Software as a Service Is Helping Small Businesses

Software as a Service Is Helping Small Businesses

What kind of software does your business use to keep operations moving forward? Depending on what industry you are in, you might find it increasingly painstaking to procure and manage the software titles your organization uses, particularly if yours is a small business that has limited capital to invest in its software. Nowadays, however, the acquisition of software doesn’t have to be troublesome, as software as a service (SaaS) is providing organizations with limited resources access to software it normally could not afford.

Managed IT Services Bring Substantial Value

Managed IT Services Bring Substantial Value

How does your business handle IT maintenance? Chances are that your small business is in one of two situations: you either have a small internal IT department that can only accomplish a handful of tasks every month, or you have no IT department and rely on your employees to perform any maintenance. No matter how you look at it, this situation is not advantageous.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…for Thieves

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...for Thieves

In terms of data loss and theft, the holiday season is one of the riskiest times to travel. When it comes to protecting your personal information, thieves and cybercriminals are counting on either your irreverence to the issue as a whole, or to be so distracted that you make careless mistakes. In 2016, the number of fraud attempts went up by 31% during the holiday season. In addition, credit cards, mobile devices, and open Wi-Fi are common targets during the holiday.

What Are the Problems with Mobile Payment?

What Are the Problems with Mobile Payment?

Internet commerce has created a vast market for digital payment. With Near Field Communication (NFC) built into almost every smartphone, some of the major financial services companies in the world have created mobile payment platforms that they have advertised as being a fast and secure option for consumers who want to use their smartphones to make retail payments. While this technology has been around for a few years now, not many people utilize it frequently. Here are four reasons mobile payment hasn’t taken off.

Leveraging AI Might Be What Stops Hackers

Leveraging AI Might Be What Stops Hackers

There are times that hackers can’t interfere with data, and then there are times that hackers really can’t interfere with data. CERN, the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research) maintains far too powerful of a computer grid to risk it falling into the control of hackers. To protect it, CERN leverages the cutting edge of security to protect its European Laboratory for Particle Physics: artificial intelligence.

There are a few reasons that using AI as a part of security is a solid strategy. First, it gives users a fighting chance to stay abreast of the changes that malware makes. As a means of fighting threats, the scientists at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics are teaching their AI to identify, extract, and eliminate threats on the network.

This is saying something, especially considering the resources needed to operate CERN’s famous Large Hadron Collider and Worldwide LHC Computing Grid. The LHC collected around 50 petabytes of data between January and June of 2017–and all of the data it collects is shared to a network of 170 research facilities across the globe. These facilities can even be supported by the vast computing resources within this network as needed.

This setup provides a few challenges for those responsible for maintaining CERN’s cybersecurity. First, maintaining computing power and data storage capabilities, while second, securing their global network against threats.

To accomplish this, CERN has turned to AI and machine learning so their security systems can differentiate between usual network activity and activity from a malicious source. Their AI is still being tested, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t similar solutions that you can’t leverage to protect your business.

To clarify, we aren’t talking about sentient androids with human qualities and behaviors as one would see in a movie. CERN’s security AI probably isn’t going to find itself feeling unrequited love for a break room toaster. Rather, we’re discussing a tool that is much more accessible than you might initially realize. For instance, Google. Each time you press ‘Enter’ to run a search, the results are compiled, indexed, and categorized without the immediate involvement of a human being. Through machine learning and hundreds of other factors, Google can draw the most relevant results it can for you, specifically.

This allows search results to be delivered faster than the eye can blink, and millions of results to be balanced and compiled just as quickly. Imagine the difference we would see if human beings delivered search results: biases would influence the results, Google would be bankrupted by the staffing costs, and the speed of return would slow to a crawl.

AI’s capabilities are also extremely well-suited for security needs, as it can tirelessly run penetration tests, patch vulnerabilities, and scan for flaws. Improving defenses, like spam blockers and firewalls, can continue at all hours without the human need for a break. With the ability to draw upon and utilize security resources at inhuman speeds, hackers and other malicious actors will have a much harder time.

While true AI is still in the realm of science fiction, we’re getting much closer to making it fact.

Cybercrime and Punishment: Who Is Accountable for Data Loss?

Cyber Crime and Punishment: Who Is Accountable for Data Loss?

These days you can’t go a week without hearing about governments, companies, and other organizations dealing with major data breaches. It’s so commonplace that sometimes people don’t stop to consider the effect all these data loss events can have. As it pertains to the individual, there is always the chance, if a company gets breached, or loses data from a disaster or a hack, that your anonymity is a casualty. After the media attention fades, there are millions of people that are left exposed and companies, some huge multinational conglomerates, that don’t face any repercussions.

