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.

The Top 6 Technology Issues Plaguing Every Business

Despite what you might hear in the media, data breaches aren’t the only IT-related issues that small businesses have to worry about. There are many other problems that you need to plan for, and they don’t all originate from hackers trying to steal your data. Let’s take a look at some of the common problems you might experience with your office technology.

BDR Issues
You don’t want to be stuck in a position where your business has to deal with data loss, and it’s even more frustrating if you haven’t prepared for such an event. However, small businesses may have smaller budgets, which limits how much they can invest into data recovery and backup systems. In many cases, they might just forego the protection offered by data backup and recovery in hopes that a disaster will never rear its ugly head. Doing this jeopardizes the future of your business and is an unnecessary risk, especially when BDR is so readily accessible from VentureNet.

Waiting for Issues to Occur
Your business can learn a lot from the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Although, business technology is a different situation entirely that demands a more careful approach. Taking proactive measures to keep issues from evolving into major problems is a viable IT strategy that can keep you from spending huge amounts of capital on replacement hardware, and we can make this simple by providing these services and more for a reasonable monthly fee.

Unknown Root Causes
Even small IT issues can be a symptom of larger underlying problems. In fact, these smaller problems might even be so plentiful that they shield the larger problem from being discovered in time to make a difference. A good indicator of when this happens is when the same small issues pop up and must be fixed repeatedly, as they may be caused by a larger problem. Resolving this should be a top priority, as fixing the same thing over and over again quickly becomes a waste of time.

Security Concerns
While there are countless ways for internal problems to complicate your organization’s security, you can’t dismiss the fact that security threats lurk just outside your business’s network over the Internet. Hackers create threats that wait for unsuspecting business owners and employees to make mistakes, like downloading the wrong file or clicking on the wrong link in a spam message. Small businesses like to assume that they aren’t at risk thanks to how low-profile they are compared to larger enterprises, but the fact remains that hackers often don’t target specific businesses. Instead, they just wait for someone to make a mistake, and then capitalize on that mistake. This is why it’s so important to keep your company protected from all kinds of threats.

Lack of Strategy or Application Compatibility
Chances are that you aren’t the only one in charge of making decisions in your business, so have you considered what happens when your thoughts clash with someone else’s… like your IT department? When this happens, you might run into more roadblocks than you’d prefer, which can lead to slower project implementation. Similarly, you want to ensure that all of your technology is compatible with the rest of your infrastructure, which is something that only a dedicated IT provider would know.

User Difficulties
While you want to get the most use out of your technology, you also need to take into account the user experience. After all, your employees are the ones who will be using the technology, and if it’s counterproductive, they won’t find much value in it. If your employees are using technology that doesn’t improve the way they work, they might suffer from decreased productivity and efficiency.

Even though security is a major issue for businesses, you should still consider all of the other potential problems you could run into while going about your business. Only by taking a proactive stance on resolving technology troubles can your business innovate and push beyond your perceived limitations. VentureNet provides technical assistance to small businesses that want to jumpstart operations. To learn more, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.

How Managed IT Significantly Enhances the Efficiency of SMBs

Contrary to popular belief, small businesses are at just as much risk of experiencing technological problems as large enterprises. Naturally, the more technology that is implemented in an office, the more likely you are to experience hardware failure or compatibility issues. Data distribution can get more difficult, and accessibility can become a major pain point. How can you optimize the efficiency of your IT resources without exposing your business to risks?

One of the best ways you can manage your technology is through the use of outsourced IT services from VentureNet. Our professional technicians are skilled in the management and maintenance of technology. Here are some of the major services that we offer, and what they can do for your organization.

Remote Monitoring and Maintenance
It’s a fact that most of the problems that happen with your technology can be resolved without waiting for a technician to arrive on-site. Managed IT allows your business to get the service that you need without going too out of your way for it. When you don’t have to worry about on-site visits, you’re more free to focus on other aspects of your business while IT is busy looking into the issue. We can apply patches and security updates remotely, and minimize downtime, so that you can focus on running your business.

