Being in business today means that you have a lot on your plate, it’s as simple as that. Yet, with so many tasks piling up, it can be challenging to prioritize them all so you can figure out where to start. Below, we go over some strategies you can use to make sense out of all the tasks you have on your day and reach a point of productivity.
- Eliminate Non-Starters
If you are not currently able to work on a particular task, it shouldn’t be on your to-do list. Therefore, you need to identify which of your compiled tasks you are actually able to complete, and which you can’t do for reasons outside of your control. Once you have determined these, remove them from your to-do list consideration, or make a point of following up on them. These kinds of tasks will likely only frustrate you and slow you down.
- Rank Your Tasks by Importance and Urgency
Let’s all be honest here – there are tasks that we all just don’t want to do, which means that there is going to be the temptation to procrastinate doing them until the very last possible moment, hoping that we’ll have the time when it’s down to the wire. However, there are also tasks that unequivocally must be done within a certain timeframe. Yet, even when these two categories overlap, the urge is still there to push back the unwanted task. Resist it – the negative consequences of missing a deadline would be far worse than some frustration now.
- Determine a Task’s Value
This is related somewhat to the importance and urgency consideration. What item on your to-do list will deliver the greatest benefit to the company as a whole, and a bit more importantly, to your clientele? Alternatively, which task will cause the greatest fallout if it isn’t completed in a timely fashion? By comparing each item on your list to one another in this way, you can arrange them so that the work gets done in the order it needs to.
- What Does the Boss Want?
What does the person immediately above you in the company hierarchy see to be the priority? Whether or not you necessarily agree with them is moot. They are in charge, so if they want things to be done in a certain way, or certain objectives to take precedence over others, that is their prerogative. This is not to say that you necessarily do things in the order they tell you without question, either. If you see a way to do things that is better, pitch it to them – just make sure you have your counterpoints prepared for the ensuing fallout.
This deciding factor works at all levels of an organization, from entry all the way up to the executive suite. After all, the boss’ boss in any organization is, to a point, the customer.
- What Are You Ready to Tackle?
It is also important to remember that you’re only human, and there are going to be those days that you just aren’t ready to dive into a big, important project first thing. Knowing your own limits and working style will help you to understand how your time is best spent, which is really the most important factor to productivity.
On a related note, you also want to remember that businesses are dynamic things, and you may suddenly be presented with an urgent, high-priority task – something that your team needs right now. Remaining adaptable and able to pivot between responsibilities is an important talent to develop in business.
Again, it is all about the work that you are prepared to do in the moment. If small tasks need to take precedence over large ones because that’s the only way anything will get done, so be it.
Once you’ve settled on your list, VentureNet can help you execute on it with a variety of IT services and solutions. For more information, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.
There can be no denying the opportunity that comes from using managed IT services, particularly in regard to how much you can save in both time and resources. Before managed IT services, businesses would often have to settle for unreliable and expensive IT assistance, but there are better alternatives these days that businesses cannot just benefit from, but flourish with. In other words, managed IT is capable of creating immense value for your business.
The Alternatives to Managed IT
We say “alternatives,” but honestly, they aren’t exactly the most viable options for your organization. There are generally two types of IT management alternatives to managed IT: hiring an in-house IT department, and break-fix IT. The issue with hiring an in-house IT department is that not all businesses have the assets to make this happen. Trained IT professionals aren’t the most affordable resources, which makes some businesses content to just rely on non-trained professionals to make sure maintenance and management happens–a risky venture to say the least.
In an attempt to find a viable alternative to hiring internal IT help, businesses utilize break-fix IT, but this is hardly a more useful or helpful solution. Break-fix is far from the cost-effective solution that businesses seek. Rather than solving the problem at its roots, it only solves the short-term issues that you might be having, not taking preventative measures to make sure they don’t happen again.
Both of these options are not adequate for a modern business that hopes to be self-sustaining in the long run. This is where managed IT comes in.
The Benefits of Managed IT
Technology management is made easy by working with a managed IT provider. Here are some of the ways that managed IT can provide value for your organization:
- Less downtime:Any time spent not working as intended is considered downtime for your business, and it should be prevented as often as possible. Managed IT aims to make issues more preventable, which means that if you’re taking advantage of it, you’ll experience less downtime.
