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Common Technical Support Problems for Small Businesses

Authored by:
Support.com Tech Pro Team
This Guided Path® was written and reviewed by Support.com’s Tech Pro team. With decades of experience, our Tech Pros are passionate about making technology work for you. We love feedback! Let us know what you think about this Guided Path® by rating it at the end.

Small business owners work extremely hard every day to meet and exceed the pressures of the business world. One of those pressures is having to wear many hats as an owner - one moment a leader and strategic visionary, the next a front-line customer service person and in many cases, your own IT department.

While technology within business is a given in the year 2020, there will never be a 'one size fits all' technological roadmap that will set your business up for success. Every business' technological needs and demands will be different, and while technology is generally designed to assist us within our every day lives, there are some pitfalls that every small business will need to take special care of to avoid.

This article will introduce you to common technological topics that affect most small businesses, and will help you figure out how to navigate them based upon your core business needs.

Wired or wireless networking for your business

Networks

Choosing between deploying a wired or wireless network in a small business environment is not always easy. There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. Some of the advantages of using a wired network include:

Minimal Security Risks

Current WiFi security protocols are notoriously weak and their vulnerabilities have been well documented. A persistent hacker can obtain most WiFi passwords in matter of minutes to hours using freely available hacking tools, and may not need physical access to your building in order to join the network. If your business is regularly transmitting sensitive data over a network (such as credit card transactions, private customer information, etc.), a wired solution would help to keep your data significantly more secure as a hacker would generally need to obtain physical network access. You can also slow down hackers by using best practices for creating and keeping secure passwords.

Speed Advantages

While the speed of WiFi keeps getting faster (especially in higher end hardware and modern Mesh networks, which have made network speed differences largely trivial), the average low-cost wireless network is still not as fast as a wired one.

That being said, many businesses will choose WiFi for its many benefits, including but not limited to:

Low-cost of Setup

Entry-level wireless routers cost as little as $30 and do not require massive cable runs behind walls in order to connect devices spread across an office.

Convenience for Modern Technology

Almost every modern device such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops have WiFi adapters built in, and WiFi technology allows users to roam while connected to the network.

Ease of Configuration

Setting up and securing most wireless routers from major brands these days is a relatively quick and painless process.

This is offset by some of the disadvantages of WiFi:

Potential Range & Coverage Issues

The range of your wired network is as long as your network cable runs (and budget) allow, whereas WiFi networks often need to utilize inefficient repeaters/range extenders that practically cut your available bandwidth in half. Using a more advanced Mesh network eliminates the problem of losing bandwidth in order to provide optimal signal strength throughout a building without any dead spots, but these types of advanced networks usually come with an increased overall hardware cost.

Issues with Inconsistent Speeds Due to Interference

Wireless interference can happen at any time from any number of devices or barriers in your building. These can drastically effect the speed of the wireless connection and its overall reliability. There are things you can do to fix a slow network connection caused by interference, but centrally re-locating your wireless router / access point is generally the best and easiest fix.

Best practices for security and passwords in a business environment

Security & Passwords

For small businesses, the costs and damages caused by a security and/or data breach can be irreversible, potentially opening your organization to legal issues if customers’ privacy rights are violated. This means that having strong security and password policies are extremely important. The average cost of a single data/security breach for companies in 2019 is 3.92 million dollars.

What's more astonishing is that 81% of company data breaches are the result of poor password policies. Thankfully, there are some simple and effective practices you can employ to protect your business from a crippling data breach situation:

Create Strong Passwords

  • Mandating that strong passwords be created and used by everyone makes it significantly more difficult for a hacker to break into a system. Strong passwords are usually considered to be at least eight characters long and consist of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Steer clear of dictionary words in passwords. Many times, hackers will make use of sophisticated programs that will search through tens of thousands of dictionary words in an attempt to crack a password. Avoid dictionary attacks by opting to use randomized passwords.
  • Ensure that different passwords are being used for every account. Using the same password for multiple accounts may be convenient for most users, but it makes those accounts more vulnerable if that password is exposed. Diversifying all account passwords is the safest practice.
  • Change passwords at regular and set intervals! Keeping the same passwords around for long periods of time is also a security risk in that it allows a hacker to continue 'working' on bypassing it. Changing passwords at a set interval ensures that the existing policies are continuously being met, and will help outwit hackers.
  • Do not allow password sharing between co-workers! Password sharing makes it harder to establish exactly who is doing what when employees share passwords. Under normal circumstances, if sensitive company data has been altered or if unapproved changes have been made to critical documents and/or data, identifying the user through the account credentials that were used makes this behavior easy to track & manage. If hackers do gain entry to your system, shared passwords make it that much easier to access other parts of your network.
  • Avoid storing passwords, whether it be digitally or on paper, as such information could be stolen and used by those with malicious intentions. A hacker that discovers a document full of shared passwords in one employee’s Google account can turn a single security incident into a full-blown breach.

Use Password Management Software

The single easiest way to fulfill most of the recommendations above is to employ password management software within your small business. Password management software will generate strong passwords for any account that requires logging in, and will store all of them securely behind a master password. This means there is no longer a need for you or your employees to remember dozens of complex passwords. Putting password management software in place will ensure that all of your accounts are kept secure and will help minimize downtime due to forgotten passwords.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication Wherever it's Available

Two-factor authentication adds a second layer of protection to accounts to go alongside their regular method of logging in. Most commonly, this involves receiving a verification code via app or text message on a mobile device. This means that no one can log into the account in question without physical access to your mobile device, even if they have your password. While this isn't available for every type of account out there, enabling it whenever possible creates a near impenetrable added layer of security.

Secure your Devices

No matter what precautions you take, or how strong your passwords are, none of it is safe if a malicious software program is monitoring what you're entering on your keyboard. Always make sure the devices that are used within your business are secure, up-to-date, and using reliable virus scanning software.

The importance of firewalls for business security

Firewalls

While most users are aware that viruses and malware can threaten small businesses in the same way that they can affect home computers, many fail to recognize that small business computers are at a much higher risk for direct attack than a home computer would be. As such, many small business computers are only armed with standard antivirus software. While security software can identify and quarantine infections on an individual machine, they cannot prevent infections from making their way across your network onto additional employee devices. This is where the importance of having a firewall solution in place can make a huge difference. Firewalls are a great way to proactively prevent cyberattacks targeting your business rather than dealing with their aftermath.

What is a Firewall?

Simply put, firewalls act as a gatekeeper for your entire network. Their job is to monitor all incoming and outgoing network traffic and decide whether or not it should allow or block that traffic based on the security rules that it has been given.

For example, if your business is running a firewall and it detects that there are certain IP addresses on your network that are making thousands of requests to access the internet, which is slowing down your entire network, the firewall will recognize this as a botnet attack and will block the associated IP addresses to prevent your network from being slowed down to a crawl.

Software firewalls vs. Hardware firewalls

Believe it or not, the computers within your small business may already be using several firewalls at this very moment. For example, machines running Windows 10 are already running Windows Defender which has a built-in firewall. This is a software firewall that protects that individual machine. Additionally, many routers already contain built-in firewalls that block common cyberattacks. This is a hardware firewall that protects all the devices that are connected to it.

Software Firewalls

Software firewalls are most commonly found on home computers, small businesses with a very small number of computers, or portable laptop computers. Because software firewalls are installed directly onto the computer itself, they offer protection no matter where the computer is located. This is a huge advantage for entrepreneurs that do a great deal of traveling, as their laptop computer can be protected regardless of the network they're connected to no matter where they are for work.

Hardware Firewalls

Hardware firewalls are generally a physical device or router product that is connected between your business' Internet connection and the network that all of your devices connect to. The benefit of a hardware firewall is that it will protect every device that is connected to it, without having to install and manage software on each individual device. In many cases, the router that is providing hardwired and WiFi connections in your office will already offer a built-in firewall. These types of hardware firewalls are great for physical office 'home base' locations because of this.

Which one is right for you?

