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Small Businesses Find Managed IT Useful To Their Growth

Posted October 25, 2017 by

Number Domain series. Abstract design made of Math symbols, fractal textures and design elements on the subject of virtual reality, science, education and modern technologyMany small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) find that they need to have the right technology before they can grow. In fact, studies have shown that businesses that cap out at 250 employees and primarily have plans to grow in 2018 are focusing their strategies on using IT solutions and applications to achieve growth.

Hopefully for these businesses, they will select the technology that is right to help their business grow at a satisfactory rate according to their unique needs. An MSP, or managed service provider, could provide them with an expert team for much less than an internal IT department would cost to hire, and that could deploy the right technology for these businesses to reach their goals.

With the new year fast approaching, working with an MSP could help your business grow and gain revenue through leveraging the business technology the MSP would provide. Here’s how:

Managed IT
The average SMB is heavily reliant on their technology as they complete the day-to-day tasks the business requires. Whether they’re trying to reach out to customers or access a key record for one of their job responsibilities, each employee needs reliable technology in order to be productive and thereby generate revenue for the company. If the device an employee relies on to work suddenly malfunctions and loses data, the ramifications will be felt throughout the company and ultimately influence its ability to remain productive. Working with the proactive methods of managed IT will better enable your technology to remain efficient. Some of these proactive methods are as follows:

  • Remote Monitoring: Which would you prefer: having a downtime incident impact your revenue streams and cost your business huge sums, or have your network watched so that incoming issues can be anticipated and mitigated with minimal impact? Managed IT takes the latter approach, keeping an eye out for signs of impending problems and fixing them proactively so that your company experiences minimal ramifications.
  • Proactive Maintenance: Maintenance is a key consideration to any business that relies on technology, especially since known issues are resolved through patches that software manufacturers release as they are developed. This maintenance must also be proactive, as without it, there may not be a business to maintain for very long. Potential customers and clients don’t look kindly upon businesses that suffer a security breach, so these events have to be avoided and resisted. Think about it this way: IT maintenance is like locking your car at night–it helps things from being stolen from you when you aren’t looking.
  • Help Desk Support: Maintaining a business takes a lot more than the 9-to-5 hours each workday. As a matter of fact, half of adults in the United States work an additional hour over the weekend. As a result, IT support will be needed outside of “typical” business hours. Excalibur Technology offers a 24/7 helpdesk that is there to provide support at, quite literally, any time.

The Continued Domination of Cloud Services
The cloud is well on its way to being the solution for SMBs. A survey in Q2 of 2017 found that at least one cloud solution was used in 92% of SMBs, and projections place that number as rising. Businesses find the cloud’s flexibility to be an advantage, along with its scalability and security. The cloud can even uphold the compliance requirements and regulatory standards that many companies are beholden to.

Using Managed IT for UCC
UCC, or Unified Communication and Collaboration, is a strong requirement for any business that leans on a customer-centric model. Not only is this useful for maintaining communication with a soon-to-be customer throughout the buyer’s journey, it is also of use within the business itself. Vendors are also important to maintain communication with, with phones being made obsolete with more collaboration taking place online.

UCC is the perfect solution for the small businesses looking to improve their communications for 2018. While many early unified collaboration solutions were problematic and glitchy, despite their high costs, the solutions of today offer high performance for an appropriate cost through applications and software. In addition to collaborative software allowing shared work on documents and other projects, UCC solutions also bundle in messaging apps for internal resources to communicate, virtual meeting rooms, VoIP telephony, as well as other features. UCC can even integrate with line-of-business applications, including customer management systems.

If you want to embrace the swiftly-changing technology solutions of today and tomorrow, partner up with Excalibur Technology. As your MSP, we’ll make sure that your technology serves you and your business’ needs. For more information on what managed IT can achieve, call us at (877) NET – KING.


3 Phishing Scams You Might Have Missed in 2017

Posted October 24, 2017 by

A fishing hook on top of a credit card.Cybercrime continues to be a major threat to your organization’s security, and there’s no way to really escape it. Hackers are so prevalent on the Internet that you could actually be dealing with attacks from all sides. Phishing in particular has seen a dramatic rise over recent years, and you need to be wary of email scams designed to steal sensitive credentials.

In fact, according to the Webroot Quarterly Threat Trend Reports, at least 1.4 million phishing websites are set up every month. These reports estimate that this past May, there was an all-time high for phishing website increase, topping off at over 2.3 million websites being set up during that month. Phishing has become the single most prominent method of fraud in the modern business world, and is responsible for most data breaches worldwide.