Securing Your Network
One of the critical parts of managing sensitive and proprietary data is protecting it from data breaches and security threats. At this moment, there are countless threats on the Internet that can take advantage of the Internet of Things, along with ransomware, can put your business through the gauntlet. Thankfully, a comprehensive tool called a Unified Threat Management (UTM) solution can mitigate this threat by preventing infections in the first place.

Cloud Hosting
There’s no logical reason to host your data on-site when you can have us host it off-site. This is great for two reasons: 1) You won’t have to use precious time from your workday to maintain the hardware, and 2) You don’t have to add new salaries to your budget to get quality IT support. Chances are that you don’t have an in-house IT department, so knowing that your data is being managed by experienced technicians is more important than ever. VentureNet can manage your organization’s data on our own servers so you don’t have to worry about it.

BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery)
If you suddenly lost access to all of your data, or if it disappeared in an instant, what would you do? It could be next year, or next month, or even tomorrow. Whenever an untimely hardware failure or natural disaster strikes, you’ll want to be able to recover quickly. Downtime can drag your business down and have effects that persist for months, as you’ll need to replace hardware and recover critical data; a process that can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. With BDR, however, you can quickly and efficiently restore your data at a moment’s notice. Your business will be able to withstand data loss caused by natural disasters, user error, hacking attacks, and even hardware failure.

Is it time for a change in the way your business manages technology? If so, look no further than VentureNet. To learn more, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.

Don’t Sleep on These 4 Game-Changing Technologies

Your business has always used technology as a way to move forward and differentiate itself from other businesses, but you can’t take full advantage of the benefits that technology brings if you don’t take a chance with new devices. Here are four new technologies that may have exactly what you need to make a significant improvement in your business operations.

Smart Virtual Personal Assistants (SVPAs)
SVPAs are apps that make use of predictive intelligence as well as voice recognition to find specific information from personal data, like email messages, address books, calendars, and task lists. This has the potential to give your organization an efficiency boost. Apple, Google, and Yahoo have all acquired SVPA apps that can be used in their products, such as mobile apps and smart speakers. This type of technology can let people really hunker down and get work done, especially since they don’t have to remember tasks, and the fact that they will be given a sense of direction means they can finish tasks in an easier way.

Privacy and Security Technology
According to a poll by Pew Internet and Society, approximately 91 percent of consumers have, at some point, lost control of their personal data. Just look at these major data breaches as a starting point; Adobe, Dropbox, and Snapchat have all experienced huge password breaches, while major retailers like Target and Home Depot experienced credit card breaches. Of course, when big companies deal with data breaches, they enter damage control mode and spend millions of dollars mitigating public scrutiny from the media and consumers alike. To avoid this fallout, businesses tend to invest heavily in security solutions like encryption and two-factor authentication.

Internet of Things Devices
The Internet of Things has brought with it an immense number of connected devices, many of which have somewhat limited practical use in the modern office. Although, there are some devices like a connected coffee maker or a security camera system which can provide some value for your business. If you want to run a modern business, your organization shouldn’t fear the Internet of Things, and should instead focus on embracing it in a cautious manner.

Collaboration Software
Many software providers are hoping to take advantage of the increasing amount of collaboration that’s being done in the workplace, and they do this by making it easier than ever to communicate and work on projects together. Through the use of email, instant messaging, intranet solutions, and cloud storage, employees can take full advantage of one single platform for all of their communication needs. Some examples of these are Salesforce’s Chatter and Microsoft’s Yammer, but other apps like Facebook for Work could make some splashes in this industry.

With these four technologies, you could improve the way that your organization functions. VentureNet wants to help your business fully leverage the power of technology and improve your operations. To learn more, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.

Your Mobile Staff Can’t Do Business Without These 3 Features

Having mobile devices in the workplace can be tricky. While these devices greatly enhance flexibility, at the same time, mobile devices can leave your network unsecure if the proper precautions aren’t taken. To help you better manage the mobile devices connecting to your network, be sure to take advantage of these three mobile features.

Remote Wiping
One major drawback of mobile devices is how they can all too easily become lost or stolen. Obviously, if this were to happen to a device with sensitive company information stored on it, then you’d have good reason to panic. However, if the misplaced device was equipped with a cloud-based, remote wiping feature, you could then take action and wipe the device of its critical information before it’s too late.

Whitelisting and Blacklisting Applications
There are many malicious mobile apps out there that can deal great harm to your business. The risk can range from an app siphoning sensitive information to hackers, to having a device become compromised and enlisted in a mobile botnet. Security problems like these can be easily prevented if these apps are blocked from installing on the mobile device in the first place. This is achieved with a mobile device management solution that’s equipped to allow a network administrator the ability to whitelist and blacklist applications. As a bonus, this feature allows apps to be blocked on company devices that hinder productivity.

Actually, when it comes to mobile devices accessing corporate information, it’s a best practice to not allow users to download apps without first clearing the app with IT. When it comes to malicious apps, they’re designed to look like the real deal and have been known to fool even experienced users. Subsequently, when an IT professional oversees the installation of mobile apps, they’re able to adequately test the app for any security risks and then clear it for passage.

Cloud Syncing
For any business utilizing mobile devices, cloud syncing is the glue that holds every mobile strategy together. Without this feature, different versions of the same file would exist across multiple devices and manually syncing these files would be more work than what it’s worth. With cloud syncing, every edit to every version of every file is automatically saved and synced in the cloud. This allows your staff to collaborate in real-time using all of their various devices. Therefore, if you’re thinking about adopting mobile technology for your business, you’ll want to select cloud offerings that provide your business with the flexibility you need to succeed.

Implementing a mobile strategy that includes these three features is a great way to get started with mobile devices in your workplace. Of course, there are more factors to consider, like how mobile devices affect overall network security, and what it looks like for employees to use their personal devices for work purposes. To get started with a mobile device management solution that will best serve your needs, give us a call today at 214.343.3550.

Is Social Media a Problem in Your Office?

Social media is so popular that it feels like almost everybody uses it. If you’ve ever thought this, then a new study by communications agency We Are Flint confirms this suspicion. While there are several benefits to having more people connected via social media, the popularity of the technology can make it challenging to keep your employees on task.

In the study, it was found that a whopping 84 percent of adults use social media, and two-thirds of these users take advantage of social media on a daily basis. Other statistics from the study are equally eye-opening:

  • YouTube is the most commonly used social media site at 85 percent, while Facebook trails it at 78 percent.
  • As for daily uses, people use Facebook (59 percent), WhatsApp (28 percent), and YouTube (27 percent) most commonly.
  • Young people (18-29 years old) still use mostly Facebook and YouTube at 92 percent and 96 percent accordingly.

Anybody familiar with the social media phenomenon shouldn’t be surprised by these figures. Although, what’s alarming are the results of a survey by People Per Hour where it was found just how much time people spend using social media–while at work!

  • Five percent of men and 11 percent of women spend over 45 minutes of every hour using social media sites while in the workplace.
  • 54 percent of workers post Facebook updates from the office.
  • Meanwhile, only five percent of workers have ever received warnings regarding their use of social media at work.

Is this employee abuse of social media a problem in your office? You may not think it is, but these statistics say otherwise. At the very least, this should be an issue that you’re aware of. Also, if you have good reason to suspect that it’s a problem, then you should address it with your staff so they know your feelings about social media.

As far as how much time is too much time for an employee to spend on social media while at work, that is a figure for you to set as the business owner. It’s important to keep in mind that some positions may require the use of social media, like when it comes to marketing. Also, some workers may be skilled at managing their social media use in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with their work (and it may even enhance their productivity), while social media may be problematic in the hands of other employees that lack self-control.

To get a handle on social media use in your office, we recommend a content filtering solution that allows you to block problematic social media websites, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Plus, the advantage of an enterprise-level content filtering solution is that you can set it to block specific users from accessing specific websites. This way, you can block social media access from the employees who are abusing the privilege, while allowing other workers to access it that need it for their job, or have proven to be responsible in how they use social media while at work.

Looking beyond the social media problem, a content filtering solution blocks problematic websites that are known security threats. Essentially, every workplace where employees access the Internet needs a content filtering solution in order to keep the company both safe and productive. To learn more about what content filtering can do for your business, call VentureNet today at 214.343.3550.