Read Between the Lines: What Your Business Could Learn from Flipboard’s Recent Data-Breach

According to Flipboard, hackers were able to tap directly into the databases where the app-company housed customer information. The information stolen, including customer names, user names, hashed passwords, emails, and digital tokens or API tokens for your favorite social media apps. Although Flipboard does not know how many accounts hackers infiltrated, nor have they fully-assessed the damage, one thing is for sure: It’s time for many companies to begin reading between the lines. While data that was stolen is serious, it’s the number of time hackers were able to go undetected that is cause for concern. Companies need to focus on Endpoint Protection. Read more

3 MSP Best Practices for Protecting Your Users

Cybercrimes are reaching all-time highs, with many organizations being hit with at least one of the 230,000 attacks that occurred in 2017. As a Managed Service Provider, it’s our job to make security a priory for clients in 2018. By following 3 simple best-practices, we use to begin protecting NetCentral Partners. Built to enhance MSP security, mitigate client risk, and grow your revenue.

User Education

Effective anti-virus is essential to keeping your business protected, but it’s simply not enough. With increased risks and social engineering, many have found the need for user education as a major objective for 2019. By educating end-users through security awareness training can reduce the cost of infection or data breaches. These tactics have evolved, and are beginning to target businesses through social engineering, and the favorite method for delivering an attack.

Common Social Engineering Includes:

–  Typically, an email from a trusted friend, contact, or colleague, whose account has been compromised. The message will usually have a URL link to open or download, and invoice or website.

–  Phishing emails, comments, or text messages luring readers to confirm the legitimacy of your accounts. These are usually fake email vendor emails that have been spoofed or recreated by these criminals.

–  Fraudsters are more common in major business cities like San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, California. These criminals leave USB or zip-drives around the company’s premises, in hopes a curious employee takes it. Hoping a curious employee will insert the temporary storage it into a computer providing access to company and personal data that is saved on your systems.

These attacks are usually devised through relevant and timely education can minimize your exposure to breaches caused by user error. By training our partners and clients on social engineering, and other tactics including ransomware, email passwords or data protection, you assist in fostering the behavior with which you wish to see across your organization.

Backup & Disaster Recovery Plans

Your IT support team should always stress the importance of backups and creating a disaster recovery plan, with regular testing of each asset. If hit with ransomware, without a secure backup, businesses face the intended ultimatum. To pay the ransom and risk the money or lose countless amounts of company data.

We’ve continued to offer our clients options to fit their network, with automated cloud-based backups and physical appliances for any company’s data retention policies to avoid encryption. With access to data anywhere at any time, the best form of proactive support comes with the industry knowledge gained from building business continuity plans.

Things to Consider:

–  Who declares the disaster?

–  How are employees informed?

–  How will you communicate with customers?

The secret to building the perfect disaster recovery plan for your business comes after the plan is implemented. The most common failure point for many businesses before NetCentral support is a failure to test a backup solution. Then a small-scale disaster or accident occurs, and your business can’t restore its data. Imagine the loss of business financials, intellectual property, client data. Insurance won’t pay you for lost information, and your disaster recovery plan is the only thing between business risk and your employees. Once a plan has been implemented and adopted by the staff, it’s important to develop your process.

Patch Management

Patch Management continues to be one of the largest areas of vulnerability for businesses with more than 2 “production” servers. Most updates are security related and should be updated as needed. Outdated technology, including an operating system (OS) or Java, are common exploits in several of this year’s largest cyberattacks. By staying atop of operating system updates, you prevent your business from learning a “very costly lesson.” A great example, of this, was back in 2017, with Windows 10. Win10 initially only marked 15% of malware files, while Windows 7 machines saw over 63% according to Webroot’s 2018 Threat Report.

Patching Process

Your patching process should feel like “a never-ending cycle,” of auditing existing systems to generate a complete inventory of all your production systems, their standardization, and operating systems and applications. By building these standards with a trusted IT support team, your patching process will become easier. Through the classification of vulnerabilities, higher priorities can be remedied, while lower vulnerabilities begin to be automated, never disrupting your workday again.

By following these best practices, your business can begin thinking like an MSP. This will ensure the safety of your business, but also securing customer data. Business owners looking to scale operations should be looking to align business objectives, with an MSP that focuses on your IT experience, if you’re in need of IT Support and Services, we can help! Contact us, to begin talking about your IT stance.

Empowering Executives with Integrations for the Technology You Love

For many CIOs and COOs, the process of technology continues to be a top priority for many come 2019. As a major headache, businesses are increasing their cloud investments to move forward with digital transformation efforts were then faced with the massive undertaking of getting multiple resources connected for a seamless user experience.

Many of the local SMBs have found a lack of competency in many smaller providers, with stitching together applications and services to make up your current IT environments. It’s these environments that will increasingly become more-hybrid. With a large mix of on-premises equipment dispersed across various sites, public and private continue to muddy the waters.

As part of the many businesses moving towards a digital transformation, IoT (Internet of Things) has entered further cluttering device options and platforms that can begin to optimize your operations. As many begin with 2019 initiatives, that will further bring-on greater levels of complexity. As a result, many local business owners have identified this gap and began to address this in their technology plans.

Digital Initiatives
As many CEOs begin cracking down according to the latest “State of the CIO 2018” report, IDGs. This continues to add pressure on the organization. As one of the most experienced MSPs in the SF Bay Area, we continued to rapidly innovate, enhance your speed-to-market and greater your customers experience with your business.

By assessing your existing investments in equipment and resources to better determine what new investments need to be made, when achieving technology goals. The digital transformation many businesses are undergoing isn’t exclusively about new technology, but instead, deciphering what makes sense to retain and what needs to be integrated for legacy applications and services, it’s more of a comprehensive assessment.

With all this in mind, we offer CIO’s and COO’s a range of services to further assist in the development of these transformative plans. In our experience, these three components continue to best assist companies in their digital future.

  1. Assessments & Planning – As you begin launching digital initiatives the need to measure twice, cut once an be a great undertaking for several businesses. Involving a review of current architecture, and bandwidth demands of these assets require greater discovery and review to determine a solution that’s right for your business.
  2. Execution – Once planning and alignment are finished, technology providers assist in multiple ways to execute this vision. It takes an IT Expert to match workloads to platforms with optimization in mind, followed by the task of creating a truly digital ecosystem where your business network can be secured and managed successfully by a business that’s done it for over 30 years.
  3. Follow Through – With experience gained through time, we continue to see clients with a lack of talent and expertise in these fields. To fully integrate technology, it requires businesses to either hire someone full-time or outsource to an MSP. As your business continues to propel further towards a more connected network, how does a business keep all of this secure, and up-to-date?

Section 179 Makes Most of Our IT Products 100% Tax Deductible

2018 section 179 tax deduction write off clare computer solutions IT support leader SF Bay area

Many of our clients, rely on this tax incentive each year, to provide them with the ability to purchase or update the technology that runs their business. Utilized by many for licensing, software packages, servers, routers, and switches, many of our clients have leveraged Section 179 as an invaluable asset for the innovation and management of their network infrastructure

Below is an overview of the section 179 tax-incentive for 2018 include deduction limits, and bonus depreciation. Originally used by innovators and investors to further the(their) businesses technology goals, many of our clients rely on this credit for the larger items in their technology scope.

2018 Deduction Limit = $1,000,000 (one million dollars)
The initial deduction is good for purchasing new technology equipment or off-the-shelf software. To take the deduction successfully in 2018, the equipment must be purchased or financed and put into service between January 1, 2018, and December 31st, 2018.

2018 Spending Cap on equipment purchases = $2,500,000
The maximum amount that can be spent on equipment, before the small business tax incentive is affected, is $2.5 Million to $3.5 Million. Most businesses looking to qualify for the tax-incentive doing $2.5 Million in technology spending, don’t meet the needs of a small business.

Bonus Depreciation: 100% for 2018
An additional bonus to close-out the year-end budgeting for 2018, bonus depreciation is generally taken from the spending cap that a business reaches and is available for both new and used equipment.

What’s the Section 179 Deduction?

Most small to medium-sized businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area think the Section 179 Tax Deduction is some mysterious or complicated tax code that you’ll need an accounting or financial firm to clear. Essentially, Section 179 is the IRS tax-code allowing businesses to deduct the full purchasing price of qualifying equipment and/or software purchased or financed during the tax year. This incentive was created to encourage businesses to invest in themselves and update vulnerable technology.

Currently, Section 179 is one of the few incentives available to small and medium-sized businesses. Large businesses also benefit from Section 179 for Bonus Depreciation. Join the millions of SMBs that have begun taking action and get your team real benefits.

Here’s How Section 179 works:

In the past, businesses would purchase IT equipment, typically writing-off some through depreciation. While this writes off was better, it wouldn’t be until 2018 that the government would include the write-off of all qualified equipment purchases for the same year your IT equipment was purchased. Making a big splash so far, many of the companies looking to move to the cloud or replace an older exchange server would qualify to write-off on the 2018 Tax Return up to $1 million.

Limits of Section 179

  • 2018 Cap to the total amount of write-offs is $1 Million
  • Amount of technology equipment purchased $2.5 Million
  • Dedication phases-out on a dollar-for-dollar basis after $2.5 Million is incurred and goes away at $3.5 Million.

Who Qualifies for Section 179?

Businesses looking to purchase, finance, or lease new or used business equipment during the 2018 tax-year qualify. Most of the tangible goods purchased through Section 179 and must be placed into service no later than December 31, 2018.

If your business is looking for ways to save on technology spending, look no further. With over 30 years of experience serving the San Francisco Bay Area, our seasoned staff knows just how to get you the technology you need. If you wish to price it out, visit the Section 179 Calculator.

Not sure what you might need? Sourcing-out gaining desktops or mail-servers are always at the top of an SMBs list. If you need assistance in discovering and identifying technologies that could benefit your business, contact us today to speak with one of our many experts.

3 Considerations When Planning Your Future Information Technology

I’m sure many of you have heard of the age-old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” No business owner should see this as a surprise. Yet, when we chat with new clients and their peers, it seems like they were winging information technology(IT) until now.

Many local businesses are surviving on a day-to-day basis. Some even feel they barely have time to plan for what is going on this afternoon. Tomorrow will begin to seem overwhelming, and the recipe for disaster is born.

Here Are the Three Important Reasons Why You Should Take the Time to Plan for Tomorrow:

1. Your Business Depends on It:  How many of us have thought about businesses growing in a healthy, reliable fashion when executing your sales efforts consistently. It’s critical that you and your team understands the full capabilities and metrics tied to your business efforts. By planning for your technology future, employees will begin to thrive, finances become more predictable, and the stress levels around technology drop. Your internal staff members aren’t left with trial and error. By preparing your information technology today, you can battle the fires of tomorrow.

2. Putting-Out Fires Isn’t Productive:  Many local business owners become regularly stuck fighting information technology fires. That’s unfortunate because, in the larger scope of things, it feels like work is being accomplished, but no situation has been remedied. Your information technology partner should be working within your business, not on your business. This path of neglect is also one leading to high stress and minimum growth.

3. Life Happens:  Employees can get sick, or decide to leave the business unexpectedly, even with proper planning, there’s absolutely no margin for error at this point. Sometimes, businesses are faced with opportunities, that demand immediate action, again delaying the time to think about what advantages, and needs your business now has for technology.

How Can WE Fix This?

As IT people and not miracle-workers, we can create a fully-encompassing management solution for your technology. Putting out the fire, of one of the largest problem with local companies today, aging technology.  As a trusted IT partner in the Bay Area, we understand that there are many substitutes that come close to the care, and customer satisfaction provided by our staff.

If your business has been having technical issues, you owe it to yourself, and your work, to give an expert a call. To begin a no-cost conversation regarding your information technology, feel free to reach out to any of our friendly staff for further assistance.

 

How to Devise a Budget that includes your Disaster Recovery Plans

Planning and disaster recovery, more importantly, budgeting, is one of those tasks few business continuity managers look forward to completing every year. After all, it can become a pretty involved, and complicated processes for anyone, often seen as sobering to tally-up the final bill. Love-it or hate-it, devising a business disaster recovery (BDR) budget is a necessary evil which nobody can avoid. On the bright side, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you spend wisely on a disaster recovery budget.

Rally the Troops

Call in the troops with a rallying cry for disaster recovery to protect the entire organization. By design, planning and budgeting should involve the CEO, or top-level management, and department leaders across the company — not only IT. Key members from varying departments like sales and customer service can drive budgeting needs by contributing valuable insights on how systems and resources are used, performing, and the maintenance needed. Business owners and CIOs can see what the plan entails, and decide how to best execute the proposed strategies while staying within the budget.

Know What’s Important

After you’ve rallied the troops and the advocates, your next step would be to focus the bulk of your disaster recovery planning efforts around your most precious asset. For most, business begins and ends with data. Data can be perceived as analytical, or informational bits and bytes that make up the information that runs your business.

Commonly, these budgets should be structured in a way, to cover vital company information from various angles. An example of this can be found at some level of most businesses. The entire organization uses a firewall(s), to ward off network attacks at the perimeter level. Anti-virus and end-point protection halt threats on production servers or prevent data encryption. Although the equipment varies from one company to another, but eventually technology breaks. Having an on-site, and an off-site backup plan will ensure that your business line data can be recovered fully, and reliably.

Business Risk Weigh-out

Now it’s time to hone in on actual disastrous scenarios. This is when your staff can assist in identifying the biggest threats to your business. Begin to engineer strategies to minimize the exposure and risks to data. Your hardware and data’s physical location is always a factor, but most organizations should thoroughly plan for both natural and accidental disasters. Although you might have prepared a comeback from fire or flood, have you given thought to disgruntled employees? What about cybercriminals, and hacking?

From here, we can begin working on a budget that properly reflects, the tools and resources needed to put your strategy in place. Our managed service partners have the freedom to budget in anything from training internal-staff in advanced cybersecurity measures to our network monitoring process. Your budget must cover the workforce needed to spring into action during these disaster recovery scenarios.

Prioritize Your Assets

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in disaster recovery planning is treating each system and process as equals. Why? Because it often leads to employing “grade-A” protection across your infrastructure. Not quite sure where your resources rank in the pecking order? Well, this is where a detailed business impact analysis (BIA) comes in handy. A BIA will identify each resource in your environment. It will also help drive your budgeting efforts based on their order of importance.

Fund Your Budget Wisely

Smart budgeting is about setting your limits and staying within those very boundaries. Your ability to stay within that safe zone will largely depend on your organizational structure, but some companies are already allocating a sizable portion of their budget towards disaster recovery services. Typically, we see those that operate disaster recovery as its own separate line-item, taking a more targeted approach for every department.

Your Peace-of-Mind

Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan. Failed backups or lapses in communication, these roadblocks can lead to stumbling over the hurdles to recovery. Your disaster recovery can be seen as an ongoing process, without a time constraint, you can periodically test your solutions along the way.

If your company is struggling to get over any of the hurdles on the road to successful disaster recovery, contact us to begin a no-cost, no-obligation conversation with one of our friendly staff members.

8 Warning Signs You’re Using the Wrong IT Service Solution

Dreading your company’s technology review because you can’t show how your technology is performing? Have a provider suffering from a lack of ideas on how to truly accelerate technology?  You’re not alone – these are common symptoms for Bay Area businesses having selected the wrong managed IT service solution.

Who could blame you? The marketplace is crowded with vendors and tools that promise to deliver exactly what you need. Even the “do-it-yourself” path, with homegrown systems or spreadsheets, can seem like you’re moving in the right direction.

Sooner or later, you will sense “something is wrong,” but you can’t quite put your finger on what exactly. If that’s you or could become you, check out these 10 warning signs that your company needs to make a change:

8 Warning Signs You’re Using the Wrong IT Service Solution:

1)  Lacking a consolidated point-of-service for all technology related matters

2)  Tired of burning service hours on re-active support instead of proactive thinking?

3)  Bouncing between different relationship and account managers within your IT support’s organization?

4)  Weeks have passed without any word from your account manager or that IT Guy you hired

5)  There’s no personalization – Your IT support never seems to know your network, let alone, your name

6)  No one owns the roadmap for projects, unplanned work, updates, and changes

7)  The “out-of-the-box” support solutions were over positioned, and  don’t deliver

8)  Your “good enough,” functionality isn’t good enough for your management team

Coming to the Realization That You Didn’t Make the Right Choice?

Make a change — your next quarter doesn’t need to be a repeat of this quarter. The bottom-line is that executives need to know technology is being supported by scalable trustworthy, technology partner. This includes building a check-list of “would-like-to-have” features, “must-have” features and “deal breakers.”

Reference your list closely as you vet future products and solutions. Finally, it’s smart to secure feedback from others in your industry or channel. Consider inviting potential solution providers to your site, to your team a solution demo.

There’s no doubt this process is rigorous. But, it’s what’s required to find the best IT support and service solution for your organization. Contact Us – for a no-cost, no-obligation, conversation regarding unlocking the true potential of your business network and managed IT service solution.

Your Internal Teams Greatly Benefit from a Managed IT Service Provider

Having a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) in your IT mix can free-up internal staff for more strategic projects, like that app you always wanted, or those file-sharing tools your employees need. Establishing a strategic partnership with your IT vendor is essential to the relationship’s success. After 30 years in the IT Service realm, these are the biggest misconceptions, surrounding your current MSP, and internal teams.

“Bargain-Shop” Managed IT Service Provider

Organizations are continuing to turn towards MSPs to handle certain IT functions, as an extension of their internal teams. Although it appears most businesses see the value of augmenting a Managed Service Provider, many are looking for the “cheapest” option available.

This highlights the very reason an organization turns to a Managed IT Service Provider in the first place – for change. Cost-savings were always seen as benefits to Managed IT Services, but many have shifted their mindset, from finding the lowest price to hunting for the greatest value.

Look for MSPs that have experience in your industry, and speak less about technology. Across the board, you want a partner that can explain business outcomes, and how services can help shorten the roadmap to your goals, not pushing product.  Managed Service Providers share business perspective, not technology pushed by vendors. The only way to avoid “deadbeat-IT” is by leveraging outside partners that carry proven track records with established clients.

Top Managed Service Providers Extend Proficiency and Reach

Your MSP usage doesn’t have to be confined to break-fix services related to hardware and its availability. Many CIOs are looking for MSPs that can deliver advanced services, like virtualization, converged-infrastructure or Security-as-a-Service.

With an increase in demand for services around network analytics, business intelligence, and application monitoring, your service provider should have an evolving offering. One that meets the demands of a dynamic technology landscape. It should be noted, a shift with some MSPs has begun, as we’ve seen several refuse the extension to support legacy infrastructure and outdated software.

Partners, NOT Replacements

While more and more companies are relying on outside help for IT needs, MSPs should complement your internal team, rather than replace it. Instead, this frees up existing assets to focus on core business functions, to better utilize company resources. Many of our clients have claimed it brought IT departments, “out-of-the-shadows” and allowed them to focus on core initiatives, a win-win for your IT staff.

Your MSP should provide you with strategy, documentation, repeatable process, access to their ticketing portal and friendly staff welcoming your calls. Company technology doesn’t have to keep you up at night.

Contact Us – to discover how Managed IT Services with Clare Computer Solutions can begin to benefit your business overnight.

Why Documenting Your Infrastructure Is Crucial to Your Next Tech Project

Things move fast in business, but they move even faster in technology. Because of this, many business’ Information Technology (IT) infrastructures are poorly planned and can be fixed once a user can document technology. Technological tools are often deployed to address a specific problem, without consideration to the entire infrastructure.  Decisions are made to address short-term issues with little or no regard to the company’s long-range plans.

When a company wants to plan for growth or improve its technology, it becomes increasingly more difficult to get a handle on the current situation, which makes strategic planning nearly impossible.  You can’t find the finish line if you can’t find the starting line!  Here are some suggestions:

Perform Regular IT Assessments

Ideally, every change or addition to your IT infrastructure would be properly documented immediately, but with the pace of technology and the advent of the “Bring Your Own Device” movement, this may not be practical.   But once or twice a year, an assessment of the entire Technology infrastructure should be performed, this provides technology managers inside your company the ability to make better, more informed decisions than ever before.

Cycle-Out Unused/Obsolete Assets

Clutter grows on its own, whether in an attic or in an office.  Apply the notion of “Spring Cleaning” to the business and at least once a year, get rid of computers and devices you don’t use or need.  Aging or unused devices have grown to become the largest security threat, followed closely behind by remote desktop protocol. As technology begins to age, you will notice resources being pulled-away, incrementally, in as supportable life-span is nearing its end.

Documenting Your Infrastructure

When the time comes to implement a sweeping growth initiative, you will need an up-to-date, accurate and relevant view of your current infrastructure.  This should consist of both asset lists (devices, computers, software licenses) and a network diagram.

When you document technology, you can manage your technology. But who’s got time to do all this stuff?   Who have the skills to apply this level of organization?

Clare Computer Solutions have the tools and the experience to handle IT documentation quickly and efficiently if you’re tired of half-done network diagrams, that never seem to stay updated. We handle multiple networks, so we can apply this broad experience to provide expert advice on your company’s technology strategies. Contact us now to get started!

10 Reasons Why SMBs Are Vulnerable to Security Attacks

They say recognizing a problem is the first step in solving it. But when it comes to cybersecurity, many SMBs don’t believe they have a real problem on their hands. Many simply believe that hackers will focus their attention exclusively on large and well-heeled organizations, and aren’t interested in smaller businesses. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s this mentality that leaves businesses highly susceptible to attacks.

1) Not If, but When
Many small businesses don’t invest sufficiently in IT security resources and protection. This may be due in part to the fact that they may not know they’re being targeted. According to the Ponemon Institute 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, hackers have breached 50% of the 28 million small businesses in the United States have no clue they’re being targeted.

2) Evolving Threat Landscape
Trying to keep pace with the changing nature of cyber threats is a full time. Many cannot afford the cost of internal IT security staff, which is why it’s imperative that their MSP keep them protected from zero-day threats.

3) Users Don’t Always Know Security Best-practices
In the last year, phishing was involved in 90% of breaches, which makes end users both the weakest link and the first line of defense. The best way to counter this threat is to train and educate end-users on the impact of their online behaviors. A well-trained user can help prevent threats like ransomware, drive-by downloads, keyloggers, and many more.

4) Lack of Effective Security Policies and Protocols
Companies should have documented policies in place to ensure all passwords are strong and regularly changed. Although these actions are “status-quo,” two-factor authentication is many. Access rights to network files, folders, and file shares need to be tightly controlled to avoid malware wreaking havoc on networks.

5) Exposure to Multiple Vector
All the ways that users’ can interact with the internet must be considered, from emails, attachments, links, to web browsing and network activity. Effective endpoint security starts with protecting each of these vectors from cyber attacks. Featuring multi-layered protection to defend you from threats that use different exploits to gain access to your network.

6) Complex Security Creates Admin Challenges
Consider not only the costs of buying cybersecurity software but also the operational expenses of the latest in security technology. Systems that use best-in-class solutions paired with minor automation can make security both more affordable and more effective. Using these solutions allows internal teams tasked with administration’s job easier.

7) Out-of-Date Systems
By following a rigorous patching regime, you can avoid many of the application vulnerabilities used to comprise networks. At times, patching can feel unimportant, but with the help of our staff, and a little automation, patching management has become smoother, and more cost-effective. WannaCry, 2018’s biggest cyber-scare could have been avoided completely by simply patching systems to best practices.

8) Murky Network Visibility
Having accurate information about your network technology, and what’s connected to it, is vital in protecting users from both internal and external threats. Network monitoring tools can identify network anomalies and counter threats before they do harm to your systems. Knowing can be half the battle, and being able to pinpoint affected systems and the potential path of destruction.

9) Poor Backup Practices
Faced with attacks like ransomware, SMBs must have an effective back-up and retention policy. 60% of companies that suffer from a cyber attack are out-of-business within 6 months due to the sheer amount of data loss. There are many on and off-premise cloud-based backup systems that will help avoid such fate. Unfortunately, for companies willing to pay the ransom these days, it will not guarantee you will get your data back.

10) Compliance
Regulations affect several of the largest industries, and securing endpoints are a routine compliance requirement for most. It has become vital to understanding your compliance obligations and ensuring sufficient security is in place, to protect your business.

Clare Computer Solutions has the tools and experience to handle any aspect of your IT security. With tools to assess and remediate vulnerabilities. Clare Computer Solutions handles multiple networks, so we can apply this broad experience to expertly advise on your company’s technology strategiesContact us today to begin the conversation on securing your business.