Although our lifestyle here on Delmarva can go at a somewhat different pace than our counterparts on the mainland, adopting successful business standards
is not an area where we want to be lagging. Cloud computing is now mainstream among businesses and can make your life so much easier with its optimal
access, productivity and security.
Thinking of moving your business processes to the cloud? Here are the top 10 things that you need to take into consideration.
As seen in The Maryland Coast Dispatch
Office 365, Microsoft’s premier software collaboration platform, is now the most widely used enterprise cloud service with 120 million business users worldwide. Cards Technology CEO Sam Card explains why Office 365 is so popular among businesses.
Q: Why is Office 365 better than just buying Microsoft Office’s desktop applications?
Sam Card: If you purchase Microsoft Office 2016 software, the software is soon outdated. You get updates and patches but not new versions. With Office 365, your apps are updated continually so you’re always up-to-date and your information is protected against the latest security threats. Software – especially Microsoft products – are high-level targets for hackers. If you use Office 2016, it’s left to you to make sure security patches and updates are installed. With Office 365, that all happens automatically so you’re always protected. Plus, Office 365 has more features available – like web apps and Skype for Business - than you get with the desktop version of Office 2016.
Q: Is Office 365 just for email?
SC: Office 365 is much more than email although most of the time businesses move to the cloud for a better email option. Once we’ve gotten Outlook up and running for them, we walk businesses through the other Office 365 features, teach them the basics and then ask them to decide what additional Office 365 apps they want to implement for their company. Normally, they will start with SharePoint, Microsoft’s document management and storage system, after Outlook because it’s the underlying support structure for Office 365.
Once you understand SharePoint, you can use Teams and other Office 365 apps like OneDrive. Most people think OneDrive is only cloud storage for personal files but it is also a tool for syncing SharePoint lists and OneDrive documents.
Q: Are there alternative, cloud-based collaboration platforms for businesses?
SC: There are two main cloud collaboration platforms – Office 365 and Google’s G Suite. In my experience, Office 365 blows Google away in these main areas: information protection, productivity, compatibility and collaboration.
Microsoft spends about a billion dollars a year on security. Google only spent $6 million between 2015 and 2010. If I have a confidential document in Office 365, I can take it off the network, put it on a flash drive, copy it to another computer, and it remains a confidential document. But, with G Suite, if you take a file out of the Google ecosystem, those special permissions for forwarding, copying and printing are lost and the document is no longer confidential.
Office 365 does a good job from the simplest needs to the most advanced. For one thing, most people are already familiar with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. so they already know how to use the apps. With Google, you may have to learn a new system, and it’s not always fully compatible with Microsoft documents.
Fads and new inventions influence our way of life with fashion, music, lifestyle choices and even the way we do business. Some fads, like mullets and the macarena, thankfully have been short-lived. But, what happens when a fad goes mainstream – and you missed it?
Eastman Kodak thought digital photography was a fad in 1975 when employee Steven Sasson developed the first, self-contained digital camera. Kodak, however, didn’t believe anyone would ever want to look at pictures on a screen (is there another way?) and passed on fully developing the project.
Digital photography was not a fad though. After missing its opportunity in 1975 and struggling for almost four decades to compete in the digital world, Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy just five years after its patent on the digital camera expired. All because they failed to change.
When it comes to change, most of us are at least a little reluctant – especially when it comes to technology. Changing equipment, practices and apps isn’t
something we relish, and it can be risky. Switching disrupts our routine and may even slow production as employees learn new processes and software.
Although smaller businesses may be slower to make technology changes, they also have more flexibility to adapt and, therefore, take advantage of innovations.
Cloud computing falls into this category.
Cloud computing has been around for over a decade now, and Gartner survey data says over 59 percent of small businesses have already adopted it with another 22 percent reporting they plan to migrate within the next two years. Obviously, cloud computing is not a passing fad.
In fact, cloud computing is now a business standard, just like digital photography is standard. That begs the question – why aren’t you on the cloud?
Migrating to the cloud doesn’t have to be all or none. A hybrid cloud solution can produce the best blend of efficiency, security and cost savings.
