The end of the year is a great time to organize your books, reflect with your team, prepare for growth next year, and upgrade your technology. In this post, we give you specific DIY tips you can do to check and secure your computers and accounts to better protect your business. Managed IT Service Providers are continually doing these checks for clients, and hourly IT service providers will do checks when requested, but if you don’t yet have an IT support company, these tips will help you today.
First, Consider Why You Don’t Have An IT Support Company
Approximately 45% of SMBs do not have any IT staff, and also do not have a contracted IT consultant. This means no one is monitoring and managing the tech and IT security.
Only 7 percent of SMBs have a full-time IT technician on payroll – but they are the SMB’s earning revenue at the upper limits of this category.
The rest rely on third-party on-call IT companies.
Often small business only call in help when technology breaks down and disrupts business.
On-call companies can take several days to show up which means business is not running as usual. On call emergency IT support often costs more than standard rates, because the provider has to shuffle their regular schedule and client appointments to accommodate your urgent situation.
Most SMBs say they can't afford full-time in-house support. Even those who do budget for such a position, have challenges. Hiring and overseeing IT staff is difficult if no one knows enough about IT management to screen candidates and assign a job role or provide guidance when needed. Often, the hiring budget is noncompetitive, resulting in new graduates taking the position, and leaving for higher wages once they have some experience under their belt. This means your IT is being managed by a new graduate with no real world experience, and your IT management is disrupted with each staff change over.
There is a better option.
Managed IT Services are ideal for SMB’s because they fulfill the functions of an IT employee or department, for a fraction of the cost, an no specialized skills are needed from the business owner.
Cloud computing, remote services and automation have made it possible for Managed IT Companies to serve SMB’s in a meaningful way.
While many of these companies are operating at a price point that is out of reach for small business, there are Managed IT Providers for small business out there, and are worthy of your consideration, especially due to the need for IT security in this day and age.
Until you are ready to outsource your IT, here are actionable tips you can do right now if you are a business owner handling your company’s IT Management on your own.
Update All Software.
We all get and ignore those computer notifications to update our software.
Did you know those updates (patches) are critical to your IT security? They contain code updates to close new security gaps each software vendor has found in their software.
Those gaps are commonly and successfully used to hack businesses big and small.
This is why IT departments and Managed IT Service providers apply patches every week. Take time to update all software, company-wide this week. Make a schedule to do this weekly.
Create 12+ Character Passwords
Did you know that your average eight-character password can be cracked in 1 day, but a 12-character password can take over 100 years? Read more about password security here. Have your entire team create stronger, 12+ character passwords today.
Set up Two Factor Authentication
Two Factor Authentication is free to set up and use. IT helps reduce the risk of account hacking and data loss. It is available for Office 365 and G Suite. Install the Google or Microsoft authentication from the app store and then follow the guide. Have your entire team set up 2FA to better protect all company data.
Backup Files Every Day + Test Your Backup
A data loss event can happen at any time, without warning. And yet, Symantec’s Small to Medium Size Businesses (SMB) data shows that only 23% of SMBs are backing up their data daily, and less than 50% are backing up weekly.
Since a data loss event can result in a business crunch for weeks or months, or even completely shut down a small business, ensuring your back up systems are robust is a top priority.
Your data backup method can stop working at any time for a variety of reasons. It’s important to test your data backup regularly so you can be confident your system will work as intended when you really need it to.
Check and test your data backup today to ensure you can restore your files.
If you allow employees to work from personal devices, be sure their devices also have adequate backup.
Have Adequate Virus Protection And A Firewall
If your antivirus software is free, then it is not adequate.
Good antivirus software requires the threat seeking algorithms to be regularly updated to seek and stop ever changing cyber security threats.
There are highly skilled data scientists who specialize in this field and are employed by reputable antivirus companies. Those are the products you want to use. Expect to pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee for a quality business grade antivirus program.
Your antivirus should be homogenous across your network. That means every device should have the same software in place, making network wide management easier.
To keep tabs on all devices to ensure the antivirus software on each computer has the latest updates and patches requires monitoring software. Since this software is costly and usually used by large companies or Managed Services Providers, you will have to manually check that each computer has the most recent version of the software.
Firewalls are another type of threat management tool used to enforce perimeter security. They scan data such as emails coming and going from your network, seeking to block malware and other threat signatures. They can stop threats before they make it to a computer. Missed threats get scanned again with the computer antivirus software. You need multiple layers of security to reduce your risk.
Firewalls can also detect network-based attacks. Inadequate firewall protection can increase your chances of a network breach, and it is likely that while being hacked, you would have no indication that a problem was occurring.
To protect your valuable data and assets, ensure your virus protection is adequate, up-to-date and functioning properly and that your firewall is intact and has all the latest patches on it.
Check Server Drives and Error Logs
It is rare for a major computer or server issue to emerge without any warning. It does happen, but more often, error logs give advanced warning to problems brewing.
However, if no one is checking error logs and fixing the small issues, they become big issues like computer or server crashes.
Proactive monitoring and maintenance of your server and computers can spare your business a lot of problems.
Take time to check computer error logs now.
Then check server logs.
Finally, clean up drive space to avoid errors and crashes, especially on servers. If new updates require a certain amount of free space, and your drives don't have it, it will cause issues.
Delete Unused Accounts To Reduce Risk Of Being Hacked
Unused accounts are commonly used to hack networks. IT departments and Managed Service providers routinely remove unused accounts to reduce risk.
Delete all unused accounts today.
You can check your Active Directory or Office 365 or G Suite admin panel.
Remember to always change passwords or close accounts when an employee leaves.
Outsource Your IT Management: Once your business has been operating for a while, the time will come when you will need to hire in house or outsourced IT services. Outsourcing IT management is considered the only wise alternative to an in-house IT employee. It is a cost-effective strategy to protect your business. Outsourcing is the best choice because trained IT professionals practice IT management every day and stay up to date on the constant changes - allowing you to focus on growing your business.
As a Toronto Managed IT Services Provider, TUCU is the IT department for many local small business teams. Learn how we can help you too. Check out our IT Management Services and schedule your free consultation today.