2017 saw an uncanny number of phishing attacks. Here are three of them that you may have missed.

Amazon Shipping Phishing Scam
Earlier this year, a phishing scam made it appear that Amazon was sending emails about canceled orders or updates to user accounts. They appeared to be legitimate, but users were receiving these messages even if they hadn’t recently canceled an order. If users clicked on links located in the email, they would be directed to a domain that was either close to Amazon, or an entirely different domain. These emails convince users to hand over important credentials, like login information or financial details (credit card number, expiration date, etc.). If you receive an email claiming to be from Amazon, but you never made an order, be wary of it.

Google Docs Hack
Google Docs works by sending you an email containing a link to the document being shared with you. While it’s a best practice to never click on a link in an unsolicited email, you might think that a message from a company as big as Google could be trustworthy. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. This phishing scam works by convincing users to grant permissions to a third-party app rather than actually stealing your credentials. It’s part of a growing trend where phishing attacks are growing more sophisticated, which should raise some concerns for business owners.

IRS W-2 Tax Season Phishing Scams
Your organization has sensitive documents on-file that contain employee financial information, among other important personal data. Tax season is the opportune time for hackers to try and steal this information via phony tax return messages, as users are going to be on the lookout for information on how and when they can process their tax returns. Businesses in particular should be wary of recent phishing attacks asking for specific W-2s or personal information about users.

Is your business prepared to stand against phishing attacks? If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to Excalibur Technology at (877) NET – KING.


Security Concerns Have Led To New Voting Machines In Virginia

Posted October 24, 2017 by

Closeup of a man feeding his ballot into one of Florida's new optical scan voting machines.Regardless of your feelings on the matter, the 2016 United States presidential election was an extremely divisive one–in no small part, due to the suspicion that the outcome of the election may have been significantly influenced by hacked voting machines. This uncertainty has led to some states making strides to ensure that their technology will no longer be responsible for such doubts.

Virginia is one of those states, deciding to remove direct-recording electronic voting machines in favor of those that produce paper documentation. In addition to that, there is now legislation in Virginia that will remove all touch-screen voting devices from circulation by November 7, 2017. This is when the next governor is to be elected, along with various other positions.

According to Politico, Governor McAuliffe has pushed for legislation to provide the necessary budget to replace new voting machines, but this legislation was denied two years ago. Things have changed since then, and now the state has little choice to obtain new machines, as the old ones will no longer be certified for use.

Other states have been recommended to emulate this decision by the Board of Elections, but again–it’s only a recommendation. While paper ballots do seem to be more reliable and authentic as the tangible option, counting them can be a drag. Therefore, it only makes sense that the states would want to expedite the process with technological assistance. Even so, there is the risk that this key democratic data can be manipulated and altered.

You can find a similar scenario much closer to home, in your very own business. If your systems aren’t painstakingly maintained–as many states’ voting machines are not–they can be vulnerable to numerous hacks and other attacks. Do you really want to risk your sensitive data when a solution is so easy to find?

Excalibur Technology’s technicians can help give you the ability to better prepare for a successful future for your business. One way is by equipping you with a Unified Threat Management tool that helps protect your business from threats before they have a chance to strike. Call (877) NET – KING for more information.


Do You Have a Data Backup In Place?

Posted October 24, 2017 by

File folders on top of a laptopTake a moment to imagine the absolute worst disaster scenario for your business. Does it involve a catastrophic event destroying your office building? Does it include key staff being absent from the office for extended periods of time? Does it include your business suffering from data loss or security breaches?

Most businesses that fail to recover their data following a data loss scenario go out of business within a year of the incident. Furthermore, there are a lot of small businesses out there that don’t necessarily see the value in a proper data backup system. Most just assume that they will be able to survive a loss incident, or they feel that a data loss incident won’t happen to them. This is not the right mindset to have for a business owner–especially not one that has the future of their business at heart.

Instead, you need to imagine the worst-case scenario and ask if your business continuity plan includes a data backup solution to minimize damage and downtime. Here are three ways that a cloud-based Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution can help your business survive even the worst data loss incidents.

Multiple Backups Daily
Traditionally, businesses have relied on tape backup for most of their backup needs. Due to the increased strain on your network, tape backups need to be performed during off-hours, and only once a day. The problem with this is that you could potentially lose up to an entire day’s worth of data and progress. Cloud-based BDR takes multiple backups as often as every fifteen minutes, which allows for higher redundancy.