This question can only be answered by you! In many cases, the correct answer is a little bit of both. While hardware firewalls are great to protect everything that's connected at the office, they cannot protect you if you're working from the airport, a hotel, or a coffee shop. While software firewalls can certainly be set up on the devices you may travel with for work, configuring multiple devices and staying on top of all of those settings can be a huge inconvenience.

Protecting your small business from malware

Malware

Malware or 'malicious software' is a term that is used to describe any sort of program or code that was designed to be harmful to a computer. For small businesses in the 21st century that thrive on technology and the use of the Internet, malware can be devastating. If your business handles personal data, your employees and your clients should be confident that cyber-criminals won't be able to access it.

Malware is constantly evolving and has taken numerous forms over the years. Unfortunately, it is a danger that will always be present. As security measures increase, the minds behind malware are constantly looking for new ways to sidestep and circumvent those measures. According to the 2019 Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec, cyber-criminals using malware increased by 25%. This means that it's more important than ever to make sure that the technology behind your small business is protected. Malware attacks can be tricky to identify, so it’s essential that the proper measures be taken to avoid them at all costs.

The following are the best ways to protect your business from the threat of malware attacks:

Install Security Software

Taking proper security measures is a must to protect your company against data breaches. Make sure that all of your computers are protected with antivirus, anti-ransomware, and anti-malware software as a first line of defense against cybercriminals.

If your computers already have security software installed, make sure it is always kept up-to-date. Security software updates frequently to ensure you always have protection against the latest threats. Many security software programs will take care of this automatically, but it is always wise to check each one to make sure they're doing what they should be doing.

Ensure your security software provides protection against all types of threats. One piece of software may not be enough to keep your machine fully protected from all types of malware.

Educate Employees About Cyber Threats

Lack of employee understanding when it comes to malware is actually one of the leading causes of harmful data breaches. Many employees simply don’t know how to properly identify a malware attack, which puts the computers they're responsible for more at far greater risk than normal.

Be sure to properly educate and/or train your employees when it comes to cybersecurity and how it relates to your important business' data. All employees should know how to identify websites, links, and phishing scams that contain malware regardless of what operating system the device is using:

Upgrade your Network's Security

Ensuring your network is secure will also lower the risk of malware attacks on your devices. As we've previously pointed out, having competent firewall protection can shut out malware and detect potential threats that originate from any type of connection.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows you and your employees to use the internet without worrying about the possibility of being a target for attacks. This is because VPNs establish a private internet connection that encrypts all of the data that is sent and received by your company's computers.

Encrypt the Files on your Computers

Encrypting the data on your computers is a higher-risk option that turns your data into code that cybercriminals can’t understand. In the case that a cybercriminal did gain access to your data, they wouldn’t be able to make use of it, because they would not be able to decrypt the data that was taken.

However, encrypting the data on your computers is something to be very cautious of. Most encryption is password-protected, and there is no way to undo or reverse encryption should that password be lost or changed. As such, an encryption situation gone awry can result in lost data.

When considering data encryption, always be sure it is the right choice for you and your business. We can help you secure multiple types of devices:

Local or network printers - which one is right for your business

Shared Printers

In the year 2020, it's hard to imagine businesses having the need to print out large volumes of documents in an age when cloud computing, file sharing, and smartphones and tablets are dominating our culture. However, there are still plenty of industries that rely heavily on paper documentation amongst clients and coworkers alike.

When it comes to printers in the workplace, there are generally two options: local printers and network printers. The choice between the two depends on the nature of your business, how many employees you have, and how much printing you'll need to do. What are the differences between the two?

Local Printers

Local printers are printers that are directly connected to a specific computer via USB cable. Due to its connection method, this type of printer is only accessible from that particular computer. As such, it can only serve one computer at a time. Having local printers at specific computers ensures that employees who need to print frequently always have direct, reliable, and immediate access to a printer. Should any printing issues arise on a Windows computer or printing issues on a Mac, only the employee who uses that printer is affected, and since the issues are realized immediately, they can be resolved in a timely fashion.