Some time ago, the U.S. Government determined that these general data breach events were an issue for individual state governments. State lawmakers are the only ones that currently have the jurisdiction to create and enforce data security laws in the United States. After an organization is breached, they are typically mandated to provide knowledge of the breach to that state’s Attorney General, who ultimately determines whether or not the state will sink resources into investigating and prosecuting the breached organization.

With data largely running the U.S. economy, however, there have only been two federally-mandated digital security laws passed in the last 20 years: The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), which covers the healthcare industry and the financial services industry, respectively. Since data-theft-based crimes are still roundly federally unprosecuted, it has left a large amount of the business sector left to be protected by the various states’ attorney’s offices. In fact, the first complete trial for data theft was in 2015.

Other parts of the world have more overreaching data security mandates. In fact, the only financial entity that has a greater financial stake in world business affairs than the U.S., the European Union, has recently approved a comprehensive cybersecurity law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR gives regulators authority to stop the transmission of data, or levy fines against businesses that lose individual’s information. The fines are substantial, too, ranging as large as $20 million or 4% of the organization’s revenue, whichever is larger.

Since the civil responsibility of prosecuting data security laws lies with individual states in the U.S., there has been a wide disparity of how these situations are handled. It is up to the state to come up with the penalties for offending companies, so different states have different penalties. Some states prosecute by violation, some by series of breaches, and some, strangely, by resident. Moreover, even if a company is prosecuted for the data that has been taken, there are only four current states (Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania) and the District of Columbia that have given their courts the ability to collect reasonable restitution. Stranger even, some states bar individuals and organizations from taking action against entities that compromise their data, as only class action lawsuits are heard in these states.

There are times when state courts can come down heavily on an organization, as some have had to limit or stop operations completely, pending an investigation. The cost and lost revenue from having to halt operations, coupled with the damage done to the organization’s reputation, can cripple a business’ chance of ever resuming normal operations, even before the verdict, and resulting restitution, has been ruled upon.

The lack of cybersecurity laws on the books is being remedied in several states. Many state legislatures have, at the very least, proposed bills to give courts the ability to hear cybersecurity-related cases. Additionally, many states have already enacted mandates that make clear the amount given to a breached organization before they have to notify the State’s Attorney, as well as setting a baseline for the number of records that have been exposed before notification is required.

Cybercrime and data loss are major issues today, and the more they become prevalent, the sooner we expect the federal government to create additional mandates to protect citizens’ personal information.

How do you think data breaches should be handled? Do you think the U.S Government has to be more active on this issue? One thing is for certain, cybercrime is not going away. To protect your business from data loss and reputational harm, contact the IT security professionals at VentureNet today.

What Recent Natural Disasters Remind Us About Our Business

What Recent Natural Disasters Remind Us About Our Business

With several large storms, wildfires, earthquakes, and floods trampling major cities all over the world, the concept of data backup and disaster recovery is a particularly relevant topic. Business owners must confront whether or not they are prepared to handle such events, because if they don’t, they’ll be risking the future of their business.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40 percent of small businesses never truly recover from a disaster. This jarring statistic, along with every single article about data loss and disaster recovery, should be enough to convince business owners to prepare for the worst. Yet, they don’t, and it’s often too late.

To ensure that your organization doesn’t forget the most important rules of business continuity, consider the following statements:

  • Your data will always be at risk, regardless of where it’s stored. No location is completely safe from a natural disaster.
  • Your physical infrastructure will be affected, but so will many other organizations’.

Business continuity planning is one of the most important things that businesses fail to implement before it’s too late to do anything about it. In a recent article published in The Hartford, five businesses struggle to stay afloat following a natural disaster. They describe all of the nightmarish events that happen after the disaster, and the difficulties of recovering from such a devastating incident. Each business faced different challenges, though. One company had to repurchase machinery and inventory that was damaged during the disaster, while another simply found that most businesses they had been working with prior to the disaster were no longer in operation, thereby threatening their business with lack of sales.

If you learn any lesson from these stories, it’s that proactive thinking and planning for the future can make all the difference between your business’ survival, and its failure.

Here are seven of the most important parts of business continuity planning, and why you’ll want to focus on them.

Important Documents and Records
You need to preserve any paper documents that are critical for your business’ success. You should try to keep multiple copies of your documents for storage in both your on-site office and off-site, just in case your office isn’t left standing or is unreachable. You should consider the 3-2-1 rule as well, which we’ll go into more detail later.