Cloud-Based Storage
There’s something to be said about the cloud and its ability to make data backup storage far easier. Thanks to the cloud, a BDR device can take and store multiple backups in secure, off-site locations for later access. After all, you can’t store your backups in the same location as the rest of your data. What if you were to experience a major disaster, like a flood or ransomware infection, which leads to the destruction of your in-house data infrastructure? When this time comes, you’ll be glad you’re storing data in the cloud and away from the site of the incident.

Reduced Downtime
When your business can quickly restore data in a moment’s notice, the amount of downtime suffered drastically falls. This helps your business stay active even under the worst circumstances. BDR can instantaneously restore your data to the network-attached device, allowing your organization to quickly get back in action following a downtime incident. The BDR device can even act as a temporary server while you make more permanent arrangements.

How does your business protect itself from data loss? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to reach out to us at (877) NET – KING if your business needs help with its technology.


It’s Time To Update Your Windows 10 PC

Upgrade to Windows 10There are a number of different Windows 10 versions out there right now, ranging from 1511 to 1709.  These numbers represent various patch levels and security updates to the Windows 10 platform.  It is important to keep your version of Windows up to date to remain secure, but Microsoft is now also giving you a much more compelling reason to update.  Version 1511 no longer will receive security updates after today.  Without these updates, you Windows 10 PC could be put at additional security risks.  It is highly suggests that you backup your PC and then apply all available updates and patches to keep your system running optimally and securely.

If you would like to read more information on this matter, check out the article by ZDnet by CLICKING HERE.

For help keeping your systems updated and your network secure, call the experts at Excalibur Technology today!


Google Chrome Will Soon No Longer Trust Symantec SSL Certificates

Posted October 03, 2017 by

Symantec LogoGoogle continues to use the sizeable market share of its Chrome browser to effect change in the realm of website security. Recently, we wrote about Google’s plans to have Chrome begin to display the message “Not secure” in more areas of a website when the site is not loaded over HTTPS (see our previous post, Will Your Website’s Forms Soon Display A “Not Secure” Message?). These planned changes have left website owners scrambling to secure their websites with SSL certificates in order to avoid their customers seeing this message.

As if this hasn’t shaken things up enough, Google now has a three-phase plan to completely distrust all Symantec SSL certificates permanently in Google Chrome. Once the three phases have been implemented, anyone who tries to load a website that uses a Symantec SSL certificate will be presented with an error message warning them that the site is not safe (the exact error message will vary depending on the browser being used). This means that the person trying to view the website will not even see the website, but just the error message instead. Although it is possible in such a scenario to continue to the site anyway, most people will not continue to the site because the error message is enough to scare them off. This spells disaster for any business website that suffers from this issue.

What are the Three Phases and What is the Timeline?

The first phase will begin in December 2017. Symantec will continue to act as a CA (certificate authority), but it will begin to “outsource” the issuance of certificates to another trusted CA. In essence, the part of the business in which they issue the certificates will be taken over by another company.

The second phase will begin with Chrome version 66, which is estimated to be released in April 2018. With this version, Chrome will no longer trust Symantec certificates that were issued before June 1, 2016.

The third and final phase will begin with Chrome 70, which is estimated to be released in October 2018. With this version, Chrome will no longer trust Symantec certificates that were issued before Symantec handed off the part of its business that handles issuing the certificates (i.e. all certificates that were issued before phase one began).

Why is Google Doing This?

In March 2017, Google and Mozilla engineers discovered that Symantec had incorrectly issued over 100 SSL certificates, meaning they had issued these certificates to websites when they shouldn’t have. The investigation was subsequently deepened, and the number of incorrectly issued certificates turned out to be closer to over 30,000 certificates! This news is very disturbing, especially given the fact that Symantec is one of the largest CAs on the market. Symantec is what is referred to as a “trusted CA,” meaning all of the major web browsers – Chrome, Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. – trust that any website that uses a Symantec SSL certificate is in fact the website that it claims to be. This trust is important because it prevents, for example, a website such as “apple1[dot]com” from posing as the legitimate “apple[dot]com” site, which could trick visitors into thinking they are on a legitimate site that actually is malicious. Because Symantec incorrectly issued so many certificates, however, the aforementioned scenario could quite possibly be a reality for many sites.

There is a popular phrase regarding trust. Although there are several variants, it goes something like this: “Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose, and, once lost, nearly impossible to regain.” Although surely not intentional, Symantec’s accidental issuance of over 30,000 SSL certificates is simply unacceptable. Trust has been broken, and in the eyes of Google at least, it cannot be regained. This is why Chrome will ultimately revoke trust of all Symantec certificates. You can view the entire article by CLICKING HERE.

How Wide Ranging Will This Impact Be? Will My Website Be Impacted?

