a slow PC. In order, try the following steps to diagnose the problem:

  • Rebooting your computer
  • Stopping programs from opening on startup
  • Cleaning out or replacing your computer’s fan
  • Defragmenting your hard drive
  • Installing more RAM
  • Replacing your hard drive with a solid-state drive

3. You’re Seeing Weird Behavior

If you notice unusual icons appearing on your desktop, or strange pop-up ads even when you’re not online, then your computer likely has an adware infestation. Adware is one type of malware (malicious software) that can display ads and hijack your web browsing experience by redirecting you to advertising websites.

Related: Webinar | Keeping Yourself Protected from Phishing Emails

There are many different kinds of malware, all of them undesirable. Spyware secretly collects your personal information and activities, while ransomware locks down your files and makes you pay a ransom in order to continue accessing them.

You should deal with any signs of malware as soon as possible by using a dedicated antivirus and anti-malware software program, such as Microsoft Security Essentials.

Related: They Stole You?

4. Your Wi-Fi Isn’t Working

When your Internet connection is on the fritz or keeps disconnecting, it may be due to an issue with your computer, your router, or the internet service provider itself. First, test the connection with another device, such as a smartphone, to see if you experience the same issues; if you do, you can cross your computer off the list of suspects.

If you diagnose your computer as the source of the problem, first make sure that your device is within range and close to the router, and then reboot the system. You may also need to install new drivers for your wireless adapter. Finally, try temporarily turning off your firewall to see if there’s a problem with your security settings.

Frustrated? We’re Here For You

It’s true that you don’t have to be genius to fix your own IT issues. But here’s another truth – you probably don’t have the time or resources to fix these mundane issues over and over again.

What’s the cure?

Partner with a managed service provider that can do it all for you. We offer proactive management services that will keep your device infrastructure running seamlessly at all times.

 

5 Ways to Speed Up Your Computer

Whether your computer has gradually declined over time or it’s recently come to a shuddering halt, its performance has become intolerably slow. Slowness issues may arise from a number of underlying causes, but can almost always be fixed. The five options below are among the most common and effective solutions to the problems of your computer’s poor performance and slowness.

1. Reboot

In many cases, the issues that you’re experiencing are temporary for one reason or another. It’s possible that a program is draining your resources and memory, causing your computer to be slow. A simple reboot will wipe away the current state of your system, including any problems, and start you back at square one.

Related: 4 Business Benefits to Outsourcing Your IT Support

2. Remove Startup Programs

If you’ve had your computer for a while, you may have installed dozens of applications and utilities on it. Many of these programs ask permission to run each time your computer starts up, even if you never or rarely use them. These applications can clog valuable computing resources while they run in the background unannounced.

Related: How Businesses Can Save Time with IT

You can disable programs from running at startup by using the Windows Task Manager, or by removing them from the list of “Login Items” under System Preferences > Users & Groups in Mac OS X.

3. Delete Viruses and Malware

Computers that are experiencing unpredictable crashes and strange messages may be suffering from the hidden presence of viruses and malware.

These programs are installed on your computer without your knowledge or permission and may be used for a number of nefarious activities: tracking your web browsing data, displaying annoying pop-up ads, or even locking down your system and holding your files for ransom.

Fortunately, there are a number of antivirus and anti-malware software tools that can help detect and remove these malicious programs. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free and well-reviewed tool for Windows PCs, protecting your computer in real time.

4. Install a Solid-State Drive

Hard drives naturally slow down with age, and the fix to your slowness issues might be to replace the drive. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are storage devices that have a variety of advantages over traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).

Related: 5 Common IT Support Questions, Answered

HDDs consist of a metal “platter” that spins rapidly when turned on, allowing your computer to access the data. Meanwhile, SSDs store your data on flash memory chips, which retain the information even when your computer isn’t powered on.

SSDs boot your computer faster than HDDs, and can run and transfer files faster as well. In addition, because SSDs don’t have moving parts, your data is more likely to be preserved if the drive is accidentally dropped.

5. Add More RAM

RAM (random access memory) is the main space in which your computer stores, reads, and writes the data that it uses for its computations. It’s often referred to simply as “memory.”

In the event that you run out of RAM, your computer can access data from the hard drive as well, but this is orders of magnitude slower. Think of RAM as an office desk while your hard drive is a filing cabinet down the hall. While you can store more data on the hard drive, it’s not as easily accessible.

Adding more RAM to your computer reduces the number of times that you need to read data from the hard drive, which will often have a noticeable improvement on performance.

Where We Come In

Fixing your own computer is certainly doable, but it’s not exactly feasible if you’re doing multiple.

Computer repair and maintenance can be costly, depending on the problem. You must also consider the time it takes to actually diagnose the issues, and perform the repairs.

Turn to the pros. We can help you proactively manage your device infrastructure to keep your computers running quickly. In turn, it’ll keep you more productive and less frustrated.