- Fewer costs:Hardware and software can be expensive, so a business that wants to save money in the long run will try to cut corners and costs as frequently as possible in this area. If your hardware experiences fewer issues thanks to proactive maintenance, you’re spending less money over time, improving the value you receive from your assets. This also means you’re not footing an expensive repair bill as frequently, as well.
- Increased flexibility:Managed IT generally includes a remote service component. This means that your organization can get IT support without the technician being on-site. This keeps your costs to a minimum, and you can enjoy IT support whenever you need it without having to wait around for a technician to show up.
- More time:Managing IT is a time-consuming task. If you don’t have someone handling it full-time, work can build up and eventually create issues. For example, if technology isn’t receiving proper management, you can forget about implementing new solutions to improve operations. The same can be said for the reverse, as well. If you’re too focused on implementing new solutions, you don’t have time for general maintenance. Managed IT essentially gives you more time, as you don’t have as many responsibilities to work around and can instead focus on making more money for your business.
To get started with managed IT today, reach out to VentureNet at 214-343-3550.
While not every business needs to worry about hurricanes, the same can’t be said for other kinds of disasters out there. Tornadoes, fires, and other natural disasters could strike at any moment depending on geographical location, but if you’re prepared, you can limit the influence these events have on your organization’s future.
Research Your Threats
Disaster scenarios require having a comprehensive business continuity plan on-hand to ensure your organization can take any hit possible. Depending on where your business is located, you’ll have a specific set of threats that you’ll need to be prepared for. Environmental influences are known to create 30 percent of all downtime incidents; this number includes flooding, hurricanes, humidity, extreme temperature/weather, and so on. Do some research and think about what kind of environmental threats might exist in your location.
Of course, there will always be threats beyond your control, so you should have ways to identify when a disaster–no matter how small–goes unnoticed. A monitoring system will help you detect and prevent a disaster before it becomes too costly. Downtime costs have increased by about 38 percent in the past eight years, so it’s critical that you prepare now before something unexpected happens. After all, hurricanes are only growing more powerful and dangerous, as the average precipitation has increased by roughly 70 percent over the years.
Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario
Imagine your worst-case scenario and take measures to counteract it. In most cases, it’s going to include an off-site data backup solution that stores your data in multiple locations outside of your office. This solution aims to make it impossible to destroy all copies of your data in the wake of a disaster.
Of course, this only applies to your data, but what about the resources that use this data to keep your business moving: your employees? You need to have communications put into place to make sure that all of your employees can stay in touch with management to ensure they are safe. You also need a system in place to make sure your business’ clients are aware of what’s happening so they can expect services or communications to be rendered inoperable for the time being. Extra provisions in the office also make it so that anyone stuck inside for an extended period of time won’t be stuck without supplies they might need.
Get Back in Action
Once you have your plan fully outlined, the next step is to figure out how you will get back in action following a disaster event. This includes minimizing downtime and making sure your employees have the tools needed to work, whether it’s from a temporary office or a remote location. VentureNet can help by equipping your business with data backup and disaster recovery tools, as well as technology to work remotely when the time comes. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.
For the average small business, technology use isn’t always a make-or-break scenario. Sure, there are some technologies that everyone uses nowadays. Inventory and point of sale systems, social media, and wireless Internet are some that you’ll often find used by small businesses. If, as small business owner, your plan was to enhance your company’s exposure to technology, cost may temper your expectations. Today, we look at some solutions that would be useful to your business, but will they break your budget?
Before we start going through solutions, we just want to point out that technology doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, but it often is. We understand that some businesses need it more than others, but we feel as it is our responsibility to introduce companies to technology options that they may not have considered, either because they didn’t know about them, or didn’t see how they will fit in for their business.
One way that technology can work to improve any business is though putting it in a position to take in more revenue. In fact, one study conducted by Bain & Company found that companies that embraced digital transformations to their business grew by an average of 14 percent, of which 83 percent enhanced their profit margins, while less than half of companies that didn’t modernize increased theirs. It gives you some perspective just how useful a technology transformation can be.