Not only will Chrome distrust certificates that were issued by Symantec itself, but it also will distrust certificates that were issued by other CAs that Symantec owns, including Thawte, GeoTrust, and RapidSSL. At Excalibur Technology, we have often used GeoTrust and RapidSSL certificates for our clients’ sites and our own because they offer some of the most competitive prices on the market. However, with such certificates set to ultimately no longer be trusted, we will have no choice but to use other CAs for our websites and our clients’ websites going forward. Unfortunately, with this change will come increased prices for most SSL certificates.

Do you have questions or want help determining if your website will be impacted by this upcoming change to Google Chrome? Call the experts at Excalibur Technology today at (877) NET – KING.


Excalibur Technology Newsletter – September 2017

September 2017 Excalibur Technology Tech Bytes Newsletter CoverExcalibur Technology September 2017 Newsletter

We invite you to read the latest edition of our newsletter, by CLICKING HERE.

Be sure to check it out!

Highlights in the September 2017 Edition Include:

– What Should You Know About Regulatory Compliance?

– 3 Ways Managed IT Creates Benefits For Your Business

– Comparing Cost And Control Between In‐House Architectures And Cloud

– 3 Ways Managed IT Creates Benefits For Your Business

– What Plans Does Your Organization on Have For Communications?

– And Much More!


Security Terms That Every User Needs To Know

Security Tools for Network SafetyChances are that you’ve seen quite a lot of stories on the Internet, or in the news, about the many security threats out there. Some of these, including ransomware, exploits, and reluctance to update software, might fly over your head if they’re not part of your everyday business vocabulary. Knowing what these terms mean is of the utmost importance in today’s workplace. We’re here to help you understand what some of these security terms mean for your organization.

Ransomware like WannaCry are one of the primary reasons why it’s so important to understand how network security works, and all of the terminology behind it. After all, hackers understand how to exploit your network’s weaknesses, so you’ll want to know all about the primary way to protect your business’s data from them: security patches.

These patches are issued by software developers to resolve certain issues or troubles found in their products. For example, a patch might be designed to address a recently found vulnerability in the program’s code, or resolve a particularly troublesome issue with the user interface. Understanding how these patches work is critical if you want to ensure the security of your business, your personal computer, and everything in between. Here are five of the most common terms used when speaking of security patches.

Patch Tuesday
Even if you allow your computers to update and install patches automatically, you should still have an idea when these patches are installed. Microsoft has a set schedule that they use to release these patches. They are released on specific days of the week, including the second Tuesday of each month, and sometimes the fourth as well. Perhaps in the future, data exchange will allow newer operating systems to be updated more frequently, or at the very least in real time, keeping your systems more secure.

Security Patching
Patches are basically issued to fix something that’s wrong with a computer application or program. It is these patches and updates that are provided on all of the official patch days, like Patch Tuesday. Of course, immediate patches to imminent threats of Microsoft’s software are issued for release as soon as one is created. These zero-day threats are so dangerous that they need to be resolved as soon as possible, making them top-priority for your organization.

Hotfixes
These are sometimes called quick fix updates, quick-fix engineering updates, and general distribution releases. These hotfixes generally include a patch that fixes just one small thing wrong with your application. These small issues are usually important enough that they need to be issued immediately without waiting for the next batch of patches. Even though Microsoft has long since forsaken the term “hotfix” specifically, it’s still used as a common way to refer to these fixes in the technology sector.

Zero-Day Threats
These types of weaknesses are those that are being used by hackers even before they are discovered by security professionals. The name “zero-day” refers to the fact that the software developers have no time, or zero days, to develop a patch to resolve the issue. These are some of the most dangerous threats out there, and need to be a priority for companies trying to keep damage to a minimum.

Whitelisting
Whitelisting is the process through which a patch or application is deemed secure or safe for your business. This allows your whitelisted app to access information found on your network. Contrary to whitelisting, blacklisting is the process of banning network access to certain apps. Whitelisting was a popular term used to discuss the security patch resolving the issue with the WannaCry ransomware, as IT departments wanted the patch to be “whitelisted” first to guarantee that the patch would be enough to stop it.

Is your business security-savvy enough to identify major problems with your network infrastructure? To learn more about how you can protect your business, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.


What Plans Does Your Organization Have For Communications?

The Earth - Business CommunicationsOver the past few decades, technology has drastically changed the way businesses of all sizes and industries communicate. In fact, there is a direct correlation between the way a business communicates and its overall success. The majority of customers, as well as their employees, demand that the modern business find avenues of sharing information that are as close to instantaneous as possible.