Local printers can also be shared to other computers that are connected to the same network. While this can be beneficial to allow printing access to additional computers, many conditions can break the printer share and make shared printing a major headache.

While having a limited number of local printers at specific computers can be convenient, there are some downsides within a business environment. Buying and maintaining multiple printers is costly to begin with, but ink and paper expenses can quickly make this option seem unreasonable. Should anything happen to the printer, many models aren't serviceable and may need to be replaced entirely - this can lead to unexpected downtime due to the affected employee not having access to another printer in the meantime.

Network Printers

Network printers are printers that are connected to your office's network, and as such, are available to any device that is connected to the same network within your office. Network printers can be wired directly to your office network, or can be connected wirelessly and set up in a central location so that any and all of your workforce can access it at any given time.

Unlike local printers, network printers offer the flexibility of being available to any employee in your office environment, regardless of what operating platform their device might be using (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.). While very versatile, network printers have their downsides. If multiple employees are attempting to print things at the same time, this can cause a bit of a printing traffic jam, where certain print jobs will be delayed until others successfully complete. Network printers can also end up being entirely unavailable should the office network go down for any reason.

Even with their downsides, the majority of businesses tend to operate with some form of networked printer. Which solution is right for your business? Unfortunately, there is no single right answer for every situation. Take a close look at your core business operations to decide which one might be a better fit for your company. If you need help setting things up, we're here to help:

The importance of data backup and security for your business

Data Backup

Customer data is perhaps the greatest asset in forging unique experiences, however in today's digital world the risk of losing that data can be your biggest liability. Many small businesses are vulnerable to data loss situations because they do not have a data backup solution in place at all. Depending on the nature of the business and the workflow involved, individual data backup needs can vary greatly. In general, there are two forms of data backup available.

Local On-site Back Up

Local data back up involves using local means to back up important data on each computer. Most local data backup methods usually involve:

  • Flash drives
  • External hard drives
  • Additional internal hard drives on each computer

Since each one of these backup methods uses hardware for data storage, there will always be inherent risks such as hardware failure, loss or damage, or even theft. There is also the issue that these types of backup methods will end up being stored on-site. Natural disasters, fire, and theft can all result in the same loss of data, even if it's all backed up. Hardware failure in these situations can mean extended downtime, or a complete stoppage of work, and can result in data recovery costs that can skyrocket to thousands of dollars.

All that being said, if your business does not store a great deal of important data locally, local data backup solutions may be the most cost-efficient way to ensure your data is safe. We can assist with backing up data for multiple business-use devices regardless of the operating system:

Cloud-based Off-site Back Up

The modern approach to backups is to use the cloud. Cloud backups are redundant, they help minimize downtime, and typically their costs tend to scale with your company's growth. There's also zero infrastructure investment required, as cloud-based backup services don't require any additional hardware for your computers. With such amazing benefits, many businesses are leaning towards off-site cloud backup solutions, opting to take advantage of their sophisticated functionality and ease of use.

Regardless of which solution you decide is right for your business, always make certain that your employees have a secure method of backing up data so that your business is not vulnerable to destructive attacks or data breaches. There are a multitude of off-site cloud-based backup solutions available, such as:

  • IDrive uses a single account to backup all your business data via remote dashboard. A basic account is free with 5 GB, while the business plan offers 250 GB of storage for unlimited computers and unlimited users for a reasonable fee.
  • Acronis allows for multiple administrators with different roles assigned to them. Backups can be stored in several different locations.
  • CrashPlan allows admins to manage multiple users, change permissions for employees and see real-time reports on activity and storage use.
  • Arcserve can manage restores, track cloud usage, and schedule backups all from one console. It also has a tool to reduce duplicate files so that your storage isn't eaten up unnecessarily.
  • Carbonite is easy to install and use. Boasts easy file recovery for computers infected by ransomware. Monitor online backups and access files from any device via a secure, web-based dashboard.

Whichever backup method you decide upon, make sure that backups are scheduled to occur regularly, test their validity to make sure your data is safe in the event you should need to retrieve it, and have a plan of action should a data loss situation arise.

