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Your computer passwords; It’s an Old Story, but the Results are still the Same!

Securing your passwords

Whether it’s an online account, a computer log in or network access, passwords are used to prevent unauthorized access. But far too many people choose weak and easy-to-guess passwords putting themselves at the risk of cyber attack. Don’t fall into the trap of these cyber criminals. Secure your perimeters and never let anyone access your personal information by following these helpful tips.

Observe proper web security

With the rapid advancements in technology comes sophistication of methodologies used by hackers to steal data and destroy web security. Cyber crime is continuously evolving as new programs are made to unlock accounts and combine numbers, letters and special characters to determine passwords. The big question for internet users is – how to choose a strong password that can drive hackers away?

Passwords should have at least eight characters. It is highly recommended that you use a combination of uppercase, lowercase and special characters. “P@s$w0Rd45%” is a thousand times better than “Password1”. Veer away from using passwords that are found in dictionaries. Furthermore, avoid using your name, a family member’s name, phone number, birth date, social security number or any public information. Hackers have found a way to crack passwords with the aid of the many databases out there.

To create even more secure passwords, try using a password that is a full sentence, with random words. For example “I am a purple donkey” (with the spaces) will take a long time to crack, which means it’s more secure then even the examples above.

Keep malware off your system

Malware are malicious programs that have been crafted in such a way that they appear authentic and trustworthy. Be careful not to click on pop-ups and links that will redirect you to that place where your security walls are torn down. And do not open email attachments from anonymous users. Mechanisms are often embedded in these programs to gain control of your system.
Get professional help by installing security software from a trusted name in the industry. Build your defences as early as possible. Remember the cliché – better to be be safe than sorry – and nowhere is this more true than in computer system and web security.

Keep your passwords private

While this may seem to be a no-brainer, sadly, a lot of people still tend to share their passwords with their office mates or friends. If you’re one of them, then it’s high time that you change your habits and your password again. Think like James Bond -passwords are for your eyes only.

In the event that you need to give your password to a co-worker to get an important document or presentation, make sure that you change them as soon as possible. Never use the same combination again.

Change password regularly

It also helps if you schedule a regular password change. Within a period of 30 to 60 days, you should update passwords across multiple sites. Moreover, never use the same passwords for different websites. If you use the same passwords, you are putting all of your accounts at a high level risk. Hackers are relentless. Once is never enough for them and they can come back time after time.

It’s an unsafe online world out there. These online troublemakers will never be satisfied. So never let yourself or your organization fall prey to hackers. Take note of these safety measures and strengthen your web security arsenal.

Where Did My Data Go?

Your systems and data are undoubtedly an important part of your business and to protect these valuable assets you should be taking steps to ensure that your data is backed up in case of an emergency. Looking into backup solutions, it is easy to see that there are a number of different backup options that support various solutions. From tape to the cloud, it can be a challenge to figure out what you need.

Three common backup options

When it comes to backing up your systems, there are three common platforms that are used:

  • Tape
  • Disk
  • Cloud

Some businesses use all three, while others stick to using just one. While each of these options do the same thing – essentially backing up your data – there are differences between each platform.

Tape-based backup

Tape-based backup is the oldest forms of data backup available to businesses, and has been in use since the mid 1960s. Many older, or well established businesses, likely have used this method for a long time, so they may find it easier to stick with it, largely because no infrastructure upgrades are needed.

While this method may seem a little anachronistic, there are still manufacturers creating backup tapes – most notable Sony, who recently introduced a new tape system that can store up to 185TB (terabytes) of data on one tape. That’s about equal to the storage capacity of around 11,800 16GB iPhone 5s.

The vast majority of businesses using this system do so as a secondary backup. They use another system to back up their data, and then back up this backup data onto physical tape which can then be moved off-site and stored in a safe location, should disaster strike.

The biggest drawback of tape stem from the fact that it is an older method and it takes longer to back up data compared to other systems. The tapes themselves are also more fragile and can be prone to failure, leading to corrupt data and unreadability. Finally, if you do need to recover from a tape backup, you are going to have to do so in a specific manner, which means it will take longer to recover your systems than other methods.

Disk-based backup

Disk-based backup solutions use a variety of disk storage units to hold backups of your data. The most popular forms of disk storage used are hard drives or optical disks. Because these systems use more modern storage methods, backup and recovery can generally be carried out far quicker than with tape systems, and can be more reliable, especially if you take care of your systems and the disks the backups are stored on.