What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is exactly what it sounds like. For the business that wants to embrace technology, a digital transformation typically constitutes a complete shift in the way that it deploys technology. Some of the technology includes solutions that enhance mobility, connect people remotely, promote hyperconvergence, and virtualize data and infrastructure.
To totally transform your business into a business of the information age, it’s important that decision makers and stakeholders understand that digital transformation isn’t just some IT project. It is very much a core transformation of the business and the way that it functions.
It’s no secret that many small and medium-sized businesses struggle with technology implementation. More specifically, they struggle with the cost. Budgetary constraints can put a major damper on your company’s technology deployments. As with anything though, it is important to give the projects that you choose to implement the respect that they deserve.
A business that tries to get by with poorly implemented and cheap systems, will get poor results. It becomes important then for any company that is looking to implement solutions that will transform the way it conducts business to do its due diligence and understand what the costs of implementing a specific technology are. By knowing the cost, what the benefits are, how long they will take to deploy, how long they will take to show results, and what your project ROI is expected to be, you can go into any major technology project with the confidence to know that what you are doing is the right thing; and, that it will ultimately improve your business.
Keys to a Successful Digital Transformation
Beyond the variables listed above, you’ll have to begin to understand just how valuable data can be. For the business that has embraced this digital transformation, it won’t take long to establish the fact that managing all the data that you collect is going to be a major undertaking. To mitigate issues for your IT staff, or outsourced IT provider, starting in places that sets the groundwork for all other digital projects is probably the most effective way to go about facilitating a top-to-bottom digital transformation of your business. This means that you should outline the entire transformation beforehand. Since it is a time-consuming process–and often comes with some major hiccups–having very specific objectives of what you want to do, and what you want to improve with your technology, is essential.
You’ll then want to start with the applications you already use. While a digital transformation is largely a series of technology projects with one goal in mind, by starting with the applications you know and use, you can get the project off to a good, positive start. If you start elsewhere, you could find that you will have solutions that don’t work properly and will have to waste valuable capital finding solutions for situations that didn’t need to pop up in the first place.
Moreover, your existing applications and infrastructure are the predominant part of your IT infrastructure, in some cases up to 85 percent of it. This will continue to be true after migration, so getting the bulk of your IT over to your new digital system will go a long way toward easing your mind and keeping budget overruns from ripping apart what should be a pretty solid ROI.
The IT professionals at VentureNet know that any major change to your business can make even the most hardened owner anxious. Our technicians can help your business innovate, while also providing optimized infrastructure support, automation support, and help build a strong plan to protect your new digital infrastructure from threats. Call us today for more information at 214-343-3550.
The cloud has helped a lot of businesses overcome the boundaries set by the physical workplace. Employees can access data and applications on a variety of devices that were previously thought to be nothing but time-wasters, allowing for an improved workplace experience and much more flexibility. In particular, cloud-based email allows for enhanced connectivity between your organization’s internal and external resources.
Of course, moving to a cloud-based email solution might seem a little intimidating–especially if you’ve never dealt with a cloud-based service before. We’ll help you make the jump with four tips and tricks to consider for this process.
How is Your Email Being Hosted?
First, you have to determine whether the solution will be hosted in your own personal on-site cloud or if a service provider will host it. If you opt out of managing your own cloud-based email solution, you’ll have to determine if a public cloud is the best place for your email, or if you’d rather have it hosted privately by another provider.
Be Sure to Include Archiving and Backup
If you’re not taking advantage of archiving and backups for those archives, you could be putting your business in jeopardy. What if you ever have to refer back to past emails to determine who said what in the event of a disaster? You should be sure that you are routinely archiving your emails, as well as backing up those archives to make sure they are always available when you need them.
Don’t Forget About Security
If you’re storing your organization’s email infrastructure online in the cloud, you’ll have to worry about the security of it. Make sure that it’s protected–a firewall, antivirus, and especially encryption. With the amount of sensitive information found in most inboxes, you need to keep it secure.
Consider the Devices Used
When choosing an email solution, you should think about which devices will be accessing it. Most of the common email applications out there, including Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and so on, will have mobile applications that can be downloaded to devices for on-the-go access. After all, if you’re implementing cloud-based email to improve access, you want to make sure your employees actually have access to it.