 

Further Reading

Further Reading

The following guides can help further assist you with the recommendations outlined above:

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Small business owners work extremely hard every day to meet and exceed the pressures of the business world. One of those pressures is having to wear many hats as an owner - one moment a leader and strategic visionary, the next a front-line customer service person and in many cases, your own IT department.

While technology within business is a given in the year 2020, there will never be a 'one size fits all' technological roadmap that will set your business up for success. Every business' technological needs and demands will be different, and while technology is generally designed to assist us within our every day lives, there are some pitfalls that every small business will need to take special care of to avoid.

This article will introduce you to common technological topics that affect most small businesses, and will help you figure out how to navigate them based upon your core business needs.

Wired or wireless networking for your business

Networks

Choosing between deploying a wired or wireless network in a small business environment is not always easy. There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. Some of the advantages of using a wired network include:

Minimal Security Risks

Current WiFi security protocols are notoriously weak and their vulnerabilities have been well documented. A persistent hacker can obtain most WiFi passwords in matter of minutes to hours using freely available hacking tools, and may not need physical access to your building in order to join the network. If your business is regularly transmitting sensitive data over a network (such as credit card transactions, private customer information, etc.), a wired solution would help to keep your data significantly more secure as a hacker would generally need to obtain physical network access. You can also slow down hackers by using best practices for creating and keeping secure passwords.

Speed Advantages

While the speed of WiFi keeps getting faster (especially in higher end hardware and modern Mesh networks, which have made network speed differences largely trivial), the average low-cost wireless network is still not as fast as a wired one.

That being said, many businesses will choose WiFi for its many benefits, including but not limited to:

Low-cost of Setup

Entry-level wireless routers cost as little as $30 and do not require massive cable runs behind walls in order to connect devices spread across an office.

Convenience for Modern Technology

Almost every modern device such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops have WiFi adapters built in, and WiFi technology allows users to roam while connected to the network.

Ease of Configuration

Setting up and securing most wireless routers from major brands these days is a relatively quick and painless process.

This is offset by some of the disadvantages of WiFi:

Potential Range & Coverage Issues

The range of your wired network is as long as your network cable runs (and budget) allow, whereas WiFi networks often need to utilize inefficient repeaters/range extenders that practically cut your available bandwidth in half. Using a more advanced Mesh network eliminates the problem of losing bandwidth in order to provide optimal signal strength throughout a building without any dead spots, but these types of advanced networks usually come with an increased overall hardware cost.

Issues with Inconsistent Speeds Due to Interference

Wireless interference can happen at any time from any number of devices or barriers in your building. These can drastically effect the speed of the wireless connection and its overall reliability. There are things you can do to fix a slow network connection caused by interference, but centrally re-locating your wireless router / access point is generally the best and easiest fix.

Best practices for security and passwords in a business environment

Security & Passwords

For small businesses, the costs and damages caused by a security and/or data breach can be irreversible, potentially opening your organization to legal issues if customers’ privacy rights are violated. This means that having strong security and password policies are extremely important. The average cost of a single data/security breach for companies in 2019 is 3.92 million dollars.

What's more astonishing is that 81% of company data breaches are the result of poor password policies. Thankfully, there are some simple and effective practices you can employ to protect your business from a crippling data breach situation:

Create Strong Passwords

  • Mandating that strong passwords be created and used by everyone makes it significantly more difficult for a hacker to break into a system. Strong passwords are usually considered to be at least eight characters long and consist of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Steer clear of dictionary words in passwords. Many times, hackers will make use of sophisticated programs that will search through tens of thousands of dictionary words in an attempt to crack a password. Avoid dictionary attacks by opting to use randomized passwords.
  • Ensure that different passwords are being used for every account. Using the same password for multiple accounts may be convenient for most users, but it makes those accounts more vulnerable if that password is exposed. Diversifying all account passwords is the safest practice.
  • Change passwords at regular and set intervals! Keeping the same passwords around for long periods of time is also a security risk in that it allows a hacker to continue 'working' on bypassing it. Changing passwords at a set interval ensures that the existing policies are continuously being met, and will help outwit hackers.
  • Do not allow password sharing between co-workers! Password sharing makes it harder to establish exactly who is doing what when employees share passwords. Under normal circumstances, if sensitive company data has been altered or if unapproved changes have been made to critical documents and/or data, identifying the user through the account credentials that were used makes this behavior easy to track & manage. If hackers do gain entry to your system, shared passwords make it that much easier to access other parts of your network.
  • Avoid storing passwords, whether it be digitally or on paper, as such information could be stolen and used by those with malicious intentions. A hacker that discovers a document full of shared passwords in one employee’s Google account can turn a single security incident into a full-blown breach.

Use Password Management Software

The single easiest way to fulfill most of the recommendations above is to employ password management software within your small business. Password management software will generate strong passwords for any account that requires logging in, and will store all of them securely behind a master password. This means there is no longer a need for you or your employees to remember dozens of complex passwords. Putting password management software in place will ensure that all of your accounts are kept secure and will help minimize downtime due to forgotten passwords.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication Wherever it's Available

Two-factor authentication adds a second layer of protection to accounts to go alongside their regular method of logging in. Most commonly, this involves receiving a verification code via app or text message on a mobile device. This means that no one can log into the account in question without physical access to your mobile device, even if they have your password. While this isn't available for every type of account out there, enabling it whenever possible creates a near impenetrable added layer of security.

Secure your Devices

No matter what precautions you take, or how strong your passwords are, none of it is safe if a malicious software program is monitoring what you're entering on your keyboard. Always make sure the devices that are used within your business are secure, up-to-date, and using reliable virus scanning software.

The importance of firewalls for business security

Firewalls

While most users are aware that viruses and malware can threaten small businesses in the same way that they can affect home computers, many fail to recognize that small business computers are at a much higher risk for direct attack than a home computer would be. As such, many small business computers are only armed with standard antivirus software. While security software can identify and quarantine infections on an individual machine, they cannot prevent infections from making their way across your network onto additional employee devices. This is where the importance of having a firewall solution in place can make a huge difference. Firewalls are a great way to proactively prevent cyberattacks targeting your business rather than dealing with their aftermath.

What is a Firewall?

Simply put, firewalls act as a gatekeeper for your entire network. Their job is to monitor all incoming and outgoing network traffic and decide whether or not it should allow or block that traffic based on the security rules that it has been given.

For example, if your business is running a firewall and it detects that there are certain IP addresses on your network that are making thousands of requests to access the internet, which is slowing down your entire network, the firewall will recognize this as a botnet attack and will block the associated IP addresses to prevent your network from being slowed down to a crawl.

Software firewalls vs. Hardware firewalls

Believe it or not, the computers within your small business may already be using several firewalls at this very moment. For example, machines running Windows 10 are already running Windows Defender which has a built-in firewall. This is a software firewall that protects that individual machine. Additionally, many routers already contain built-in firewalls that block common cyberattacks. This is a hardware firewall that protects all the devices that are connected to it.

Software Firewalls

Software firewalls are most commonly found on home computers, small businesses with a very small number of computers, or portable laptop computers. Because software firewalls are installed directly onto the computer itself, they offer protection no matter where the computer is located. This is a huge advantage for entrepreneurs that do a great deal of traveling, as their laptop computer can be protected regardless of the network they're connected to no matter where they are for work.

Hardware Firewalls

Hardware firewalls are generally a physical device or router product that is connected between your business' Internet connection and the network that all of your devices connect to. The benefit of a hardware firewall is that it will protect every device that is connected to it, without having to install and manage software on each individual device. In many cases, the router that is providing hardwired and WiFi connections in your office will already offer a built-in firewall. These types of hardware firewalls are great for physical office 'home base' locations because of this.

Which one is right for you?