The added benefit with these systems is that hard disks are constantly dropping in price and increasing in capacity, meaning you can fit more data on fewer devices. This helps keep costs manageable, and may result in reduced costs over time.

Because disk-based systems rely on hard drives or optical disks, there is always the chance that your backups can be lost, ruined or even stolen. Also, many companies choose to keep these physical backups on-site, so if there is a disaster this could result in the loss of these backups.

To get around this, many companies have duplicate systems. They back up to different devices which are kept off-site. This redundancy can help ensure that your data is available, but it can be expensive to purchase multiple backup solutions.

Cloud-based backup

Cloud, or online-based backup, utilizes off-site technology to host your backups. Most small business solutions work with providers who host the servers in their organization. The business then connects to the servers via a network connection in order to backup their data.

The biggest advantage of cloud systems is that they are generally more affordable. This is because you don’t need to have the systems in your office, which means you don’t need to pay for the data systems and the upkeep associated with them. Cloud systems are also less labor intensive because they can be managed by your IT partner.

Aside from being easier to manage, backup and recovery is usually quicker with the cloud because you can set up a solution that continually backs up. As long as you have an Internet connection, you will usually be able to restore your systems in a matter of hours.

While the cloud is becoming the most popular backup solution, there are some drawbacks. You need a faster bandwidth connection if you want to be able to back up while also working. This may require you to invest in better network infrastructure, which costs. The other issue some companies have is that because this is a new solution, they may not trust that the solution is secure. The vast majority of backup solutions available have been designed to be secure and have become a viable solution for many smaller businesses.

If you are looking to implement a backup solution in your business, contact us today to learn about what solutions we have to offer.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 Signs You Need A MSP

Technology is an integral part of any business, regardless of the industry or company size. A common problem many business owners and managers run across though is that managing technology can be increasingly tough. One option available to companies is to partner with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) who can help manage your business technology needs by offering budget-friendly solutions.

What is a Managed Service Provider?

In the IT industry, a Managed Service Provider is a company that offers small to medium businesses the ability to outsource the management of their day-to-day technology and IT needs.

In other words, an MSP is essentially your IT department. If something technology-related breaks, they help fix it. If you need an app devised or want to upgrade hardware and software, or take a look into virtualization, they can often help in these complex areas too. Many of these organizations act as your business partner to help increase the effectiveness of your business operations, and achieve your overall goals.

Do I need an MSP?

While there are a wide variety of IT partners out there, you might be unsure as to whether you actually want or need to work with one. To help make the decision easier, we have come up with a list of five signs that your business could benefit from outsourcing your IT management to an MSP.

1. You don’t have a dedicated IT department or staff

A commonality many small businesses have is that employees often wear more than one hat. The problem with this is that those who are not necessarily IT experts, but are perhaps more tech savvy than others, are tapped to look after the company’s IT needs. Businesses can suffer from gaps in knowledge of the latest IT developments. It is also a challenge to balance IT needs while also running a business and remaining productive.

While for some small businesses having a knowledgeable tech person look after the IT on top of their main job works, the chances are high that they aren’t planning for a future in IT and may not be able to carry out complicated upgrades or even ensure that your systems are secure beyond the current environment. This can undoubtedly lead to increased problems in the future, which are likely not going to be fixed.

Instead of hiring a full-time IT staff member, you could look into using an MSP who can offer the same services, but at a fraction of the cost. This allows your employees to focus on their main roles, while also allowing you to rest easy knowing that your IT demands are being adequately taken care of.

2. You have continuous tech problems

At first glance, many of the systems we use on a daily basis are relatively simple. That is, they are simple when they are working. But, when systems breakdown business owners quickly come to realize that the technology utilized in their businesses and the systems that support it are not only complex, but are becomingly increasingly so.

Complexity aside, all technology will eventually break. When it does, you need to factor into your budget resources to make replacements and repairs. If the technology incorporated into your business is constantly experiencing problems there is a good chance this is having a negative impact on profits and productivity.

By partnering with a quality MSP that looks after your technology, you can be assured that a team of experts are running your technology and systems efficiently and that you are able to meet IT demands and scale to meet future needs. Decreased maintenance and replacement costs can help improve your overall productivity and even profits.

3. The people looking after IT are overwhelmed

Any growing business needs technology to be able to scale to meet and support growth. This often overwhelms even the most seasoned IT professionals. Even if your business has a dedicated IT role or team there is a chance that they can become overwhelmed.

When the pressure is on important issues may not be addressed and corners may be cut in order to meet current demands. This can lead to increased costs and problem issues down the road, resulting in an even more overwhelmed Technology department.

