Do Not Let Disaster Devastate Your Business

Disasters have many forms. The first step to excellent disaster recovery planning is knowing what you are preparing for. These are scenarios that could affect your business without warning. Equipment Failure – You arrive at the office, hit the power button on your computer and go grab a cup of coffee. You come back and your computer didn’t turn on, so you hit the power switch again, but nothing happens. Your PC’s motherboard has fried. Imagine losing the entirety of documents, files, and contacts on your computer. This could happen at any given moment to any of us. The only way to avoid catastrophic data loss is by expecting it to happen and being prepared.  Staff Unavailability – Bob has been working on a company project for months on end but has told coworkers numerous times that he is unsatisfied with his role within the company. His project is a key element in the companies next steps to success. One day, Bob stops showing up to work without notice. Does your business’ disaster recovery plan accommodate for unexpected staff unavailability whether it be an accident, a personal emergency, or a situation like Bob?  User Error – Bob’s replacement, Rob, is taking over the company project. It’s ready to be presented and implemented. Rob accidently deletes the files when trying to transfer them to another device.  A simple accidental deletion could quickly turn into a disaster without proper planning. Don’t let poor planning rob your business.  Natural Disasters – When you hear disaster, this is likely the first thing that comes to mind. Natural disasters affect nearly every part of the world. Whether it’s a 100-year-flood that strikes unexpectedly, a hurricane that veers off of its projected path, or even something as simple yet devastating as high winds; your disaster recovery planning should accommodate situations as destructive as these.  Malware – Malware is the most technologically advanced scenario mentioned thus far. These evolved viruses constantly plague businesses across the globe. Staying vigilant and having a successfully tested disaster recovery plan means these vicious disasters transform into an annoyance rather than a business-destroying attack.  True Planning Means Thorough, Possibly Risky Testing A plan as previously mentioned is a proposal of a course of action you will take in the event of, in this case, disaster. Proposing a course of action is only the first step in disaster recovery planning. The second step is testing this plan. Which would you prefer: testing your recovery plan in the wake of a disaster, or testing your recovery plan long before a disaster strikes?  There are many different ways to evaluate the proposed processes outlined in your disaster recovery plan. These include the following:  Walkthrough Test: A walkthrough test is a simple way to review and share your disaster recovery plan. It allows you to discuss the plan with everyone involved and revise it as needed. Walkthrough tests are quick and should occur regularly to remind employees of your procedure and inform them of any changes that have been made. Tabletop Test: You are your own character in this tabletop game. Each team member is given the same hypothetical disaster and must explain their role in recovering. This test should be elaborate and realistic to aid in unveiling possible shortcomings in the disaster recovery plan.  Parallel […]

Tip of the Week: Speed Up Business with Cloud Computing

Efficient Team Collaboration Probably the most important consideration of rolling out a cloud platform for your business is the collaborative benefits that it brings. Since the cloud applications, infrastructure, or storage is hosted on computers outside your business and accessed through a web client or web browser, they can provide support for multiple users at a time. Many of these constructs allow for real-time collaboration irrespective of the users’ geographical location.  User Tip: To get the most out of your team, consider adding in software that comes with mobile apps that allow for collaboration from smartphones.  Productivity, Productivity, Productivity Studies have shown a major bump in productivity with the use of cloud. In fact, productivity for small businesses can improve operational efficiency up to four times. This means that four times as much can get done than with traditional computing structure. This uptick is largely fueled by the increased speed each task can get done with their collaborative features.  User Tip: To boost productivity, cloud computing platforms have to be managed effectively. While cloud providers mainly handle the maintenance and security of the cloud resources your company uses, ensuring that someone is in charge of keeping files and resources managed properly is important.  Save or Re-organize Capital For the business owner, this is undeniably the major reason to commit to cloud computing. You can save money in several ways. Firstly, you don’t have to roll out a server, and the thousands of dollars that accompany that whole process. Instead you just pay for the computing that you use for any given month. This is very attractive for businesses that need to scale their computing needs up and back frequently.  The second way a business saves money with the cloud is in management and security. By playing for cloud services, you curtail a lot of management costs that are typically associated with having enterprise software. Your business gets the latest version of the software, providing access to all new features, and security patches, as they happen.  The final way your business saves money is on the actual hosting of the hardware. Utility costs like electric and HVAC can cost companies a pretty penny. Those costs are rolled into the solution drastically reducing operational expenses and the space needed to properly host large centralized computing systems.  Overall, a business’ cloud resources can be looked on as an operational cost, making it easier to manage.  User tip: if you are looking at migrating your company’s computing to the cloud, start small. This ensures that the cloud is right for your company. For example, if your industry operates under strict regulations, public cloud platforms may hinder your business’ ability to comply with these mandates. Dipping your proverbial toe in the cloud pool to see how it affects your business is a solid practice. If you’d like to talk to one of our IT professionals at SRS Networks about expanding your business’ reliance on cloud computing, call us today at (831) 758-3636.

Major Data Breaches of Q2

May Citrix – May 2, 2019 Citrix, a conferencing and digital workplace software company revealed that hackers gained access to the company’s internal systems between October 2018 and March 2019. Data stolen included Social Security numbers, financial information, and data of current and former employees. AMC Networks – May 3, 2019 Names, email addresses, subscription details and other information of 1.6 million users of AMC Network’s Sundance Now and Shudder streaming services were left exposed through a database that was left unsecured.  Freedom Mobile – May 9, 2019 Canadian mobile provider Freedom Mobile had an estimated 1.5 million customers’ personal and financial information left exposed on a third-party server. The types of data left exposed included names, email addresses, mailing addresses, dates of birth, and credit card information. Indiana Pacers – May 13, 2019 The business team behind the National Basketball Association’s Indiana Pacers was the victim of a phishing attack. The information that was exposed included names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, medical insurance information, card numbers, digital signatures and login information. No number of affected individuals has been given by the team. WhatsApp – May 14, 2019 The Facebook-owned app WhatsApp has experienced a security flaw that provided access to an Israeli government surveillance agency, NSO Group. NSO Group had limited access to the microphone, camera, and WhatsApp message text of the app’s 1.5 billion users.  Instagram – May 20, 2019 Another Facebook-owned property, Instagram had a breach that exposed more than 49 million Instagram influencers, celebrities, and brands’ Instagram information when an Indian-based social media marketing company left it exposed.  Canva – May 24, 2019 139 million users of Canva, a cloud-based graphic design tool, had their names, usernames, and email addresses exposed when hackers infiltrated their server.  First American Financial Corp. – May 24, 2019 A leading title insurer for the U.S. real estate market, First American Financial Corp. had 885 million customers’ Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, mortgage and tax records, wire transaction receipts, and driver’s license images exposed for all customers as far as back as 2003. Other May breaches: Inmediata Health Group, Uniqlo, Wyzant, Flipboard, Checkers (the fast food chain). June Quest Diagnostics – June 3, 2019 Almost 12 million patient records have been compromised when hackers took control of the payments page of AMCA, a major payment vendor for Quest Diagnostics. Data such as financial account data, Social Security numbers, and health information (ePHI) were left exposed. LabCorp – June 4, 2019 In the same hack, LabCorp announced that 7.7 million of its customers were impacted.  Emuparadise – June 10, 2019 The gaming website Emuparadise had their users’ IP addresses, usernames, and passwords exposed in a data breach.  Evite – June 11, 2019 More than 100 million users of the Evite event planning app have had their information put up for sale on the dark web. Information that was stolen included names, email addresses, IP addresses, and cleartext passwords. Some even had their dates of birth, phone number, or postal address exposed. Total Registration – June 11, 2019 Kentucky-based Total Registration, a facilitator of scholastic test registrations had their entire service compromised. Victims, who were mainly students who had registered for PSAT and Advanced Placement tests, had their names, dates of birth, grade level, […]

Which IT Service Is Right for Your Business?

What Are the Different Types of IT Services? There are three different approaches you can take for your business’ IT needs. You can hire an IT consultant, host your own IT staff, or pay a set fee with an MSP.  IT Consultant An IT consultant will charge you hourly and is a more reactive measure to IT dilemmas. Typically, you will reach out to an IT consultant once a problem has actually occurred. This means your company suffers from downtime while you wait for the problem to be resolved.   On-site IT An on-site IT team is relatable to a managed service provider in the sense that it is a more proactive approach. These two work to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. However, with an on-site IT staff, you are still paying hourly; and your hourly staff is more beneficial leveraging the skills to the benefit of your business rather than focusing on IT.  Managed IT Services MSPs are the superior option due to their fixed fee arrangements and proactivity. They give your company greater freedom to focus on core business matters. There is no need to divert your attention to IT-related tasks with a managed service provider. MSPs have the experience needed to properly see the needs of your sized business.  Is My Business Too Small for an MSP?  Part of an MSP’s responsibility is to identify your business’ needs and create a strategy to fulfill them. Managed Service Providers offer the most cost-effective IT strategy for any business, of any size. MSPs provide 24/7 detection your business otherwise would not be able to detect. This means your MSP will be able to tell you when your server is failing, or your hardware is crumbling. MSPs allow you to fix the issue before it ever becomes a problem. They also offer 24/7 monitoring and patch management which can prevent your hardware from crumbling in the first place. Prevention is the most cost-effective strategy your business can utilize.  The traditional approach, “fix it when it breaks” which meant paying for expensive technology malfunctions and issues as they occur, has been left behind with the introduction to affordable and proactive managed IT services.  SRS Networks Offers Your IT Solution Whatever industry your business operates in, SRS Networks offers IT solutions that leverage your investment. MSPs are the future of IT. To learn how you can outsource your IT and benefit from our services, talk to our professionals at (831) 758-3636.

Let’s Buy a Computer, Part V

Deciding on a Brand The brand of PC can actually mean a lot to people, but most of the PC manufacturers like HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Acer use the exact same components and parts. It isn’t until you are looking to buy a top-of-the-line PC that things get significantly different. With laptops, however, brand can make a difference. HP and Microsoft have options for high-end graphic design computers, while those two and Lenovo have specialized pens for artists. If you really want an idea of what a device is capable of, reading as many user reviews as possible will give you the perspective you need to make an informed decision. Full-Size Desktop vs Compact Desktop Desktop computers typically come in two options: Compact or Tower. The full-sized tower cases are good for high-end computing that needs more cooling and places for expandable hardware additions, while smaller compact desktop cases are good for office workstations that won’t need constant upgrades to function.  Read Reviews and Benchmarks Computers are everywhere and, as a result, there are dozens of websites dedicated to testing, reviewing, and featuring computer hardware. Before you make any large purchases, it may be good for you to start your due diligence on YouTube or Google, finding professional and user reviews for the hardware you are considering.  Ugh, Bloatware Most new computers come pre-configured with software sponsored by the manufacturer. While most of this software is harmless, it takes up space on your machine and doesn’t need to be there. Remove this software before deploying the machine for its final purpose.  Eliminating Your Old PC Once you get to a point where you can start using your new PC, you need to take a minute to consider how to dispose of your old machine. For the business owner or IT admin, throwing away a computer without first wiping or destroying the hard drive can potentially put your company at risk. Some industries have strict regulations about how devices have to be destroyed, so make sure that you are aware of your responsibilities on that front.  If your plan was to recycle your computer, swapping out the hard drive is probably the best plan. There are many organizations that are constantly looking for people and businesses to donate computers to less-fortunate people. Unfortunately, if you want to go this route, it will likely cost you more money, as you will want to swap out the hard drive. Does Your Business Need PCs? If you need to talk to someone about procuring a computer for your company, SRS Networks can help. Call our certified experts today at (831) 758-3636.

Let’s Buy a Computer, Part IV

Multi-Monitor Display? Most computers you’ve used have had a single screen, but there are people out there with over 10. How do they manage that? With the built-in support of the OS that you are using. If you are interested in having more than one display, you need to take a few things into consideration. One consideration you will have to make is how many display out ports your PC has. If you only have one single port, you need to find a way to get other displays to connect to your new machine. Some of the common connections you will see include: VGA: The standard for a long time, these older connections have an isosceles trapezoid connector with little pins that have screws that connect the wire to the machine. All older monitors will have these connections, but most desktops have at least one VGA port to make sure they are compatible with older monitors. HDMI: HDMI is the same connection that you use to connect your streaming player, Blu-Ray player, or gaming console to your TV. These are the standard in A/V equipment at the moment as it broadcasts both audio and video. DisplayPort: DisplayPort is similar to HDMI. It can carry both video and audio, and it’s set to become the standard connection. For our purposes though, you can think of DisplayPort and HDMI as very similar. Budget desktops will demand that you have a solid understanding of the many ports of the device, as it would only cost you more money by purchasing monitors that aren’t compatible with it. Some types of devices will even need specific connectors and adapters. Integrated Video vs Dedicated Graphics Depending on what you are doing with your computer, you may need to incorporate a graphics card rather than relying on the functionality that is built into the motherboard. Most PCs built for office productivity, however, won’t need anything like that. Machines that are earmarked for video production, graphic design, engineering software, and the like, will. The more strain you are going to put on your system’s graphics, the higher the price will get. Some high-end graphics cards can cost nearly $1,500. Most graphics card chipsets have multiple models, and since many companies like to sell their own brands of hardware, it can be a little intimidating to browse all of your options. If you are looking for a solid graphics card–and don’t have to concern yourself with 3D rendering or video editing–standard grade cards will do. For the most part, unless you’re using a computer for extremely specialized tasks, your desktop’s built-in hardware will more than suffice. Do You Need Monitors for Your Desktops? You can be overwhelmed by the amount of options and specifications of monitors. The two variables to concern yourself with are resolution and refresh rate. Here are some key factors to consider for both: Resolution: The resolution of a monitor is how many pixels it can display. Most desktop monitors will render in a 16:9 display ratio, or widescreen. This is the current standard, but there are ultra-wide monitors that use more advanced display ratios like HD, FULL HD, Ultra HD, or 4K. HD: HD is the most common resolution, and it’s commonly known as 720p. It is the standard for budget laptops. FULL HD: Full […]

Let’s Buy a Computer, Part III

Data storage has come a long way over the past few decades. Floppy disks were the norm… once. They could only store about 1.44 MB of data, enough to hold large text files, but impossible for just about anything else. CDs were the next big hit at about 650 MB of data, while a DVD can hold around 4.7 GB. A single DVD can hold as much data as 3,342 floppy disks. Blu-Ray can store 10 times as much data as a DVD. Google’s data storage exceeds 15 exabytes, or 26.2 million Blu-Ray disks. How Your Usage Changes Your Storage Needs You first need to think about how your storage will be used. For example, many organizations have networks that they plug their devices into, meaning they don’t need as much on-board storage. Some utilize the cloud for storage and application access, further removing them from the confines of requiring on-board storage. If either of these are the case for you, then you only need enough for the operating system and some wiggle room on the hard drive. If the usage is more personal in nature, or if you’re even an amateur gamer or video producer, then you will want much more on-board storage. HDD vs SSD There are two major forms of device storage: hard disk drive (HDD) and solid state-drive (SSD). Here is a little bit about each: Hard Disk Drives (HDD) Hard drives are components in your computer that store data. These mechanical drives utilize tiny electric motors, a spinning stack of magnetic platters, and a small arm to read and write data. This is all housed within a heavy metal construction. Think record players, but for data storage. HDDs are great for storing large amounts of data, but they aren’t as fast or energy efficient as alternative choices. Still, they are cheaper due to the fact that they are more prone to hardware failure, but they do have their benefits. Many laptop manufacturers avoid putting HDDs in their devices to preserve their battery usage. Solid State Drives (SSD) SSDs are electronic without having any moving parts. Data is recorded electronically, allowing for a more expensive, but faster, more efficient, and more reliable option than HDD storage. Since they are electronic rather than mechanical, they experience less wear and tear, leading to reduced chances of hardware failure and data loss. SSDs, however, have a more limited capacity, and since they are more expensive than HDD, the price climbs for more expensive drives. What Are Your Storage Needs? You should start by thinking about whether or not you would benefit from an SSD. If you don’t use your PC for much, then you might be able to get away with less storage–around 128-to-256 GB. If your data is stored on the office network, you can shoot for even lower. If your computer is for personal use, you should seek somewhere between 512 GB to 1 TB. Depending on where you get the computer, you might find that the storage doesn’t influence the PC as much as other components, like CPU or RAM. You will probably need some kind of additional hard drive storage down the road, so we recommend utilizing an SSD for your operating system supplemented by an HDD for data storage. A gaming PC in particular […]

Let’s Buy a Computer, Part II

As previously mentioned, the amount of RAM in your device is not the same as the amount of storage it has. Think about it like the brain’s short-term memory, giving your computer the ability to temporarily call and store data as needed. Like most other components, you have options for both high-end and low-end, but what you need will largely depend on what the device will be accomplishing. For an example of how RAM works, suffice to say that the CPU handles instructions and processes the data that the RAM holds, so the more RAM that’s available, the faster the CPU can process it. How Much RAM Does Your Computer Need? There might be several brands of RAM to choose from, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that manufacturers take care of the minute details for you. You only need to concern yourself with them if you plan on building your own PC. While this guide might seem like it oversimplifies things, we assure you that it includes all you need to know when purchasing RAM for your device. Skimping the budget: The smallest amount of RAM you want in a Windows 10 device is 4 GB. While it’s possible to get Windows to run with less, we don’t recommend it. This is enough to handle some light document editing and Internet browsing, but not much else. Low-end: Most reasonable budget PCs will have at least 8 GB of RAM, which is enough to handle the operating system, editing documents, photo browsing, surfing the web, and other tasks. Mid-range: 16 GB is a nice safe bet for many businesses, and while it might seem like a lot, it’s quite possible even while on a budget. 16 GB of RAM is the entry point for gaming systems. While it’s not a catch-all, it’s the best you can get for the price point. High-end: You can shoot for the sky with your RAM, but the cost will go up in proportion. For example, the new Mac Pro can reach up to 1.5 TB of RAM, but it will cost you about $20,000. 16 GB is generally considered more than enough; if you think you need more than this, you should consult a professional to confirm that you really do, in fact, need it. Wrapping it Up Your device might need to update later on, but for the initial implementation, we recommend aiming for at least 8 GB, or even 16 GB if you can afford it. Does your business need help with implementing new hardware? SRS Networks can help. To learn more, reach out to us at (831) 758-3636.

Let’s Buy a Computer, Part I

Determine the Computer’s Role Your new desktop will have a specific purpose. What is it? Ascertaining what you need the new system for will help you make a decision about what hardware that system will need. A computer that is used for typical office tasks will need fewer resources than one being used for audio or video production.  Understanding Specifications For the PC’s CPU, users have many options to choose from. This ranges from budget processors all the way to processors so fast that they would be complete overkill for any office work. Today, we’ll take a look at the processors you may find from the two most important manufacturers, Intel and AMD. Intel Intel has tiered their processors to make them easier for the average consumer to understand. Their CPUs are as follows: Intel Core i3: Ideal for low-end work, like editing documents, checking email, and surfing the Internet. The latest generation of Core i3 should also suffice to stream video on YouTube and Netflix. Intel Core i5: The i5 processor is a little more powerful than your average i3, as it can handle some light photo editing and gaming. It’s a decent choice for your average office workstation. Intel Core i7: i7 processors are more high-end for video editing and gaming. Intel Core i9: i9 is a tier that has only just recently surfaced. For the average business’ needs, it’s overkill, but it’s perfect for 3D animation, rendering, gaming while streaming, scientific calculations, and so on. The price tag is just as high as you would think. AMD AMD has also begun to tier their options, providing consumers a general idea of what processors will fit their computing requirements. Options include: AMD Ryzen 3: To put it simply, this is AMD’s version of the Intel Core i3 processor, capable of editing documents, surfing the web, and… not much else. AMD Ryzen 5: The Ryzen 5 is about on par with the Intel Core i5, and while you might pay a little bit more for it, the performance of your desktop will improve substantially. AMD Ryzen 7: The Ryzen 7 is similar to Intel’s Core i7; this is where you’ll start to see costs increasing quite a bit. AMD Threadripper: This is where the overkill starts. The Threadripper is capable of handling heavy loads like 3D animation, gaming while streaming, and other intense computing that your average desktop doesn’t need to do. How Much Does the GHz Matter? Since the manufacturers have made it easy for people to know what speed processors they are getting, you won’t have to pay much attention to the clock speed (GHz) on your new CPU. Traditionally, consumers would have to pay more mind to it, but all you really need to know now is that when the GHz increases, the computer is faster.  Do the Number of Cores Matter? When you hear about the “cores” built into a CPU, it represents just how much separate processing a CPU can do. Unless you are on a strict budget, you will want to shoot for at least “quad-core” capability. There are processors that have dozens of cores, but those are typically utilized in server units. We hope you found some use from this guide. Check back soon for part two of the computer buying guide […]

Six Mistakes Entrepreneurs Can’t Afford to Make

Wearing Too Many Hats Many business owners make the mistake of taking on too much responsibility for themselves. It is almost as if these business owners forget that they aren’t running a sole proprietorship, that they are running a business – which means they have employees to leverage and delegate tasks to. If they don’t, they need to prioritize building a team they can trust, allowing themselves to focus on their top-tier responsibilities. Misunderstanding Your Audience So, you’re doing your best to understand your audience better, and so you’re doing research into their preferences – specifically, whether they prefer Coke or Pepsi. You spend weeks running surveys, conducting market research – you analyze every bit of data you can – all to determine which variety of cola your audience prefers. Unbeknownst to you, however, your target audience actually prefers ginger ale. While this is admittedly a silly example, too many business owners make assumptions about the people they are trying to attract, inadvertently disregarding them or worse… driving them away. Curse of Knowledge Bias Whatever business you’re trying to open, you know your stuff. You’re more familiar with the ins-and-outs of your offering than you are with the back of your hand. It is perfectly fair and accurate to describe you as a subject matter expert – but there are cases in which this isn’t always a good thing. Have you ever had an expert try to explain something to you, only to have it go completely over your head? This was likely because the expert is so familiar with their subject, they subconsciously assume that everyone else is, too. As a result, they’ll gloss over crucial details and key facts (after all, these are all a “given” to them). This is a habit that needs to be identified and broken, if only to avoid frustrating your clients. Treating Employees Like a Corporation Can No matter their size, all businesses rely on their employees in order to function. However, larger businesses and corporations have the advantage of being far more able to attract and hire new employees (primarily due to their visibility) as compared to SMBs – which means that turnover is less of a concern for them. In order to not lose the people you’ve hired, you need to make sure you aren’t stifling your staff. Encouraging them will only benefit your business in both the short and long-term. Cutting the Wrong Costs When starting a new business, there’s considerable financial commitments to be made. Many entrepreneurs short-change some of these commitments at first, whether that means they’re postponing their marketing or they’re turning to resources found on the Internet rather than professionals. This kind of behavior is risky at best, as making the wrong cuts could wind up costing you and your business far more in the future. If you do need to cut costs, make sure it is done with a lot of consideration and predictive analysis. Not Leveraging Technology Technology solutions are known as solutions for a reason: they are intended to assist a business in accomplishing their goals by fixing problems. By not using them, a business owner is hamstringing their own operations. SRS Networks can help you avoid making this mistake, at least. To learn more, reach out to our team at (831) 758-3636.