To meet this demand, the future of business communication strategy will likely utilize multiple platforms, including email, phone, instant messaging and social media. For many businesses, the future has arrived – at least partially. Multiple avenues of communication are already being adopted by many companies, to great success. Have you given any thought as to whether you’re giving your business the opportunity to drive service and productivity through the best type of interaction?

Email
Once dominated by telephone usage, email is the predominant method of business-related correspondence. It’s inexpensive and efficient and can be accessed easily from practically anywhere. Email can be secured through encryption, as well as used retained and stored as a documented record of an exchange.

By the Numbers:

 

  • 93% say they’re likely to respond to email.
  • 94% recommend people contact them by email.
  • 86% say they use email daily.

Phone
The telephone may have been invented a hundred years ago, but it’s still one of the most popular ways to reach another person and interact in real time. While telephone communication through digital and cellular services steadily climbing, the use of landlines, or phones that require a connection to traditional, copper wires to operate, are rapidly declining.

Internet-based telephone platforms, such as Voice over Internet Protocol. (VoIP), are ideal for businesses because its capabilities dwarf that of landlines. VoIP gives users the option of have their phone ring at multiple locations (ex. desk, smartphone and home) simultaneously or in a cascade. It reduces the amount of hardware required and is less expensive than other phone options.

By the Numbers:

 

  • Only 54% use their landline on a daily basis
  • 76% recommended reaching out to them by cell phone.
  • 78% are likely to respond to a voicemail.

Chat Interface
Particularly popular with internal communications, instant messaging (IMs) allows users to chat in real time, and well as while carrying-on multiple discussions with several team members. Similar to email, it is possible to record a chat transcript as a record of the interaction. The distinction between chat and email is basically the sense of urgency. Receiving a message through IM generally means that a response is required forthwith.

By the Numbers:

 

  • 65% say they’re likely to respond to IMs.
  • 48% they like to be contacted by IM at work.

Social Media
The role that social media pays in digital communication is focused on the customer. Many businesses use their social media pages share their message and reach their target audience. Customer feedback and FAQs are common elements of business pages. Sharing pictures and information is an integral part of how a business shows off their knowledge and builds authority. To do this, it’s important that you have the right devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.) and software required to get your business into digital commerce.

By the Numbers:

 

  • People are 3 times more likely to respond to LinkedIn than Twitter.
  • 54% say they would respond to a social media message.

These four platforms play an important role in business communications, now and in the future. However, they’re just the basic necessities that no business can thrive without. Some businesses are also incorporating video chats, like Skype. Technology designed to improve the user’s ability to collaborate and communicate are constantly being developed. Are you ready to embrace the future of your business communications? Let us know. After all, there are many ways to get a hold of us!


Comparing Cost And Control Between In-House Architectures And Cloud

Comparing the Cost of Cloud and In HouseThe benefits of the cloud are almost too numerable to count, but you shouldn’t let this dissuade you from other possibilities. After all, what works for one business may not work for another. For organizations that don’t find the cloud to be the best method of data distribution, an in-house infrastructure is absolutely critical. How can you determine which of these solutions is ideal for your business?

Let’s take a look at two features that will be a major deciding factor for your infrastructure design: cost and control.

Cost
Capital is one of the most crucial parts of any business. After all, it’s your goal to make money from your organization, so you want to make sure that you’re able to comfortably afford your operational equipment. An outsourced cloud provider has an advantage over an in-house infrastructure in regard to the cost of maintenance. Financially, it takes a considerable amount of capital to maintain your infrastructure, especially if it’s located in-house. Your in-house technology infrastructure contains expensive technology, and it only grows more expensive when you have to power it and maintain it as well.

An outsourced provider will only provide a flat monthly rate designed around a service level agreement, which makes it easy to place into your budget. Operating a server in-house can be a bigger investment, so choosing to outsource gives your organization the opportunity to dedicate those resources to something else.

Control
It’s natural to want control over your infrastructure. Unfortunately, this desire for control can keep you from investing in a solution like outsourced cloud hosting, even if it is beneficial for your organization. If you are worried about having full control over your business’s infrastructure, perhaps it would be easier on your nerves and your management style to focus on your in-house network. However, outsourcing can be just as relieving, as it removes the responsibility of managing your technology completely, freeing up even more time and resources for other uses. It basically comes down to how much you trust either your in-house team or your managed service provider.

The Ideal Solution
Regardless of your company’s needs, Excalibur Technology is here to help you ensure that your network infrastructure is exactly what you want. We’ll work with your organization to build the ideal IT infrastructure. To learn more, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.



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