The great thing about quality IT partners is that you often don’t have to outsource all of your IT needs to them. If, for example, you have an employee who is a whizz with building computers but does not have the time to oversee the whole of your technology needs, then outsourcing some functions can free up their skills or allow them to work more effectively in their main roles.

4. Your IT budget is unpredictable

The cost of technology is ever changing. Some months you may have to replace a computer while others may see a new server needed or a security issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Because of this, actually budgeting for technology is incredibly hard, especially for small businesses.

Most IT partners offer their services on a flat-fee, monthly basis. This makes it easy for companies to budget for technology. The upside to this is that while your budget is predictable, overall costs and overheads are often reduced because your systems are kept in better working order and will last longer.

5. You have trouble prioritizing your IT needs

It can sometimes seem like a new system is needed on a near monthly basis. From servers to email systems; computers to mobile devices; your business will almost always require ongoing technology. The problem many businesses face is that they simply are not equipped with the skills and the knowhow to recognize what their IT priorities should be.

Do you update a server, or look for a new email solution first? And in what order do you need to implement updates? It is not always obvious what the answers to these questions are, especially when everything seems urgent. If you outsource the management of your technology, the companies you partner with can take the time to get to know your company’s needs and demands and prioritize. This will make your organization more efficient and better able to reach business goals.

If you are struggling with technology in your business, contact us today to see how as your IT partner, we can work with you to ensure that your technology is working for you.

Competitive Pricing

The old expression says, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I suggest that applies to pricing of a product or service. The price should be dictated by what the buyer is willing to pay and what the seller is willing to accept. This relationship between buyer and seller creates a market for the products and services every business buys.
Unfortunately, many times sellers and occasionally buyers complicate and distort this simple formula. Many sellers, particularly in the small business community, do not know how to properly price their products.

A typical approach to pricing is to take their cost or what they think is their cost and add some mark-up or margin on. The mark-up or margin is supposed to cover their overhead and include a profit. Many times this simple formula either does not work or factors change which causes what they “figured” in their heads or on paper to be inaccurate. Most of the time the mistake is in the buyer’s favor and the seller loses money or leaves money on the table in the transaction.

IT Services are particularly prone to mispricing. A major cause of this is that they are a service and services are often more difficult to price than a product. The real questions for the IT business owner/manager should be, “what is my service worth to the buyer?”

The first place to look for the answer to the question is with the buyer. The seller needs to take the time to build a profile of the buyer. The key to the profile is to understand where the buyer’s IT system fits into their business. How important is the IT system to the success of the buyer’s business? I will submit there is no one answer for every buyer. Sometimes a buyer just does not relate to or understand how important their IT system is to their business. Other times the buyer has experienced one or more major crashes of their system and they put a much higher value on the system. Every potential buyer has one way or another put a value on their IT system.

This means the IT Service company needs to build flexibility into their buyer profile to allow for the range of value that different buyers put on their IT systems. Once the seller has its flexible profile in hand then it can better evaluate where it wants to compete in the market, in the low, middle or high end. The seller has the real opportunity to evaluate its own cost and profit profile and compare that against a potential buyer’s profile. This brings us back to the original statement that a market for products or services is created based on what a buyer is willing to pay and a seller willing to sell at. The difference, under the scenario I have suggested is the Seller is much better prepared to sell at a price that will help it build a profitable business.

The answer to the question of why the pricing for IT Services is so competitive is found in the fact that too many small IT businesses do not have a well-grounded pricing formula. When they enter the marketplace to sell their service they base their price on what they think not on what they know. Therefore, you end up with a market that has very inconsistent pricing, which typically ends up with the sellers providing inconsistent service as they are unable to cover their cost. What starts with a price the buyer cannot believe becomes just that as their business is impacted by poor service and maintenance delivered by their IT service company.

Pricing is a critical part of the IT service market. A price must work for both the buyer and the seller; otherwise the market gets out of balance. Once this happens, as in the case with IT service pricing, then ultimately both buyer and seller suffer.

A well-priced IT service offering will give the buyer at least the following benefits:

  • Peace of mind –The hassle and worry out of technology is taken care for you. You always have a friendly face at WesTec Services to call for advice and assistance.
  • One-Stop-Source – A good IT vendor will eliminate the headache, wasted time and exhaustion of dealing with lots of different technology vendors. – they will work with these vendors liaise on your behalf.
  • Eliminate wasted business time – outsource day-to-day low margin technical support tasks so employees can focus on higher-level, revenue producing activities.
  • Fixed prices – get all the Houston IT Support that your business needs for one low, fixed monthly subscription without any extra surprises or hidden costs.