Here are a few examples of important business documents:

  • Deeds
  • Leases
  • Insurance Papers
  • Certificates/Licenses
  • Banking Records
  • Hard Copy of Business Continuity Plan

Contacts and Communications
The most critical asset a business has is their workforce. Social media has implemented features that let users tell their friends and family that they are safe and sound, and that’s for one reason: it’s terrifying to lose contact with someone you care about during a disaster. You should establish and maintain contact lists to ensure you know who has managed to escape the wrath of the disaster. You also need to retain communication lines, including via a phone call, text message, or email. You can have a web page set up so that your employees can update you with their whereabouts in the event of a disaster, which can be helpful if they’re unable to send a voicemail or make a call. You should be especially certain that your critical staff know how important they are to operations so that you can establish modes of communication with them.

Alternative Locations and Mobility
Virtualization and mobility are the keys to ensuring that your business can survive a disaster–particularly if you want to set up a secondary location in the event your primary site is unavailable for work. Virtualization services and the cloud allow employees to work remotely as well, so even if you have no office, there might be a possibility to continue operations. In situations like this, be sure to explicitly state when you expect to resume normal operations.

Vendor and Critical Client Lists
You want to make sure that you know who your important vendors and clients are following a disaster, as they will certainly be instrumental in your recovery. You want to ensure that you can inform them of your situation so that there is no miscommunication with whether or not you can fulfill your agreements. If you are able to resume operations, you’ll want them on your side so that business as usual can resume.

Data Backup and Hardware Replacement
Your data is one of the most critical parts of your business, and without a way to recover it, you’re just another business starting over following a disaster. You must make sure that your data is backed up regularly and stored in multiple locations. Furthermore, you must test the backups to make sure they are working as intended. Our solution takes the worry out of this step. Give us a call to find out more.

Planning for Emergencies
This section mostly contains what you want to do in the event of an emergency while you’re in the office. You should set aside provisions such as flashlights, batteries, water, and more, just in case something happens and you can’t escape the office. These supplies should be stocked and checked regularly. Furthermore, you want to plan out emergency exits, meeting points, and an inventory of important items. This is all just in case you need to file an insurance claim.

Review, Update, and Test Important Components
The importance of reviewing your data backups cannot be overstated, but that’s not all you should be testing. You need to check phone numbers, a roster of key individuals, and your alternative site of operations so that you can continue operating in case of the worst.

Is your business prepared to handle the worst data loss incidents and natural disasters? To find out, reach out to us at VentureNet.

Remote IT Can Dramatically Improve Your Business’s Functionality

Remote IT Can Dramatically Improve Your Business's Functionality

The same business technology that worked wonders over twenty years ago is much different from the current state of office technology. Businesses could get away without a complex network infrastructure, but that’s sadly no longer the case. With multiple servers and workstations to manage, the typical small business network has more maintenance on its hands than ever before. What’s the best way to approach this maintenance?

If your small business has an in-house IT department, you’re one of the lucky few. Often times, small businesses don’t have the budget or the assets to dedicate toward an IT department. Plus, if they do, it’s likely that they don’t have time to get to every single task that’s asked of them. They probably have their hands full with assisting employees with computer troubles, often forsaking critical maintenance and updates in order to keep operations working in the moment–and you can forget about making improvements to your infrastructure in the near future, as they have more than enough responsibilities as-is.

By working with a managed service provider, you can augment the capabilities of any current in-house IT department you have. Trusted technology professionals like managed service providers can do everything from set up an email server to maintaining your whole IT infrastructure. If you need help with technology, a managed service provider can be a viable alternative to hiring a full in-house IT department.

One of the best ways you can use managed IT is for remote support. Your employees probably have a lot of questions that need to be answered–especially when it comes to how to use their newfangled technology solutions. Having a dedicated help desk that can be reached out to at any moment is a great way to use the help of a remote IT provider.

It’s reasons like this that VentureNet wants to help small businesses in your area. Our list of managed IT services takes a firm, preventative stance on managed technology maintenance. We can help you keep operations running smoothly through the use of network security, data backup, disaster recovery, email management, and just about any other technology service possible–specifically to help your business focus on what matters most.

After all, you started your business for a reason, and it certainly wasn’t to spend all of your time on keeping your technology solutions working properly. In fact, most IT maintenance can be performed without being on-site at all. This is just one of the ways we can provide value for your organization. VentureNet can remote into your devices and administer patches and security updates, as well as address any major or minor problems that make themselves felt on your network. We do this so that you can focus on other, more important things within your organization.