One of the most popular cloud solutions available is Microsoft’s Office 365. The beauty of Office 365 is practically everyone already knows how to use the mainstay apps like Excel, Word and PowerPoint so the transition is almost invisible to end users.
As seen in The Maryland Coast Dispatch
Even though cloud solutions have benefits like flexibility, collaboration and simplified backups, some Delmarva businesses are hesitant to migrate to the cloud because of local internet concerns. Delmarva technology leader Sam Card answers questions about how connectivity works and the impact it has on your decision to migrate to the cloud.
Q: I’m thinking of moving some business applications to the cloud. Why is it important to have a reliable internet connection?
Sam Card: The cloud can be very frustrating if you have poor internet connectivity. This is especially true when you need access to your files to meet a business deadline, like a sales proposal. If you have frequent internet disconnections, or don’t have high speed internet, you may be restricted in what you can do with your data in the cloud.
However, the infrastructure on Delmarva has come a long way as many service providers have invested in their networks, bringing better connectivity to businesses. Cards Technology, along with several of our clients, have purchased fiber optic internet service. This reduces the construction costs for internet service providers and makes fiber more affordable for Delmarva businesses.
Q: I’ve been hearing fiber is the best internet connection. What is the difference between fiber optic internet and cable?
SC: Cable, DSL and prior to that, dialup service, used copper wire because it’s a good conductor of electricity. Fiber optics was born with the development of thin, flexible, glass material wrapped in bundles where data is transmitted at the speed of light.
Basically, fiber optic connectivity is dedicated to your business while cable internet is shared with all your neighbors. Imagine 10 kids streaming movies when they get home from school on the same cable line as your business. Trying to have a video skype conversation with your customer becomes a nightmare! With fiber, you are guaranteed speed because the connection is direct to your business. There is also less, if not any, downtime with fiber since the fiber infrastructure is heavy duty and more reliable than cable.
Q: Isn’t fiber going to be too expensive for my Delmarva small business?
SC: It doesn’t matter what size your business is, you want cost effective internet. If you need constant internet connectivity, and it costs you money when the internet is down, fiber is your answer. You have to analyze what downtime costs you compared to the cost of fiber. If your staff is sitting idle, or your customers can’t get answers, that’s expensive!
Your access to the cloud doesn’t have to be stalled by internet connectivity. Consider what level of internet uptime your business needs, and choose the connection that best fits your needs. There’s still room in the cloud for you.
PowerPoint is the go-to app for presentations for business professionals. One of the best practices we’re taught right away is to make slides consistent and clean for the best-looking presentations.
If you’re dealing with multiple images that you want to be the same size – and need to be resized consistently – there’s a feature for that. Let’s say you are using profile pictures for speaker bios and the images all need to be the same size, but they aren’t. Here’s the best way to handle the situation:
A picture is worth a thousand words…
If you work with multiple tabs in Excel routinely, you know the pain of searching through each tab to make the same change repeatedly. You also probably know these changes can be made with the Search/Replace function but – step away from the search key! – here’s a quicker way to make the same change across worksheets.
Bada bing bada boom – all cells changed! Let’s take a look…
OK, OK. That was a really short (although very cool) tip so here’s a bonus Excel tip…
When you want to put today’s date into a worksheet cell, just type Ctrl+; in the cell. Add the time by pressing Ctrl+Shift+;
Take your Word documents from fine to fabulous with these 3 easy steps to adding a table of contents to your reports, proposals and presentations. Printed documents with a table of contents appear more sophisticated, and onscreen documents with a table of contents feature hot-link navigation to make it easy for readers to jump immediately to specific sections. Your readers will quickly find the information they need – and you will look like a rock star!
1. Apply Heading Styles
2. Insert A Table Of Contents
3. Customize your table of contents
Between phones, tablets, and computers, most employees today have at least three devices. It’s not like the early 2000s when companies were just beginning to adopt the internet. Computer servers sat in an office closet. Everybody drove to the office to work, and nobody really cared about accessing information from anywhere else.
Today, work on Delmarva is just as likely to happen at a main or remote office, as it is at home or a coffee shop. You and your staff have higher expectations for accessing information – you want to be able to get to it instantaneously.
That’s where cloud technology helps.
To help you determine if cloud technology is right for your business, consider these five advantages.
1. Flexibility to work from anywhere.
When your company is working from the cloud, you can get to your applications and information quickly. Employees can work from home, in the field, or in the office. One of our Delmarva plumbing clients has enabled their field employees to review and update data in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet from their job sites. Now both the field and office staff have real-time access to information. No more waiting to get back to the office. Not only has productivity soared, but employees are happier because they can get their jobs done faster.
2. Improved staff collaboration.
Traditional business applications don’t allow you and your staff to collaborate easily on projects and documents. Accounting software lets you do a great job managing your company’s payables and balancing your checkbook, but it doesn’t help your staff work together on other projects. Cloud collaboration allows you to share data, and work on documents together in real time, all in one place.
3. Simplified backup and safer data.
No business owner wants to discover their server crashed and they’ve lost access to their data. With the cloud, you aren’t at risk of losing information you’ve saved on your server or device due to a hardware failure, virus, or employee error. Because your data is saved in the cloud on systems that have multiple redundancies, downtime is virtually eliminated. And if something does go wrong? The cloud allows for quick data recovery, usually without a call to the helpdesk.
4. Fluctuate with seasonal demand.
As your business changes throughout the seasons, cloud technology allows you to quickly and easily add and remove users to software applications. No longer do you have to worry about paying for perpetual software licenses that you only use during the high-season. With cloud solutions, you can accommodate the fluctuations in your staffing and sales.
5. Grow efficiently and cost effectively.
Many cloud solutions, like Microsoft Office 365, have built in tools or capabilities that most companies aren’t even aware of until they begin to grow. Other cloud solutions are similar. They include these capabilities to meet your business needs without disruptive upgrades or software switches. You may not need all the capabilities they have today, but by choosing a cloud solution, you preserve your flexibility for when you do grow. Those capabilities are there, waiting to be implemented as your business grows and evolves.
Not everything is sunny in the cloud. As you consider cloud technology, there are two considerations to keep in mind.
1. Back-ups are still necessary.
The cloud simplifies your backup strategy, but doesn’t eliminate it. You don’t have to back up your applications like you do with a server in your office because the cloud does that for you. However, you still want to back up your data. It’s the backbone of your business. At Cards Technology, our experts review your backup strategy as part of your move to the cloud to safeguard that your data will be protected.
2. Know where your data is stored in the cloud.
While the cloud can be an extremely efficient way to store your data, it’s important that the cloud provider you select has a secure, reliable environment. The security experts at Cards Technology conduct regular security audits, offer you written documentation of our security policies and show you an audit report that verifies we adhere to standard data privacy regulations.
Like the idea of the cloud, but you’re concerned about the reliability of your internet connectivity? We hear that frequently. Don’t let it rain on your cloud vision.
If you’re having problems with internet connectivity, step back and examine why it’s happening. With the internet as accessible as it is today, you really shouldn’t be experiencing problems. When we encounter it with our clients, our top two recommendations are:
1. Get a second internet connection. A second connection will give you redundancy. If one connection goes down, you have a backup.
2. Move to a fiber-optic internet service. This uses physical fiber-optic lines to your office and is typically more reliable than DSL or cable.
To ensure you’re on the right path as you move to the cloud, partner with a trusted IT provider, like Cards Technology, that understands cloud and cloud security. If you’d like to discuss how you might implement the cloud in your business, click here or call us at 410-208-3933. We’ll conduct an assessment to identify the best strategy for you.
As seen in The Maryland Coast Dispatch
In the past 12 months, over 50% of small businesses have been breached by a hacker. Fears are on the rise and many people worry they’ll be the next one attacked. The key to learning how to outsmart a hacker is understanding how they operate. Sam Card answers questions about how hackers operate and what you can do to avoid being hacked.
Q: How do hackers access my computer system and how will I know if I’m being hacked?
Sam Card: It used to be that hackers used brute force to gain access to small businesses’ systems. Now, however, they’re much more cunning. Some use social engineering tactics to target your LinkedIn page, monitor connections, then use phishing scams to trick people into providing their credentials. Others monitor the dark web for stolen passwords and confidential information they can use or sell.
If you’ve been hacked, detecting the hacker’s presence might not be immediately noticeable. They may spend time lurking in your system learning your habits to better impersonate you for malicious purposes. Only when a colleague inquires why you sent an email asking him to “wire $10,000 to a Florida bank” will you recall clicking on an unusual email link several days earlier.
Q: Why is it so difficult to find out who these hackers are?
Sam Card: Unfortunately skilled hackers are not easy to catch. They mask where they came from and cover their tracks. They intentionally use hard to trace payment systems, like Bitcoin, that are easy to obtain and exchange, and provide anonymity.
The best strategy for your business is to take precautions to avoid being hacked.
Q: Will my cybersecurity system protect my business from losing everything and what should I do to protect my network?
Sam Card: Cybersecurity systems are only as good as the tools in them. First, consider what level of security your business needs, and how much risk you can tolerate. What if your business is hacked? Will you pay the ransom? Can you afford to have stolen data used inappropriately? Your answers to questions like these help you determine how you should protect your business.
It’s essential that you develop a multi-layered approach. Educate your staff on cybersecurity awareness so they can identify potential scams. Implement strict password policies. Change passwords often and employ multifactor authentication to help prevent unauthorized access. A good IT provider will provide continuous monitoring of your systems to identify any suspicious activity and take immediate action.
You have to make it difficult for a hacker to attack you. By creating a multi-layered security system you can help protect yourself from becoming another statistic.
Imagine this. You’re sitting at your desk, trying to respond to all of your emails, when all of a sudden your screen goes red and the following message pops up:
The first thing you probably do is start having a panic attack. You start hitting the escape key, hoping against hope that the message will just go away. But it doesn’t. You quickly switch to, maybe I’ll just pay the $300 worth of bitcoin and no one will ever know. But as you begin to pick up your phone to start googling, how do I pay a ransom in bitcoin, your team starts knocking on your office door, bursting with the bad news. It’s not just your data, everything is encrypted. And what’s worse, you don’t have an up-to-date backup.
This nightmare scenario has been played out in over 50% of SMBs that were breached in the past 12 months. 50%. That’s 1 out of 2 businesses. A flip of a coin. Even if you are a gambler, those aren’t good odds.
Knowing how the hackers are able to get to SMBs is the key to understanding how to outsmart them. Here are the top 3 techniques that hackers employ to attack your system:
1. Diverse delivery systems
Cyber attackers are not just one-trick ponies. They utilize a variety of delivery systems to increase their chances that someone in your company is going to click on something they shouldn’t. From social engineering tools like phishing spam and clickbait to malicious spam and advertising, hackers use a variety of means to trick you into clicking so they can take over your computer.
2. Complex coding
All of the publicity surrounding cybersecurity has helped encourage companies to beef up their security system. But that hasn’t stopped the attacks. Hackers frequently update their code to get past signature-based counter-measures that the first line of defense security programs typically perform. They also develop code that is meant to worm its way from system to system in order to infect as many machines as possible.
3. Difficult to trace payment system
Bitcoin remains the most popular choice of payment when it comes to paying a ransom. Bitcoin is easier to obtain and exchange, while providing a lot of anonymity. Ransom demands are made easy since attackers provide instructions on how to create a virtual wallet, buy the bitcoins to pay the ransom that will provide the code that will unencrypt your data.
Understanding how cyber hackers use these techniques is the key to getting a step ahead. Developing a multi-layered security system while educating your team on the best cybersecurity practices, will help ensure that your business will not become the next statistic.
Come to our free lunch and learn on Tuesday, May 8 at the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites to hear from a Watchguard cybersecurity expert and learn more about the best defense system to outsmart ransomware attackers. We look forward to seeing you there!