Three Proven Ways to Protect Your Houston Business

When you start and build a business it is easy to forget that you also need to protect it along the way. Then one day someone comes along or something happens and what you have built is wiped out. The best way to prevent this from happening is to protect your business from the first day you open for business.

There are three major areas of your business infrastructure which are vulnerable to “business ending” threats.

  • [icon type=”caret-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]Hiring of employees
  • [icon type=”caret-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]Loss of assets
  • [icon type=”caret-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]Loss of computer data

The first are your employees. Typically your employees are the most important asset the business has. If however, you hire the wrong one then they move from being an asset to being a liability.

Good business practices dictate that we follow a well-thought out and documented process in hiring every employee. If you look at the better performing businesses, of any size, buried deep inside the company’s infrastructure you will find a hiring process that is up to date and well-maintained. The value of a “well-hired” employee to the company cannot be overstated.

The alternative is a bad process or more likely no process at all. In turn these companies end up with the employees no one else wants. This creates a whole host of potential liabilities for the business such as workers compensation claims, employee theft, not to mention poor job performance and/or customer service. Any one or more of these liabilities has the potential to create a situation or incident which by itself can threaten the future of the company.

A second potential “business ending threat is the failure of the business to protect its assets from theft. This would include equipment, fixtures, product and most importantly money. The first three, equipment, fixtures and product can be protected by the installation of proper procedures as well as physical security. A properly designed, installed and maintained integrated security system can reduce or eliminate the theft of these physical items.

The monitoring of the business premises and its operations is a best practice when operating any type of facility. Properly placed door controls and cameras will maintain the comings and goings of not only employees but also visitors. A well-design system can control access to certain areas that need extra security. A facility that is not monitored and controlled is open for the taking.

The fourth area of theft concern is the funds of the company. This could include cash as well as money in the bank. Cash can be controlled by developing proper handling, recording as well as depositing procedures. Cash control also requires the physical holding of the money and that in and of itself can create a different kind of security problem. The rule of thumb here is to get the cash in the bank as soon as possible.

Bank accounts present their own challenge, particularly if they are accessed online. The installation and maintenance of security software on the company’s IT network is a must. Many business owners/managers feel this is best done by a 3rd party. An outside IT firm usually is more up to date on changes in software that will prevent the hacking of the company’s system. The theft of a company’s funds is now more likely committed by a guy using a computer than a gun in today’s world.

The third and final potential threat to the business is the loss of computer data. In today’s business world this is probably the most serious threat to the average business. It has been my experience that many business owners/managers do not place a high enough of level of importance on the issue. My theory on this is that data is not like a piece of equipment or product, in that it is typically not seen or missed until it is just not there when needed. To make matters worse, many business insurance policies offer a minimum amount of money to recapture or rebuild the missing data.

Backup and disaster recovery of computer data is a field that has exploded in the past five years in the small-medium sized business (SMB) arena. There are three keys that the business must focus on to give themselves a minimum of protection when backing up their data:

  1. Onsite backup
  2. Offsite backup
  3. Maintenance of the system

On-site backup is one of the issues a number of businesses overlook. A good on-site back up system gives the business a chance to quickly get the business back up and running say if the server itself crashes. If the only backup is available off-site then there will be a delay, for transportation, to get the system back up.

Off-site backup is the easiest piece to find in the market place. There are consumer driven companies such as Carbonite, which sell off-site backup for pennies. In turn, there a number of companies whose systems and process cater to businesses. The key is to find one that has been in business for a while and preferably provides the entire package, including on-site backup.

Every system needs some kind of maintenance and backup systems are no different. However, many companies simply forget or ignore this important step. It is critical that the system be tested from time to time to make sure that the data is being properly saved. Too many times a company will go to access lost files and find out exactly that, they are truly lost.

The hiring of the wrong employee, the loss of a key asset or the loss of the company’s computer data can all put the company out of business. Many times business owners/managers do not even realize that they have lost the business when one of these events happens. Sometimes it takes time to become a reality, but ultimately it happens. Buy business insurance can provide important protection for the company. However I would argue that even better protection is available when the business owner/manager understands these threats and takes the necessary steps to develop and implement the procedures and process that will prevent or minimize them.

Mission: WesTec will be a “turn-key” solution for all of its clients’ business connectivity needs. It will offer efficient and effective solutions, directly and with strategic partners, that create tangible value for its clients at every point of contact. Westec will serve all people and entities with a servant’s heart.

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(713) 682-4000

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