To learn more about how your business can take advantage of cloud-hosted email solutions, reach out to us at VentureNet.
Whenever we get the chance, we emphasize the importance of having a business continuity plan. The bigger your business, the more important it is to have a comprehensive plan in place–and when your business loses data, it’s losing countless opportunities in the future. Your business’ future is on the line, and if you don’t take steps to protect it now, you could lose everything you’ve worked so hard to attain in the blink of an eye. Here are some of the most surprising statistics regarding data backup and disaster recovery.
Statistic #1: 75% of Small Businesses Don’t Have a Continuity Policy
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run. It could be a small mom-and-pop shop or a large business, the importance of continuity is still the same. Ultimately, it comes down to the possibility of a major setback. If you don’t have continuity, you might have to close down for a few days until conditions have improved (if they improve).
Imagine the following scenarios:
- Let’s say you run a deli or other similar small business. The hardware on your payment card system crashes and you lose your customers’ financial information. How do you think they would react to this? It might not be stolen, but the situation doesn’t help anyone.
- You run a small retail business with several employees. What if one of them checks their email and clicks on a link, installing malware on the computer in the process? Something simple like this can be devastating for a business.
A comprehensive data backup strategy can help you combat threats to your business’ continuity. Everything from hardware failure to employee sabotage should be considered for this plan. In other words, you’re preparing for a worst-case scenario, and no stone should be left unturned.
Statistic #2: Over Half of Companies Have Experienced Downtime Lasting Longer Than a Full Work Day in the Last Five Years
Downtime can end even the strongest business. If you experience operational downtime on a regular basis, you’re not producing anything during that time. This also means that nobody is making sales, and you’re paying people to do nothing. From the perspective of data recovery, if you don’t have your data backed up and ready to be restored, downtime is a business killer. If you don’t have data, you can’t get much done.
Redundancy is a key factor for business continuity. A BDR solution provides a network-attached device that can both back up local data and push it to the cloud. This means that it can be found in either location in the event of a disaster, improving the odds of recovering swiftly.
Statistic #3: Nearly 77% of Malware-Compromised Organizations in 2017 Were Hit By “Fileless” Malware
It’s no surprise that the spread of malware has evolved over the past decade, growing more sophisticated and more difficult to handle. There have been times in the past where antivirus solutions and firewalls have failed to handle some of the more recent additions to hackers’ repertoires of threats, resulting in stolen data and corrupted systems.
That being said, fileless attacks aren’t anything new. These types of attacks don’t leave behind executable files, making them more difficult to trace back to their sources and remove. Here are some of the more popular fileless techniques used:
- Registry-resistant: Attackers store malicious scripts in the registry to help them survive system reboots and make it hard to remove.
- In-memory: Attackers utilize exploits and code-injection to load and execute malware straight from a system’s RAM.
- Living off the Land: By injecting malicious code into legitimate admin tools, an attacker can disseminate malware throughout a system without any warning at all.
Regarding data backup, malware attacks can complicate the recovery of your business. If malware manages to infiltrate your network at multiple endpoints, it can be difficult to root out the issue and get it resolved quickly. A data backup and recovery solution can make it much easier to recover, as long as the malware hasn’t managed to corrupt your backups (hence why you store them off-site). You can effectively eliminate downtime and the costs associated with it, since the network-attached device essentially acts as a server until you can get your hardware replaced or repaired.
VentureNet can help prepare you for even the worst scenarios. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.
Employees don’t always get all of their work done from the comfort of their office. They often find themselves on the road for conferences or trying to stay ahead during their downtime at home. Unfortunately, security can become a problem, and access to data needs to be as secure as possible when outside the company network. A virtual private network, or VPN, can be an integral part of your remote business strategy.
Why Use a VPN?
A virtual private network works by protecting your network from prying eyes while data is in transit. While you’re out of the office and connected to a network, any data that moves between your device and your internal infrastructure is susceptible to being intercepted. Any villain with the right tools could snatch your data while it’s moving from one location to the next. A VPN makes this task more difficult for the hacker, if not outright impossible.