This question can only be answered by you! In many cases, the correct answer is a little bit of both. While hardware firewalls are great to protect everything that's connected at the office, they cannot protect you if you're working from the airport, a hotel, or a coffee shop. While software firewalls can certainly be set up on the devices you may travel with for work, configuring multiple devices and staying on top of all of those settings can be a huge inconvenience.

Protecting your small business from malware

Malware

Malware or 'malicious software' is a term that is used to describe any sort of program or code that was designed to be harmful to a computer. For small businesses in the 21st century that thrive on technology and the use of the Internet, malware can be devastating. If your business handles personal data, your employees and your clients should be confident that cyber-criminals won't be able to access it.

Malware is constantly evolving and has taken numerous forms over the years. Unfortunately, it is a danger that will always be present. As security measures increase, the minds behind malware are constantly looking for new ways to sidestep and circumvent those measures. According to the 2019 Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec, cyber-criminals using malware increased by 25%. This means that it's more important than ever to make sure that the technology behind your small business is protected. Malware attacks can be tricky to identify, so it’s essential that the proper measures be taken to avoid them at all costs.

The following are the best ways to protect your business from the threat of malware attacks:

Install Security Software

Taking proper security measures is a must to protect your company against data breaches. Make sure that all of your computers are protected with antivirus, anti-ransomware, and anti-malware software as a first line of defense against cybercriminals.

If your computers already have security software installed, make sure it is always kept up-to-date. Security software updates frequently to ensure you always have protection against the latest threats. Many security software programs will take care of this automatically, but it is always wise to check each one to make sure they're doing what they should be doing.

Ensure your security software provides protection against all types of threats. One piece of software may not be enough to keep your machine fully protected from all types of malware.

Educate Employees About Cyber Threats

Lack of employee understanding when it comes to malware is actually one of the leading causes of harmful data breaches. Many employees simply don’t know how to properly identify a malware attack, which puts the computers they're responsible for more at far greater risk than normal.

Be sure to properly educate and/or train your employees when it comes to cybersecurity and how it relates to your important business' data. All employees should know how to identify websites, links, and phishing scams that contain malware regardless of what operating system the device is using:

Upgrade your Network's Security

Ensuring your network is secure will also lower the risk of malware attacks on your devices. As we've previously pointed out, having competent firewall protection can shut out malware and detect potential threats that originate from any type of connection.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows you and your employees to use the internet without worrying about the possibility of being a target for attacks. This is because VPNs establish a private internet connection that encrypts all of the data that is sent and received by your company's computers.

Encrypt the Files on your Computers

Encrypting the data on your computers is a higher-risk option that turns your data into code that cybercriminals can’t understand. In the case that a cybercriminal did gain access to your data, they wouldn’t be able to make use of it, because they would not be able to decrypt the data that was taken.

However, encrypting the data on your computers is something to be very cautious of. Most encryption is password-protected, and there is no way to undo or reverse encryption should that password be lost or changed. As such, an encryption situation gone awry can result in lost data.

When considering data encryption, always be sure it is the right choice for you and your business. We can help you secure multiple types of devices:

Local or network printers - which one is right for your business

Shared Printers

In the year 2020, it's hard to imagine businesses having the need to print out large volumes of documents in an age when cloud computing, file sharing, and smartphones and tablets are dominating our culture. However, there are still plenty of industries that rely heavily on paper documentation amongst clients and coworkers alike.

When it comes to printers in the workplace, there are generally two options: local printers and network printers. The choice between the two depends on the nature of your business, how many employees you have, and how much printing you'll need to do. What are the differences between the two?

Local Printers

Local printers are printers that are directly connected to a specific computer via USB cable. Due to its connection method, this type of printer is only accessible from that particular computer. As such, it can only serve one computer at a time. Having local printers at specific computers ensures that employees who need to print frequently always have direct, reliable, and immediate access to a printer. Should any printing issues arise on a Windows computer or printing issues on a Mac, only the employee who uses that printer is affected, and since the issues are realized immediately, they can be resolved in a timely fashion.

Local printers can also be shared to other computers that are connected to the same network. While this can be beneficial to allow printing access to additional computers, many conditions can break the printer share and make shared printing a major headache.

