Redundancy

In computer jargon redundancy means having the same thing several times. Business owners shy away from doing this because it increases their costs. If you have a server, you will have two redundant servers. If you have Wi-Fi in your office you will have too many access points. If you are receiving internet you will have two, not one, internet providers, set up so that your network will automatically draw from both, or whichever one is still functioning.

The increase in your costs is not double. It might be 10% or 20% higher. Again, business owners object. Part of owning a business is controlling your costs, and the benefit to redundancy is almost invisible.

It’s almost invisible, that is, until your network crashes or you lose internet. Then the benefits of redundancy are enormous. A redundant server can save you two days in which your office operates as normal. Although not every failure is a server crash, they all share the characteristic that there is some loss of output from your business. Losing Wi-Fi access, one of the most minor failures you might encounter, reduces the productivity of your employees by some small increment. They may have to walk over to another part of your office to get working Wi-Fi, and send the files that they need to send over their cell connections. How much did that cost you, the minutes spent by several employees each day for the weeks it will take you to finalize the decision to replace the failed devices and get your IT company to replace them?

Because the output of your business is so much greater than the cost of your IT infrastructure that enables this productivity, the general rule is that past a certain size of office you should always be investing in redundancy. If your IT company hasn’t explained to you why, how this is better for your business, contact us. We’ll walk you through your options, which make sense and which don’t, and implement increased redundancy. The next time there’s a failure in your computer systems, you should be able to continue working with no loss of income.

Good Enough Security Isn’t Good Enough

Many offices put in place a modem and a firewall that connect to the internet, a switch in a network room to connect all of their computers, and then they are done. This setup works for some time, but it is not the best use of their computers.

This set up doesn’t offer the best protection against intrusion. The illusion is that if it is working, it’s about as good as it needs to be. A ransomware attack, a virus, data theft, anyone of these will demonstrate that you cannot measure good enough by what hasn’t happened on any particular day. You have to measure what is good enough by what is prevented from happening, and by this measure your simple firewall is probably not sufficient.

You need your computers updated and running an aggressive antivirus. You need your employees’ computers blocking any program that isn’t one that you have approved and that they’re supposed to be using. You need your employees not surfing virus filled sites. Because when their computer, and possibly the entire network, is infected by some crazy virus, they stop working but you do not stop paying them.

You can save money on an IT company. Maybe this money will make up for your losses when trouble strikes.

Because trouble will strike. Your computers are so central to your office that you can’t afford any down time in your computers. But downtime is what you will get.

Picture your office when your network has gone down and you can no longer work. Your entire office is working from the their cellular data connections, all of your computers have been infected, and the loss of productivity is equal to several years of our IT company bills.

Measure the value of your IT company not by what you spend on them, but by what you are not spending on network failures, viruses, and ransomware attacks. If you want this kind of protection, this kind of peace of mind, and this productivity insurance, call us.

Data Encryption

Should you use encryption? Yes you should – and you already do.

Most web traffic is already encrypted. Many websites, including those that process payments, encrypt their data when it is transmitted. This is good, but the website itself knows the data. Your data, and that of your customers and clients, is available to the website and therefore available to any malicious intruder with access to that website.

You should also use encryption within your network, if you enable it. Your data storage (your server, your cloud storage) as well as your data transmission to your storages can be encrypted. In some cases, such as medical offices subject to HIPAA, this is required by law.

When you are dealing with sensitive customer or client information, which is almost always, you may also choose to put in place encrypted transmission such as encrypted email. This is superior to relying on encryption used in transmission on the web because only you and the recipient can decrypt, that is read, the information.

Will encryption completely stop an intruder or a data thief? No. But in some cases it will, for example when a drive is stolen without the computer it’s resident on, and in other cases it will slow the attacker down – reduce but not eliminate their access to your data.

Ask us how to implement and increase encryption in your data transmissions and within your network. In most cases it is invisible to your operation and will not slow down your employees – encryption is an effective incremental security measure you should be taking.

 

Is Your Office HIPAA Compliant?

HIPAA specifies a number of standards providing for patient health information (PHI) portability between providers and accountability for errors and data integrity. Much of compliance falls on your computer network and the procedures that you follow to ensure the security and privacy of your patient information.

A simplified list of compliance that your computer systems must meet is:

-Access to that network, and therefore to the patient information, must be restricted, with some sort of confirmation of identity.

-Information transfer of information must be controlled and restricted.

-Disposal of any computer media that contained patient information must be controlled.

-When an authorized user ceases access, or is fired from your organization, their access must be removed.

-Procedures must be in place to protect terminals against mistakes by users, such as an automatic time log off.

-All access to data must be logged, giving information on the point of access and the user who made that access.

-Methods must be in place to confirm data integrity, including both on-site and off-site backups.

-Every transfer of data must be secure, meaning at least encrypted.

-Data storage must be secure, meaning at least encrypted.

Recently Congress passed the high-tech act. This act imposes very large penalties for failure to comply with HIPAA.

Does your current IT company ensure your compliance? Have you regularly reviewed their work, to see that they meet the above basic checklist?

If you are not confident that you meet the electronic requirements of HIPAA, contact us. We’ll walk you through some basic checklists, review your network, confirm encryption and backups, and give you a roadmap to compliance.HIPAA-Logo

Two Internet Providers

Computers are at the core of how your business makes its money. That’s been true for decades, but in the last ten years the Internet has moved from useful through essential to critical. Invoices, communications, and new orders are moving through your Internet connection. When your Internet connection goes down, so does your business.

Even a modest-sized business can benefit from two Internet providers. The expense of an Internet connection has dropped to where each provider might cost $150 a month. While this expense is not trivial, it’s small compared with the money you make by having the Internet running. So the questions are:

-How often does your Internet provider drop service during the hours when you’re trying to do business?

-How long does your Internet provider leave the service down?

-And how much does it cost you?

-How many employees are doing nothing productive?

The first ten or fifteen minutes they go for a cup of coffee, they review some notes, but after that they are not producing. You’re giving them a paid vacation until your Internet service comes back on. How soon has this cost you more than the $ 2,000 a year that you can save by not having a second Internet provider?

Just like you’ll have a duplicated server, a backup and then a cloud backup, a spare computer, so also you should consider a second Internet provider. The money that you spend on that second Internet provider won’t be wasted. If both of your Internet providers are up and running you’ll be getting the bandwidth from both of them into your network. You’ll be downloading twice as fast. While this may not be crucial to your business, it will be a productivity and speed increase that could pay for the second Internet provider.

But you should have two Internet providers so that, when one of your Internet providers drops, all that happens to you network is that documents and connections are a little slower. You won’t be out of business, you’ll just be slower.

If you have experienced frustration and lost money because your Internet provider has dropped service in the past months for ten minutes or a half hour or two hours, contact us. We’ll set up your network so that it constantly draws from two separate Internet providers, and so that you can automatically and seamlessly continue to make money when one of them drops service.Speedometer-Icon

Customer Service and IT

By now you’ve realized that you have no choice about hiring an IT company. You have no choice about having computers, about having them networked. You probably also have no choice except to have a server. Your computers are connected to the Internet, so you have to have security. You have enough computers that someone’s cousin isn’t going to be able to take care of them all, and they’re complicated enough that he or she couldn’t do it if they wanted to.

How do you pick your IT company? Which one is the best choice for you?

Price matters, but as your company grows you’ll notice that what you pay for your IT services is small compared with the productivity boost they offer. Well-run computers neither harm your business through security vulnerabilities, nor get in the way of your employees doing the jobs that make you your money. IT companies charge different fees because you’re buying a difference in expertise, response time, staffing – but mainly you are buying a difference in customer service.

Customer service is crucial, because customer service is how you are given information about your computers and your network that allows you to choose how to make them better. Your computers are some of the most valuable investments that you can make. A well-run computer network gives you a far greater return than almost any other investment you can make, and your IT company knows what are the next steps toward an even more productive computer network investment.

Does your IT company communicate that potential improvement with you? Do they sit down with you and lay out what your options are: investing in faster computers, increasing your level of security, improving home access for your employees, restructuring your information so that everybody involved in a project accesses all of that project information? This is customer service.

Customer service is something you pay for in an IT company. If you’re saving money on an IT company, one of the first things that you are saving money on is customer service. That’s because it’s a lot cheaper, and a lot more profitable, for an IT company to have remote techs sitting at computers in an office connecting into your network and resolving those problems that can be resolved remotely. Sending a person to your office is expensive: imagine sending one of your key employees out for hours at a time several times a day – you get the idea.

If your IT company doesn’t have a person coming into your office regularly, to maintain contact with your employees and ensure that issues are resolved as soon as they come up, or even better, issues are foreseen and addressed before they become problems, then you are losing productivity. You’re not giving your IT company an incentive to help you grow your computer system and make it more productive. That conversation, every few months, or perhaps twice a year, in which your IT company suggests changes to your computers or to your network, or introduction of a new system of of software, is a conversation you want. On the other side of that conversation are increases in productivity for your company that reward your investment.

If you’re not having that conversation with your IT company regularly, ask us how you can improve your network. See what it can be like to partner with your IT company and increase your productivity!