How can your business leverage remote IT services? To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Data Backup is Much More Complicated Than It Seems

Data Backup is Much More Complicated Than It Seems

You must consider a series of worst-case scenarios if you want to protect your business in the long run. While various factors such as physical security, employee training, and network security can help you mitigate the majority of issues you face, what happens when each of these efforts fails? You know what they say–prepare for the worst and you’ll never be surprised by a data loss event again.

You must consider a series of worst-case scenarios if you want to protect your business in the long run. While various factors such as physical security, employee training, and network security can help you mitigate the majority of issues you face, what happens when each of these efforts fails? You know what they say–prepare for the worst and you’ll never be surprised by a data loss event again.

With a quality data backup and disaster recovery solution, you’ll be prepared for whatever life throws at your business. Larger companies generally don’t have as much to worry about, as their budgets are more flexible and can accommodate the spending required to ensure business continuity. Yet, smaller businesses can take advantage of these benefits as well, and it’s all thanks to managed IT services. The same backup and disaster recovery services that large enterprises take advantage of can work for your business, too, and it all starts with a business continuity plan. Here are four major concerns that any SMB should take into consideration for preserving their data infrastructure.

Do you store your business’s data backups in a location where they’re not protected by security solutions? If so, you’ll need to reconsider how you store your data backups. Firewalls are designed to keep threats from traveling to and from your infrastructure, and if the data that you’re storing your data backups in isn’t adequately protected by them, you’re going to have a bad time.

The same can be said for an antivirus solution, which protects your data by eliminating threats to it. All it takes is one threat to corrupt your business’s computing infrastructure. Think about what would happen if your data backups were to be corrupted by some ransom strain of malware. Would you be able to restore a backup like that in good faith that it wouldn’t pose a threat to your organization? Probably not–and you shouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. Implement an enterprise-level antivirus solution so that you don’t have to worry about whether your data backups are any good.

Backup Tests
Let’s say that your business experiences a data loss incident. You try to restore your data as soon as possible, but something goes wrong. The data is corrupted. It’s not as complete as you’d like it to be. Regardless of the reason, your business is down and out because you just assumed that your data backups would work as intended. You should be periodically testing your data backups to ensure that they will work when called upon.

Use Automation
The chances of your business’s data backups not working as intended will be drastically reduced if you remove one of the most unpredictable parts of it–the human element. Tape backups require your employees setting tapes to run backups at the end of every day. A cloud-based BDR, however, will accomplish the same goal automatically and send the backup directly to the cloud. There is no room for error here. Everything is handled seamlessly and without human intervention.

Does your business have a comprehensive business continuity plan? If not, be sure to give us a call at 214.343.3550. Our trusted technicians can help you build the perfect backup solution for your business.

Where Does Deleted Data Go?

Where Does Deleted Data Go?

Have you deleted a file and immediately regretted it? Well that may be easy enough to get the file back. What if your intention was to make that file disappear for good? Then you have to understand that the way many operating systems handle the deletion of files may present problems for you.

Have you deleted a file and immediately regretted it? Well that may be easy enough to get the file back. What if your intention was to make that file disappear for good? Then you have to understand that the way many operating systems handle the deletion of files may present problems for you.

Depending how you went about deleting the file in question, they may not be deleted at all; and, if they hold sensitive information, they will still be accessible by hackers looking to profit off of your negligence. Below we’ll outline what happens when you delete a file to give you an idea what exactly the process is to get rid of data. That kind of awareness is critical for you to protect your data, and your company’s data.

Deleting a PC File
On your standard PC, running some form of Windows, when you delete a file it is moved to your Recycle Bin. You may think that the files are gone, but that isn’t the case at all. The location of the file is changed, that’s all. If you access the file path inside the Recycle Bin, you can still open it and restore it. You can’t even get a file to open if you delete it out of the Recycle Bin. Doing so eliminates the file path and is labeled “free”, but the file itself is not overwritten.

This data won’t be gone in perpetuity until it is overwritten by another file, which is rather unlikely if you are using massive storage facilities for smaller files. Since you never really want to be that close to maxing out your available data storage, overwriting deleted file data happens less than a computer’s user would like.

Cloud Storage Considerations
If you are using a cloud storage facility like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive and you want to delete a file, the provider typically keeps this information for a couple of days after the initial deletion, just in case a user made a mistake. After that, however, consumer-grade cloud services customer probably won’t have much luck retrieving any data they had deleted.

Business cloud storage solutions are another story altogether. If your business is a customer of any notable cloud provider, it’s likely to come with redundancy built in. This is a strategy to protect businesses from human error.

VentureNet can help your business equip itself with a data storage structure that keeps your data under control. For more information contact us today at 214.343.3550.