While having a limited number of local printers at specific computers can be convenient, there are some downsides within a business environment. Buying and maintaining multiple printers is costly to begin with, but ink and paper expenses can quickly make this option seem unreasonable. Should anything happen to the printer, many models aren't serviceable and may need to be replaced entirely - this can lead to unexpected downtime due to the affected employee not having access to another printer in the meantime.

Network Printers

Network printers are printers that are connected to your office's network, and as such, are available to any device that is connected to the same network within your office. Network printers can be wired directly to your office network, or can be connected wirelessly and set up in a central location so that any and all of your workforce can access it at any given time.

Unlike local printers, network printers offer the flexibility of being available to any employee in your office environment, regardless of what operating platform their device might be using (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.). While very versatile, network printers have their downsides. If multiple employees are attempting to print things at the same time, this can cause a bit of a printing traffic jam, where certain print jobs will be delayed until others successfully complete. Network printers can also end up being entirely unavailable should the office network go down for any reason.

Even with their downsides, the majority of businesses tend to operate with some form of networked printer. Which solution is right for your business? Unfortunately, there is no single right answer for every situation. Take a close look at your core business operations to decide which one might be a better fit for your company. If you need help setting things up, we're here to help:

The importance of data backup and security for your business

Data Backup

Customer data is perhaps the greatest asset in forging unique experiences, however in today's digital world the risk of losing that data can be your biggest liability. Many small businesses are vulnerable to data loss situations because they do not have a data backup solution in place at all. Depending on the nature of the business and the workflow involved, individual data backup needs can vary greatly. In general, there are two forms of data backup available.

Local On-site Back Up

Local data back up involves using local means to back up important data on each computer. Most local data backup methods usually involve:

  • Flash drives
  • External hard drives
  • Additional internal hard drives on each computer

Since each one of these backup methods uses hardware for data storage, there will always be inherent risks such as hardware failure, loss or damage, or even theft. There is also the issue that these types of backup methods will end up being stored on-site. Natural disasters, fire, and theft can all result in the same loss of data, even if it's all backed up. Hardware failure in these situations can mean extended downtime, or a complete stoppage of work, and can result in data recovery costs that can skyrocket to thousands of dollars.

All that being said, if your business does not store a great deal of important data locally, local data backup solutions may be the most cost-efficient way to ensure your data is safe. We can assist with backing up data for multiple business-use devices regardless of the operating system:

Cloud-based Off-site Back Up

The modern approach to backups is to use the cloud. Cloud backups are redundant, they help minimize downtime, and typically their costs tend to scale with your company's growth. There's also zero infrastructure investment required, as cloud-based backup services don't require any additional hardware for your computers. With such amazing benefits, many businesses are leaning towards off-site cloud backup solutions, opting to take advantage of their sophisticated functionality and ease of use.

Regardless of which solution you decide is right for your business, always make certain that your employees have a secure method of backing up data so that your business is not vulnerable to destructive attacks or data breaches. There are a multitude of off-site cloud-based backup solutions available, such as:

  • IDrive uses a single account to backup all your business data via remote dashboard. A basic account is free with 5 GB, while the business plan offers 250 GB of storage for unlimited computers and unlimited users for a reasonable fee.
  • Acronis allows for multiple administrators with different roles assigned to them. Backups can be stored in several different locations.
  • CrashPlan allows admins to manage multiple users, change permissions for employees and see real-time reports on activity and storage use.
  • Arcserve can manage restores, track cloud usage, and schedule backups all from one console. It also has a tool to reduce duplicate files so that your storage isn't eaten up unnecessarily.
  • Carbonite is easy to install and use. Boasts easy file recovery for computers infected by ransomware. Monitor online backups and access files from any device via a secure, web-based dashboard.

Whichever backup method you decide upon, make sure that backups are scheduled to occur regularly, test their validity to make sure your data is safe in the event you should need to retrieve it, and have a plan of action should a data loss situation arise.

 

Further Reading

Further Reading

The following guides can help further assist you with the recommendations outlined above: