Because Getting PC Help Should Be Easy and Accessible

Workstations that don’t work properly can get in the way of even the most diligent of workers. If the IT department is too busy to give them immediate assistance, where can your employees turn to? If your organization has a help desk solution, workers have a great way to get the assistance they need without having to wait.

It’s important that issues are resolved as quickly as possible, so they don’t negatively affect operations. A help desk is the best way to eliminate time and productivity lost to technology troubles, and it gives employees the freedom to request assistance as it is needed.

A help desk works by giving an employee who is experiencing a problem, the ability to quickly contact an IT technician that can, and will, resolve the issue. This is all done without disrupting anyone that doesn’t need to be involved because it is a direct line to assistance. A help desk solution serves as a great way to contain an IT issue from taking up more time and resources than it should.

With a help desk, your staff won’t be distracted by a member of IT arriving on the scene to resolve the problem. This also allows your IT department to keep all hands-on deck and allow your technicians to focus on doing what technicians do best; innovating and creating new ways to optimize technology for your organization’s benefit. Plus, it is likely that your IT staff has more pressing obligations and responsibilities than setting up someone’s email.

As a bonus, one major benefit of a help desk comes after an employee takes full advantage of it. Since the employee gets immediate assistance and isn’t being burdened by faulty technology, they’ll be able to get right back to work with minimal downtime. This means that you aren’t spending money to pay an employee for time that’s unproductive. Eliminating downtime is one of the key ways that businesses can save in operating costs, and a help desk helps you achieve this goal.

In the long run, implementing a help desk solution for you and your staff will pay for itself. Less downtime equates to more productivity and more money. To learn more about how a help desk can help your business save money, reach out to VentureNet at 214.343.3550.

3 Benefits of VoIP that are Too Good to Ignore

Getting rid of unnecessary expenses is one of the best ways for businesses to save money. While it’s often unavoidable that you have to invest in solutions that serve a singular purpose, it’s more cost-effective to find solutions that have variable functions or that make life easier. One of the best ways to save money for your business is by performing a revamp of your telephone system.

Do you have a traditional telephone system in your office? A voice communication tool, like Voice over Internet Protocol, is much easier and more efficient to handle in the long run than a traditional system. We’ll discuss three ways in which VoIP improves the way your business runs.

Cost Savings
One of the most immediate ways that VoIP helps your business is by eliminating all other telephone bills. Since VoIP is using the Internet, which you already pay for, you save money by eliminating a large, unnecessary cost with traditional telephone service. In the long run, you’ll continue to save money every month that you don’t have a traditional telephone system.

VoIP doesn’t necessarily require specialized hardware either, so it’s not like you’ll be paying an arm and a leg to make the switch. In fact, many VoIP solutions can work through the cloud, or via an app that can be installed on your own smartphone, and in some cases, you might not need to replace your existing equipment at all.

Collaborate and Record in Real Time
Cooperation between departments and documentation of important meetings are important for any business, and VoIP makes it easier to accomplish both. Through your VoIP solution, meetings can be held in real time and can be recorded so you don’t have to worry about missing any key details. VoIP allows your staff to transcend the barriers of the workplace, since any employee with an Internet connection can access your company’s phone system anytime, anywhere.

Great Convenience
VoIP is capable of being run on a multitude of devices, depending on the specific needs of your business. This includes softphones for desktops or laptops, mobile apps for smartphones and even the traditional handsets that you might currently find in your office. Furthermore, you can use a combination of these technologies to maximize your availability, both in and out of the office. Since a single number can be set to ring multiple devices, you don’t have to carry around multiple devices so that you can be reached outside of the office. Furthermore, these devices can be configured to forward a call based on the time of day. This way, you won’t have to worry about receiving calls while you’re home – that is, unless you want to.

VoIP is a great way to get the most out of your phone system, especially when you consider the cost benefits of doing so. To learn more about VoIP, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.

Don’t Neglect These 3 Data Backup Essentials

Having consistent access to data is what drives business. If you can’t access mission-critical data, then you experience what’s called downtime, which drives profits into the ground. Therefore, you need to keep your data safe, especially if you want your company’s future to be prosperous. Therefore, you need data backup and disaster recovery.

Here are three best practices that can help your organization get the most out of your data backup and disaster recovery solution.

Always Keep RTO and RPO in Mind
These two terms are associated with how much data that you want to restore, as well as the actual time it takes to perform the restore. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that tape isn’t conducive to optimizing either of these. Tape backups can take hours or even days to restore, depending on how big your infrastructure is, since it takes a backup of everything. Plus, tape backups can only feasibly be done after-hours, since they are so resource-intensive. Unfortunately, this leaves you vulnerable to up to a day’s worth of data loss in a worst-case scenario. Clearly, tape backup can’t meet the standards that your business needs from a data backup and disaster recovery solution.

Having BDR as part of your company’s business continuity plan allows your organization to meet its recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO), by eliminating downtime and ensuring that you can recover as much data as possible. BDR is a fantastic tool that can significantly improve your company’s chances of future success, since an organization that cannot recover their data is at much greater risk of going out of business than one that has direct access to their backed-up files.

Store Backups in Multiple Locations
What would you do if your organization were to experience severe weather that threatened to destroy your physical infrastructure? Evacuating the building of personnel beforehand is a top priority, but it’s impractical to also evacuate your digital assets.

Therefore, you want to have your data backed up and stored in multiple locations. You’ll be in rough shape if you store your data in only one location (like your office) and something happens to it. What would you do if the location of your backups, as well as your office, were to be hit by the same disaster? BDR stores your backups on-site, off-site, and in a secure data center to ensure that you’ll always have access to a copy of your data.

Take Plenty of Backups
Tape backup tends to only work once per day, specifically because your network will be too burdened if you tried to take more than one backup during normal office hours. The possibility of losing an entire day’s worth of work is a threat, especially since tape backup isn’t an automatic solution and relies on employees executing it properly.

BDR, on the other hand, can take backups as often as every fifteen minutes. This means that it’s you’ll be restoring data that’s up-to-date, keeping data loss to a minimum in the event of a disaster. BDR also allows your organization to restore directly to a network device, which means you don’t have to immediately replace damaged hardware to be able to get back to work. Instead, BDR will provide you with a comfortable amount of time to get your assets in order and to shop around for replacement hardware.

Data backup and disaster recovery is something that cannot be taken lightly. If your organization is suffering from a lack of backup and disaster recovery, reach out to VentureNet at 214.343.3550. We’ll help your organization take the first steps toward minimizing downtime and improving business continuity.

Who’s Been Accessing Your Network? Here’s How to Find Out

Have you ever heard of event logs for your network? These are records of who is doing what on your network, and why. Understanding how event logs work can help to minimize leaked data and identify significant issues on a workstation or laptop.

Event Logs, Explained
Event logs keep track of events and notifications stored in your computer’s background. These logs contain errors and other important details concerning the performance of your PC, including notifications that may not appear in a popup window. In terms of security, one of the most valuable uses of event logs is identifying and tracking suspicious activity on workstations.

For example, what if a hacker managed to steal user credentials from a staff member? They could then log into your network remotely and access a wealth of sensitive information, all without setting off any flags. However, by reviewing the event logs, you may catch imposters accessing your network from across the world.

If a hacker is intent on infiltrating your network, they will likely use one of two methods; try to break in with brute force, or try to sneak past your defenses using legitimate methods. The latter is growing more common, as sophisticated attacks are difficult to detect in time to stop. If you’re not paying attention to your event logs, or you don’t have dedicated technicians to routinely comb through them, then you may not notice that there’s someone with an IP originating from the other side of the world digging through your network.

Additionally, event logs are crucial in helping IT technicians identify a hardware or driver issue before it negatively affects the end-user. By using event logs as an early warning system and catching a problem more quickly, downtime is minimized.

Take Advantage of Remote Monitoring and Management
Of course, you don’t have time to sit around and monitor event logs all day. In fact, this isn’t a job for your in-house IT technicians, either. They would rather be innovating and finding ways to improve operations, not keeping their eyes glued to event logs. A great way for SMBs to meet this need is to outsource the responsibility of network monitoring and management to a managed service provider.

Monitoring event logs is something that all businesses should do. To learn more about how doing so can help you improve network security, reach out to the IT professionals at VentureNet. We can remotely monitor and manage your infrastructure so you don’t have to. To learn more, call us at 214.343.3550.

Getting Back to the Basics for World Backup Day!

It’s a nightmare situation for any business owner when all of their essential data suddenly disappears. Fortunately, there are measures that you can take to turn this nightmare into an inconvenience. However, you must also be certain that these measures are adequate to keep your data safe, despite the worst of circumstances.

Remember, there is a difference between a “disaster” and a “data disaster,” although the two are often connected in a cause-and-effect kind of way. A disaster is some event that puts a business in peril, oftentimes leading to a data disaster, where some large degree of data loss is experienced.

Keep in mind, a data disaster doesn’t rely on a “typical” disaster in order to take place. Hardware failure, user error, and hacking attacks can all contribute to a data disaster.

Either way, nothing about any type of disaster is easily manageable. Either can have serious repercussions for your business if you don’t have a backup solution preemptively in place. However, this backup solution should meet certain criteria:

  • Backups should be taken multiple times a day, ideally as often as every 15 minutes.
  • It must be stored in multiple offsite locations. This will help keep your backup from being destroyed by the same disaster that took your original data.
  • It must be tested on a regular basis to make sure it works. Otherwise, you may as well not have one in the first place.
  • Keep in mind, maintaining a backup solution is only half of the business continuity battle. Preserving your data is important, but should a true disaster endanger your business, you’ll need a comprehensive Backup and Disaster Recovery plan.

    To ensure your business continuity, VentureNet can help you create a data backup plan. Give us a call at 214.343.3550 to get started.

    How to Stop Wasting Time on Troublesome Technology Issues

    Does your organization have trouble managing and maintaining its technology? Usually, this responsibility falls to an IT department, but this assumes that you actually have one. Furthermore, it’s easy for an IT department to be so busy with maintaining the state of things that they don’t have time to innovate and improve operations. What’s a business owner to do?

    When You’re Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
    Technology isn’t something that lasts forever. It either has to be replaced periodically, or repaired and upgraded to ensure functionality in the long run. Of course, this becomes borderline impossible if the people in charge of IT maintenance must continuously accept phone calls and support requests and constantly put out fires. Eventually, you’ll start to suffer from systems that are inadequate, which creates even more problems.

    In the end, you’ll just wind up working around issues until they become too severe to avoid. You’ll be forced into two possible situations: 1) Upgrade regardless of what situation your IT budget is in, or 2) Limit your organization’s potential by using inefficient equipment. At this point, you can’t ignore it any longer and you’ll be forced to either upgrade your equipment, or sacrifice functionality.

    Managed IT to the Rescue!
    Thankfully, you can keep your technology from even getting to this point by implementing managed IT services. With a managed service provider (MSP), you can make sure that your IT budget never gets busted again by premature hardware failure or unexpected maintenance. MSPs are capable of either supplementing or acting as a fully functional IT department for your organization.

    If you need IT support, look no further. MSPs can act as a help desk solution. Do you need to implement new hardware? MSPs cover that, too. Whether you want to create a roadmap to implement new solutions, or you want to make incremental monthly investments for preventative maintenance, MSPs can help you improve the way your organization handles IT-related troubles.

    Furthermore, if you have an IT department that’s overburdened, VentureNet can assist them with the needful. If it’s handling support requests or implementing new and innovative solutions, we can help. All you have to do is give us a call. We can work out a service level agreement that details exactly what your business needs, and the rest will be history–just like your IT troubles!

    To learn more about managed IT services, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.

    When Your Business’ Hardware Fails, You’ve Got Options

    With computing and networking hardware shown to be unreliable over time, businesses need to have a strategy in place to fix or replace their hardware. This is especially the case when it comes to servers. Replacing a server is expensive, but when it fails, you aren’t left with a lot of choices. What’s your plan for dealing with hardware failure? Here are three options.

    The first option is to replace your malfunctioning hardware. This may seem like the most efficient approach, until you realize how much information your organization has. When replacing a server, you have to sort through all of your files to find out which ones are mission-critical and which ones aren’t, and you need to have a data recovery option in place that will migrate the information onto your new device. Not thinking this process through can cost your company a massive amount in new hardware costs, third-party migration and setup costs, and downtime.

    The second option is to lease new hardware. If your organization can’t sustain the large capital outlays of purchasing new hardware, many vendors offer a hardware leasing program that allows you to get the technology you need at a price you can afford. Some technology companies offer Hardware as a Service (HaaS), which provides businesses with new hardware and frequent refreshes for a monthly fee. This strategy reduces support costs and often comes with proactive managed services.

    The third option is to virtualize your IT infrastructure. In this way you can leverage the cloud to your business’ advantage. You won’t be able to escape the migration costs, but the large upfront costs of replacing your hardware would be eliminated. There are a few different types of cloud computing models that give your organization choices on how your data is monitored and protected. A cloud platform is typically monitored and managed by the hosting provider, eliminating management costs and minimizing support costs.

    Whichever option you choose, having IT support is important to keep your organization’s hardware in good working order. Your staff may not be savvy enough with technology to fix issues, and they likely don’t have the time for it. Therefore, having around-the-clock IT support is important for the efficiency of your staff, as well as their own peace of mind if they encounter issues.

    At VentureNet, we provide 24/7 support via our help desk, and we go above and beyond to help organizations mitigate their hardware costs through our proactive monitoring and management service. By leaning on our RMM service, your business will have less network maintenance to deal with, and you will get more out of your hardware investments. By keeping your network running smoothly through our proactive monitoring, we can tell if your hardware is on its way out and we can advise you if it is time for a refresh. We also keep your network free of malware, resulting in less downtime and higher degrees of efficiency.

    If your company is continually running into hardware problems, consider contacting one of our certified IT technicians to schedule a network and infrastructure assessment. Call us at 214.343.3550 to learn more.

    4 Ways Businesses Can Find Value in the Cloud

    You might be surprised to learn how much the cloud can change the way you do business. What follows are some of the most valuable ways your business can leverage the cloud.

    Boosted Mobility
    How many times has your company been limited by its lack of mobility? Employees working off-site may not be able to access critical files. Furthermore, keeping multiple copies of your files stored all over the place without having a unified location is just begging for a data leak or data loss disaster.

    The cloud is a great solution to these problems and can provide you with a central hub to store your data. You can then access your data from anywhere with an Internet connection, allowing for much more flexibility. Your employees can access documents and other information that they need to do their jobs, all without the unnecessary risk of losing data or misplacing files.

    Data Backup and Business Continuity
    What if your business experienced a catastrophic situation where the majority of your data was lost or stolen? Floods, power surges, fires, earthquakes, and so much more all have the potential to knock your organization off its feet. If this data is stored both on-site and off-site, you’ll have a much greater chance of recovering from a disaster. Cloud-based data backup is a great way to take advantage of off-site backup.

    By backing up to the cloud, you can rapidly recover your data to a viable device at a moment’s notice following a disaster. A quality Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) device is the ideal tool for business continuity, as it can take multiple backups a day (as often as every 15 minutes) and send them to the cloud. A BDR solution also has the ability to quickly restore your data for when you need it most.

    Collaboration Tools
    Collaboration done prior to the cloud often involved printing out multiple copies of documents and passing them out to members of the project management team. Then, you would scribble all over the copies and hand them back to the owner with your feedback. The problem with this process is that it’s relatively unorganized and has lots of room for error.

    The cloud fixes these problems considerably. Instead of running the risk of losing paperwork, digital documents are stored online so they can be accessed by any team member with an Internet connection. Furthermore, collaboration is made easier by providing document editing and access in real time.

    Scalability
    What kind of physical storage are you using? Storing many files of different formats and sizes can take its toll on your network. Instead, it’s better to use a flexible solution in order to access and store all of your data. The flexibility you need can be found in the cloud. Your cloud provider can scale the amount of storage you need for your digital assets, which is one less thing for you to worry about. Plus, the costs of data storage will only increase incrementally as you require more space, but you’ll only pay for what you use (all while taking the burden off your in-house IT infrastructure).

    If you want to implement a quality cloud solution, look no further than VentureNet. To learn more, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.

    What’s Your Company’s Strategy for Staying Ahead of Cyber Attacks?

    One of the best ways to progress in business is by looking at what doesn’t work, and learning from it. Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of cybersecurity. You can find out how best to protect your network by looking at what has happened in the past, as well as what cyber attacks other organizations have suffered from.

    If you recall, 2016 was filled to the brim with high-profile hacking attacks. By taking at look at the worst threats from last year, you can better protect your organization in 2017.

    Return to the Basics: Security and Training
    You’ve seen the headlines about huge data breaches that expose millions of users’ credentials or sensitive information. It’s important to understand why these big attacks happen, especially as vulnerabilities increase in number. The more that security problems are ignored, the more dangerous they become as time goes on.

    A good way to protect your organization is by educating employees on how to take advantage of security best practices. This includes enforcing common-sense protocols like password security, as well as how to avoid phishing attacks and questionable online content. Furthermore, take advantage of preventative security solutions that keep workers from being exposed to security risks in the first place.

    Make Sure Your Endpoints are Properly Protected
    How many devices do you have connected to your network? This includes servers, workstations, any device which has access to the Internet, Internet of Things devices, and even mobile devices. How many of these endpoints are protected from external threats? The answer: probably not all of them.

    As a business owner, being aware of which devices are accessing which data should be one of your chief concerns. You need to be intentional about data security by reinforcing digital protections and improving physical security protocols. Security solutions like encryption, access control, firewalls, and mobile device management are capable of helping your business keep its data secure.

    Never Stop Improving Security
    Network security isn’t something that you can implement once and leave alone. The best security professionals understand that security must always be improved upon, as the threats facing your organization will continue to improve themselves. This is why security updates and professionals are needed; they resolve critical flaws that pose a threat to your organization. Additionally, compliance with HIPAA, HITECH, and other regulations should be met in order to better safeguard your organization.

    These are cybersecurity measures that your organization should take, especially if you want to sustain your business. How are you protecting your business in the upcoming months and years? VentureNet can help reinforce your organization’s network. To learn more, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.

    Why You Should Pay Close Attention to Where Your Emails Come From

    When you get an email from a big name brand or a trusted vendor, how often do you question the authenticity of it? Thanks to threats like email spoofing, you can’t afford to be as trusting of others as you might like. When all it takes is clicking the wrong link or opening the wrong attachment to set something terrible in motion, you need to be very cautious.

    A Swedish cybersecurity firm, Detectify, has found that major online domains are now being used to spoof email addresses. Email spoofing is when a hacker makes it look like a message is coming from a certain organization, when in reality it’s not. It’s just a hacker that has made his email domain look like it’s from someone of repute within or outside of your organization. The reason: misconfigured server settings. Since email servers don’t automatically authenticate whether or not email addresses are legitimate, this is something that needs to be set up by your email provider or IT administrator.

    There are numerous ways to make sure your email server is configured properly, but you should only do so if you’re a skilled technician. You don’t want to accidentally make a mistake and change settings that could put your business at risk. To understand how these email spoofing attacks work, let’s start by looking at the details.

    Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
    The SPF is a record that is checked when your DNS record is examined. This determines if the server is allowed to send and receive email from the domain. SPF uses three specific modifiers for its messages:

    • Softfail: The message is accepted and marked as spam.
    • Hardfail: The message is rejected entirely.
    • Neutral: The message is let through without incident.

    DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
    The header and body of the email are hashed separately with DKIM; furthermore, a private key is made and sent along with the message. When the message is opened by the receiving party, the key will perform a DNS request to identify where the email came from. If things seem legitimate, the message is received.

    Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC)
    DMARC uses both SPF and DKIM to authenticate an email. DMARC splits its functions into three parts:

    • Reject: The user never sees the message because it was fully rejected by the mail server.
    • Quarantine: The message is stored for review at a later date.
    • None: The message is allowed through with no difficulty.

    Basically, what DMARC wants to accomplish is identifying messages as fakes, but also allow administrators to check and make sure that flagged messages aren’t accidentally being marked as spam.

    Even if you don’t know the exact details of how email spoofing works, here’s a statistic that speaks for itself. Out of the top 500 sites on the Internet, 276 of them can be spoofed. According to Detectify, this includes servers that don’t have SPF or DMARC set up properly. Also included are servers that don’t have any SPF at all, those that use SPF with softfail only, and DMARC with only action “none.”

    In other words, these email servers would be doing literally nothing to keep threatening messages from arriving in your employees’ inboxes. Therefore, it’s your responsibility that you’re proactively managing what gets received and processed by your own email server. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure your email server is configured to not allow your email domain to get spoofed.

    The most direct way to keep your employees from falling for email spoofing is to prevent them from receiving spam messages in the first place. Reduce their exposure to threats and you’ll be in a much better position. Make sure that you teach them about phishing scams and other security threats so as to minimize the chances that they will act foolishly in the face of one.

    To make sure that your business keeps security top-of-mind, look no further than VentureNet. You can contact us at 214.343.3550.