Understanding a VPN
Any network should be encrypted to keep the data stored on it safe, and a virtual private network takes this one step further by implementing an encrypted connection while out of the office or on a different network. This is particularly helpful if you don’t trust the integrity of the web connection you are currently using (and you shouldn’t–hotels, coffee shops, and other public places attract all sorts of folks). If data sent to and from a device is encrypted, hackers have a harder time making heads or tails of the data or its purpose, thereby removing the incentive to actually steal it.
To be fair, a VPN doesn’t necessarily make it harder for data to be stolen–rather, it makes it harder to be read, analyzed, or interpreted. It transforms the data into a jumbled mess that can only be decrypted by someone who has the encryption key. This makes the data stolen significantly less valuable, as hackers can’t really do anything with encrypted data. At the absolute worst, the hacker will spend an insane amount of time trying to crack the encryption, and it’s entirely likely that they will simply give up or see it as not worth the effort.
If your business wants to maximize security for remote workers or traveling, a virtual private network is a necessity. VentureNet can help you implement the best one for your budget. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.
Would it surprise you if you were to find out that over 99% of the Internet is not accessible through search engines? The truth is that the Internet you know, the one with what is seemingly all of history’s information on it, makes up around .03% of the entirety of the world wide web. Today, we’ll burrow through the surface web and take a look at what is beneath.
In the west, the Dark Web is mostly known as a sinister network used to traffic in all kinds of illegal contraband, but in other parts of the world it is often looked upon as the last bastion of privacy in what can be horribly repressive political regimes. Overall, the Dark Web in practice is a construct that supports user anonymity.
Keep in mind that we are certainly not endorsing use of the Dark Web. We just want you to be aware that the Internet you routinely access, or what we will call the surface web in this blog, is in fact a very small piece of the enormity of the web itself.
A Complete Look at the World Wide Web
If the Internet that we can all access only makes up of a very small percentage of the entire Internet, what is hosted on the rest of it? In what is known as the “Deep Web”, most of the Internet is filled with legitimate data; mostly in the form of unindexed content. Data that is encrypted such as online banking, pay-to-play video services, and other forms of everyday Internet use make up a large portion of the Deep Web. With the revelations that there was an online black market where people could get almost anything, many people started confusing the deep web with the dark web, or darknet. This misconception has many people confused about what exactly the purpose is for the seemingly bottomless Internet, but with most of it being taken up by cloud environments and other encrypted services, the notion that the Deep Web is somehow nefarious is misplaced.
What is the Dark Web?
On the other hand, the Dark Web is also hosted on the Deep Web, beyond sight of the average Internet user. While the surface web is unencrypted and able to be accessed by just about anyone who wants to use it, the Dark Web is accessed only through encrypted browsers. You may have heard of specific ransomware programs asking you to download the Tor web browser to make payments. This is because Tor is one of the web browsers able to browse the Dark Web, although it should be mentioned that it’s not exclusively used for the purposes of paying ransomware demands.
Tor is what is known as an onion router. Essentially in order to maintain a user’s anonymity, an onion router will pass user queries through several intermediary accounts to hide the user from being tracked. It’s like passing each command through the several layers of an onion, thus the moniker.
What Else is On the Dark Web?
The services offered on the Dark Web are varied, but they all generally have one thing in common–most of them are illegal. If you can think of it, and it’s not on the normal World Wide Web, chances are there is a place on the Dark Web for it. Some of the services provided on the Dark Web can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Illegal pornography
- Bitcoin services (not outright illegal, but often used for money laundering purposes)
- Botnets that can be bought or purchased for nefarious use
- Markets for drugs, weapons, and other illegal contraband
- Scams and other phishing threats are rampant on the Dark Web, so even those who are looking to take advantage of these services have to be careful
Most notable for businesses is that hacking services can be acquired for even non-experienced users, meaning that anyone with an agenda has access to services that could cripple your business. It’s more important today than ever before to make sure that your organization is taking the necessary measures to protect itself from these threats.
With so much information hidden from view, there is a significant chance that there may be information out there that may end up becoming problematic for your business. At VentureNet, we can scan to ensure that your passwords or other personal information isn’t readily available. Call us today to learn more at 214-343-3550.
Modern businesses rely on email as a central part of their communications infrastructure, but this comes with its own set of threats and issues that can derail operations. Spam in particular is troublesome for organizations to deal with, as it wastes time and exposes your users to danger. While spam can be blocked, more dangerous types of messages can make their way past your defenses. These types of threats are known as phishing scams, and they present a considerable threat to your organization.
Phishing attacks are targeted attempts by hackers and scammers to steal information from your users, whether they know it or not. These messages are personalized to look like legitimate requests for information in a way that makes them difficult to see as threats. Spam can be sent in large quantities to hit as many targets as possible, but phishing attacks are designed to penetrate defenses in a decisive way that spam can only hope to achieve. Keeping this in mind, it should come as no surprise that many cyberattacks start off as simple phishing scams. According to DarkReading, the results of a survey showcased that 91% of cyberattacks start off as a phishing email.
These results come from PhishMe, which identified the reasons why phishing attacks work as well as they do:
- Curiosity: 13.7%
- Fear: 13.4%
- Urgency: 13.2%
These numbers make quite a lot of sense, considering how much stress the average employee is placed under just by going about their day-to-day duties. Some might think their performance isn’t up to snuff, or they might feel pressured to click on attachments depending on who the message is from. This puts your organization in a precarious position, as they might not think twice before downloading a suspicious attachment because it doesn’t actually look suspicious to them at that particular moment. Therefore, you need to take measures to make sure your employees know how to identify phishing scams.
Ways to Mitigate Phishing Scams
If you can’t convince your employees that identifying phishing scams is important, consider the following tips:
- Undergo regular phishing scam training:Training your employees to identify phishing scams might help them avoid these types of attacks in the future.
- Double-check any suspicious messages:You should always report suspicious messages to your IT department, even if you think it might not be worth looking into.
- Never respond to urgent requests before following up:If you receive a message that demands your immediate attention, or requests a wire transfer of funds, check in with whoever supposedly sent the message before doing so.
- Review best practices and workflows:If you think something about an email is out of place, follow best practices as dictated by your industry.
To learn more about how your organization can stay safe from phishing scams, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.
Modern organizations have a lot of threats that they need to secure themselves from. This is not something that you can ignore, as the slightest fault in your network security could usher in much more dangerous threats. If you haven’t implemented some of the most basic security solutions out there, you’re needlessly putting your business’ future on the line. We’re here to help make sure you don’t do that.
If your organization is a bit on the smaller side, you might see enterprise-level security as something your business simply doesn’t need. After all, you’re a small business, and hackers aren’t going to look twice in your direction… or will they? This rhetoric isn’t the most solid way to approach network security, as the only thing keeping your organization secure from threats in this case is the whim of a hacker. If anything, hackers are more likely to target small businesses for this reason alone–they’re more likely to actually get results from their attacks. Remember, there is always value to be gained from antivirus software and taking preventative measures.
It’s difficult to argue against the strategy of taking preventative measures, as from a business standpoint the failure of your network security is, by an extension, the failure of your business. You have nothing to lose by implementing a network security system, including a firewall, spam protection, and content filter, but antivirus in particular can be troublesome to consider. Implementing antivirus accepts the reality that your organization could be infected, and it’s something that no business wants to think about. Antivirus actually helps businesses meet their expected technology ROI, even if it’s not immediately apparent.
An antivirus solution helps your business achieve a return on investment, but to truly understand what this means, you have to assess just how much your organization can lose in the event of a data breach. Imagine everything that could go wrong. If a threat makes it past your defenses and latches on to your network, it could spread and cause even more damage. It could spread itself across multiple devices and be incredibly difficult to get rid of. The time spent clearing your network of threats, as well as the downtime caused by your employees not being able to work as intended, can build up and cause considerable damage to both your budget and your reputation. After all… nobody wants to work with a business that doesn’t take its network security seriously.
It’s critical that your organization has a way to deal with threats after the fact–capturing and quarantining them before they have a chance to cause too much damage. This is what antivirus is for. It limits the damage that can be done in the event of a data breach. Even something as simple as paying for the solution to exist is worth it, especially when you consider the total costs associated with data loss.
VentureNet can help your business defend itself from all manner of cyber threats. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.