As technology has proliferated and advanced, it has opened up far more opportunities for businesses to improve their processes and operations, leading to better services and customer experiences. But digital transformation isn’t a one-and-done project or an initiative confined to the IT department. To truly keep your company competitive and adaptable, it is necessary to adopt a holistic approach to digital transformation.

Our IT Operations Manager, Wayne Speziale, specializes in planning, developing, and executing process improvement strategies to maximize overall business efficiency and profitability, making him an excellent resource for considering the wide-ranging implications of digital transformation. Read Wayne’s insights about how organizations should conceptualize holistic digital transformation, its benefits, and its implementation strategies.

What Is Digital Transformation, Really?

Digital transformation is a radical rethinking of how businesses use technology. It requires that organizations collaborate across departments to effectively pair business principles with agile implementation.

“A common misconception is that digital transformation only concerns IT,” said Wayne. “In reality, digital transformation is a holistic approach to improving the entire customer experience. It touches every part of the business and does not just focus on the technologies that are only a part of the equation.”

For digital transformation to be effective, it needs to align with and support your business’ strategic goals. Another misconception is that digital transformation means taking your business in a completely different direction that goes against its objectives. While digital transformation does involve change, these changes should be executed in service of a company’s long-term goals.

When considering digital transformation initiatives, it’s important to ask, “What business outcomes do you want to achieve for customers?” Digital transformation is a critical strategy for meeting and exceeding customer expectations as they change over time. The resulting changes to your organization’s technologies, processes, and operations are often far-reaching, requiring people throughout your company to adapt and rethink the way they work.

Advantages of Holistically Adopting Digital Transformation

By taking on a holistic approach to digital transformation, businesses can reap a number of tangible benefits. Wayne explains, “Digital transformation should lead to overall revenue growth and it should have a net positive impact on the efficiency and productivity of all operations.”

A few advantages of digital transformation include:

  • Gaining customer insights and creating an effective digital transformation cycle
  • Increasing overall profits, despite initial costs
  • Streamlining productivity and boosting employee satisfaction

Gaining Customer Insights

A digital web of customer personas, representing customer insight as a benefit of holistic digital transformation.

With more advanced technology comes more opportunities for data collection and analysis. A major component of staying ahead of the competition and better serving your customers is gaining more insight on their behaviors, experiences, and needs.

Often, as you learn more about what your customers need, as well as what is and is not working with your products and services, you identify areas to improve or innovate that can be supported by technology. Implementing this technology continues the ongoing process of digital transformation, creating an effective cycle for gaining insights, applying solutions, and enhancing your offerings and customer experiences.

Increasing Overall Profits

Business owners and leaders may worry about the costs of digital transformation. Adopting new technology and replacing old technology requires an upfront financial commitment. Not to mention, digital transformation takes time to strategize and implement, bringing with it the potential for network downtime and disruption to business operations.

Fortunately, businesses can avoid many of these issues with proper research, planning, and development prior to implementation. And what many companies fail to realize is the cost of not adopting digital transformation, which is often far greater.

Outdated technology puts your company behind the curve, limits productivity, and can result in suffering customer experiences. Meanwhile, research conducted by SAP Center for Business Insights and Oxford Economics found that 80% of business leaders whose companies have undertaken digital transformation report that it has increased their profits.

Streamlining Productivity

One of the greatest benefits to digital transformation is that it streamlines productivity. According to a study from Zensar that surveyed over 1,000 white-collar and higher-level professionals about digital transformation:

  • 76% of workers reported higher productivity.
  • 53% of workers reported they are more successful.
  • 28% of workers reported they are happier.

Digital transformation allows every aspect of your organization to run in sync and creates cross-department collaboration toward strategic objectives. When workers have the digital tools and processes they need to operate more efficiently, they can spend less time on menial tasks, better manage their work, and meet more of their goals. It’s not surprising that this leads to more productive, successful, and happy employees.

Implementing Holistic Digital Transformation

Digital transformation often demands widespread change, but it doesn’t have to mean complete disruption to your business. It calls for careful research, planning, and development before implementation. Yet digital transformation is also about adaptability, which is why it’s important to be prepared to pivot as needed.

A few considerations to keep in mind when you are adopting digital transformation include:

  • Assessing your current infrastructure
  • Collaborating across departments
  • Creating goals and a vision
Check out our infographic or keep reading for 3 tips for implementing holistic digital transformation.

Assessing Your Current Infrastructure

By assessing the current infrastructure of your business, you can take stock of everything that’s going right and where there’s room for improvement or innovation. Evaluate the processes and technologies of your workforce, as well as the experiences of your customers. These assessments will lay the foundation for your digital transformation initiatives.

Collaborating Across Departments

Collaborating across departments is essential in this process. Not only can you gain valuable insights by consulting with every department, but also you can anticipate their unique needs and potential issues, maintaining a positive company culture. In particular, organizations should be sure to plan accordingly for any employee training that will be required with new technologies.

Creating Goals and a Vision

It’s important to create specific goals and a vision for your organization’s digital transformation. Clarify what you hope to accomplish and make sure it aligns with the overall goals and vision of your company.

Choose Guardian Computer to Help with the IT Side of Digital Transformation

While there’s more to digital transformation than IT, it’s certainly a critical part of the process. At Guardian Computer, we provide custom solutions to IT digital transformation, allowing you to focus on your day-to-day business, new opportunities, and long-term goals.

Contact us today to learn how we can help!

When it comes to picking the best software as a service on the market, G Suite and Microsoft 365 are among the top contenders for businesses. But how do you know which one is right for your organization? And what if you end up wanting to switch from one to the other?

Fortunately, our co-founder, co-owner, and CEO, John Prejean, has plenty of expert insight and experience on the matter. Discover why he recommends Microsoft 365 for most businesses and how Guardian Computer can make the migration process as streamlined as possible for your organization.

G Suite vs. Microsoft 365

While we generally find ourselves recommending Microsoft 365 to organizations, as John said, “It just depends on how you work, what you need, and the apps you use.”

In fact, G Suite might better suit your needs if you are working from more minimal, less powerful computers or if you frequently need to collaborate on documents with users who aren’t using Microsoft products. But that may not be the case in the future, as Microsoft is already improving its online versions of apps and document collaboration.

Microsoft 365, on the other hand, facilitates easy integration with Microsoft apps, access to apps offline, seamless login and authentication, and much more. Not only that, but Microsoft has a platform that is constantly adapting to succeed in new markets with more advanced technology.

According to Forbes, Microsoft “continue[s] to produce hundreds of new products every year. They utilize thousands of developers and partners in their network.” It’s no wonder why Microsoft is the industry standard, claiming about 90% of the market share and remaining the top choice for most organizations.

The Microsoft Advantage

Consider some of the key advantages that the Microsoft suite has to offer, outlined below.

One-Stop Shop: Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory is Microsoft’s solution to a cloud-based, serverless migration that suits the needs of most companies, especially ones that have transitioned to more remote work.

Azure AD not only enables employees to access internal data and resources across multiple devices, but also offers features such as threat detection and multi-factor authentication, which make managing your business IT easier. By contrast, this level of security is much more difficult when using G Suite. Microsoft is a significantly more secure option that gears its features towards user efficiency and control.

Users need only one login to access all of the applications in the Microsoft suite. By changing the user consent, they can even use Azure AD to access third-party applications as well. From a management standpoint, Azure AD creates a central place to alter user permissions, create groups and attributes, and even assign licenses to certain users or entire groups.

“Login is huge,” said John. “Companies need to have more control of the logins and for their equipment, especially when it comes to HIPAA compliance.”

Consider the key features of Azure Active Directory in this infographic when deciding should your business migrate from G Suite to Microsoft 365.

Integration with All Microsoft Applications

Microsoft Office 365 applications are the industry standard across a variety of fields, making it necessary for most organizations to be able to integrate with these apps. By exclusively operating on the Microsoft platform, you can ensure that your email, contacts, and calendar sync automatically on all devices and all of your apps are tied neatly together. 

According to John, “Microsoft makes life so much easier for its users. You want Excel, you want PowerPoint, you want Word? The direction to go in is definitely with Microsoft. It’s all in one.” 

True Desktop Applications

With Microsoft, users can also download desktop versions of all the applications that Office 365 has to offer. For companies that need to work anytime, from anywhere, this is a major advantage. Employees can experience uninterrupted productivity while 100% offline, a feature that web-based apps simply can’t promise.  

“The web-based applications in general have fewer features,” adds John. “They just can’t do certain things. You can’t have all the bells and whistles that a full-blown desktop app can have.”

Microsoft 365 Compliance Center

Various devices and icons representing the complexity of compliance, just one reason to consider if your business should migrate from G Suite to Microsoft 365.

While migrating to Microsoft 365 can be beneficial to any business, those that must adhere to strict compliance requirements will find the most use out of Microsoft’s built-in compliance feature, the Microsoft 365 Compliance Center.

Often, one of the major pain points of compliance is keeping up to date with the constantly changing regulations, accountability standards, and demanding nature of cyber resilience. Through Microsoft 365, you can have a space to assess your current data compliance and manage your company’s privacy.

The Microsoft 365 Compliance Center allows you to institute policies to govern your data, set data retention parameters, manage user permissions, and so much more. For instance, John said, “You can set up a policy saying that if you type in the wrong password three times, the account or the document gets locked.”

The ability for companies to discern who has access to which data is vital in maintaining compliance. Another way Microsoft helps organizations remain compliant is by offering a means to encrypt data and communication. Companies can reduce communication risk with encrypted emails and file transfers and protect sensitive information within their organization.

Data Migration Made Easy

Even if you think there may be a better option for your business, migrating your data can be intimidating. Often, business owners find it easier to outsource at least some aspects of their IT, especially when it comes to data migrations.

In particular, there aren’t a lot of guides or advice for moving from G Suite to Microsoft 365. Yet the issues you could encounter are countless, most notably:

  • The cost of network downtime due to user disruption
  • Difficulty training employees on how to utilize new programs
  • Difficulty setting up Microsoft Authenticator on personal devices 

Employees who are accustomed to one way of doing things may be resistant to new software. When migrating from G Suite to Microsoft 365, it’s important to note that users should anticipate having to recreate their shortcuts, and there may be formatting issues with some files. Moreover, G Suite doesn’t allow the export of files from Google Drawings, Google Forms, Google Sites, or Google Maps from Drive, so users will need to have conversion or recreation steps in place.

Worried about tackling these issues yourself? The knowledgeable team at Guardian Computer has developed a streamlined, proven process for migrating from G Suite to Microsoft 365. “We have it down to a science,” said John.

Contact us today and find out how our migration process can help you!

Following the explosive growth of remote work, more and more businesses are implementing serverless infrastructures and cloud technologies into their operational frameworks. But with so many different types of cloud services available, how do you know which one is right for your business?

Ryan Prejean, our Helpdesk Lead, who specializes in Powershell, Javascript, PHP, scripting, networking, and endpoint monitoring, is passionate about the benefits of Microsoft Azure and why it’s the best fit for most businesses today.

“If you’re trying to develop a serverless business infrastructure, Azure is just the only way to go for modern-day business,” said Ryan. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of Azure, mistakes to avoid, and how to get started with Azure today.

The Benefits of Microsoft Azure

Azure is a cloud platform and service created by Microsoft to build, deploy, and manage applications. Its primary benefits include convenience, security, and cost. If you want a serverless solution that integrates with the Microsoft ecosystem (including Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, and Active Directory), Azure is the only option on the market that can deliver.

Unbeatable Convenience 

Convenience is of the utmost importance when it comes to streamlining operations and increasing efficiency, especially for remote work. Employees need to be able to access their data and files from anywhere, at any time. Microsoft Azure offers the convenience that modern businesses need with Azure Active Directory. 

Previously, the setup for IT infrastructure has been an active directory server that acts as a focal point for a network where all accounts live. Azure Active Directory is a cloud directory that doesn’t require a server, because it’s tied to a Microsoft identity.

Once a Microsoft identity is created and you log onto it with your computer, the system recognizes your computer as a member of your work network and makes all files, your work email, and your data readily available. With Microsoft identity, your email password and computer login are one and the same. It’s essential to note that if you change your computer password, your email password will change as well.

“With Azure Active Directory, instead of files getting to people via a network drive on a file server somewhere, they get to their files through OneDrive for their personal information, or SharePoint to take the place of the shared drives that people used to have,” said Ryan. “Whether or not you’re in the home or you’re in the office, you can still get access to your work resources without the requirement of a VPN.”

Added Security

Microsoft Azure also provides more security than traditional servers. Many business owners are concerned about moving toward a serverless infrastructure because they fear they will be hacked. With the security of Microsoft Azure, this is less likely to happen. 

Traditional servers are rarely kept fully up to date. Not only is it costly to maintain them, but it is also difficult and expensive to replace a severely outdated operating system, such as a 2008 R2 server, with the most recent model. Hackers are well aware that many businesses utilize older programs, and they take advantage of the resulting ways to access your network without proper permissions.

For instance, a hacker will try to get a user to click on a link or an advertisement via email that could potentially infect the server. With Microsoft Azure, however, there is no server to infect. And as Ryan pointed out, “It is always going to be harder to hack Microsoft than it is to hack you.”

Microsoft routinely does secure monitoring and testing for Azure. In one of these exercises, they set up two teams, one attempting to hack the infrastructure and the other defending it. When the teams are finished with their testing, they take the information they’ve learned and implement it into the Azure operational security process. By doing this, Microsoft’s team stays continuously aware of the best ways to anticipate, detect, and respond to hacking attempts.

Cost Effectiveness

Implementing Microsoft Azure into your business is more cost effective than having a traditional server. Traditional servers have to be installed, maintained, updated, and protected. With Microsoft Azure, a simple overnight update will keep you up and running, avoiding the cost of network downtime.

“Azure reduces client costs, and it reduces our costs, because there is no physical server to maintain,” said Ryan. “Also, Azure doesn’t go down—it doesn’t have errors. If there’s a problem with it, there’s a problem globally with the Microsoft infrastructure, so Microsoft is going to take care of it.”

When server maintenance on Azure does occur, Microsoft is the one to pay for it, not users. This is especially beneficial for larger companies, which might otherwise be hosting hundreds of their own servers that could become obsolete over time. Ultimately, using a serverless infrastructure is the easiest, most consistent, and least wasteful option available.

Microsoft Azure Mistakes to Avoid

One mistake people commonly make when using Microsoft Azure is confusing their passwords. Microsoft Azure is created with your convenience in mind. This means that all of the passwords that you use in Microsoft’s ecosystem—including your computer login, email, OneDrive, and SharePoint—are the same. With Microsoft Azure, everything is connected to make your life easier.

Another common mistake people make after they’ve implemented Microsoft Azure is confusing where they should save their files. Personal files should be saved in OneDrive and files that have to be accessed by others should be saved in Sharepoint.

Keep reading our check out our infographic with tips for using OneDrive vs. SharePoint to make the most of Microsoft Azure and other products.

Using OneDrive 

Every user gets 5GB of storage for free in their OneDrive, but with Microsoft Azure, you’re upgraded to Office 365 and receive 1TB of memory. If you’re storing all of your shared files in that location, however, it’s going to get filled very quickly.

OneDrive should be used to store private business documents and other personal files. Documents in OneDrive automatically have a private default setting, which makes it harder to share documents saved in OneDrive with your team.

Using SharePoint

By contrast, SharePoint should be used to save collaborative documents. How much space you have in SharePoint is determined by your company’s Microsoft plan. You can learn about SharePoint limits by plan here.

When you make a SharePoint for a particular purpose or division of the company, it keeps everyone in sync on that select group of files. SharePoint gives you the ability to:

  • Require approval on documents.
  • Get notifications when changes are made.
  • View documents without editing.
  • Create workflows for moving or emailing documents.

Get Started with Microsoft Azure Today

Guardian Computer is adept in transitioning clients from traditional servers to Microsoft Azure. We were established to help businesses like yours make the most of their technology, so you can focus on the core of your business.

With seasoned IT experts like Ryan, we’re able to help navigate your cloud computing needs and even manage your entire IT infrastructure. Contact us today to get Microsoft Azure implemented into your organization or learn about our full range of IT services and support.

Now more than ever, cybersecurity is the key to business continuity and productivity. Whether you’re looking to protect yourself from a data breach, avoid costly network downtime, or implement secure practices for employees traveling on business or working remotely, your organization can benefit from assessing and addressing its vulnerabilities.

Wondering what threats you might face? With data security at the forefront of our concerns, our security expert, Charles Andrews (better known as Andy), has outlined the top 5 cybersecurity threats facing companies across industries today. Learn more and protect your business!

5. Insider Threats

In a study by Ponemon Institute, 62% of employees surveyed reported that they had access to sensitive company data that they didn’t need to do their jobs. What’s more, Verizon indicated that 25% of the data breaches they reviewed in their 2017 report were caused by insider threats.

When employees have free range over sensitive information, insider threats become more common and the burden of a data breach is left on the employer’s shoulders. Not only that, but many companies lack proper procedures for revoking access once someone is no longer employed with the company.

According to Andy, “A lot of people take into consideration when a new user starts, but we’ve seen cases where someone got fired or someone left the organization two or three weeks ago, and no one sent an email to IT letting them know to deactivate that user’s access, which is a glaring security hole.”

Fortunately, data breaches can be prevented through employee training, restricted access to sensitive information, and a seamless integration of security protocols into your company culture.

Andy’s Tips

  • Limit employee access to only the data they need.
  • Use separation of duties where needed.
  • Establish clear company processes and procedures to bolster data security.
  • Control the offboarding process as well as onboarding.
  • Utilize data monitoring and auditing technology to track anomalous behavior.
  • Use a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) program to send an alert if someone tries to exfiltrate sensitive data, such as bank account information or Social Security numbers.

4. Passwords

It’s a common misconception that a password is all it takes to protect your information. Forbes reported that there are around 15 billion stolen passwords available for sale on the dark web, giving us a glimpse into how widespread an issue this is.

Earlier this month, the CyberNews Investigation team analyzed 15,212,645,925 passwords from across the globe that were breached and publicly released. Less than 15% of the passwords were unique and over 75% of the passwords included 10 or fewer characters, suggesting that an overwhelming majority of passwords are weak and easy to guess.

Andy said, “These easy-to-guess passwords leave your data open to brute force attacks, such as a dictionary attack, which guesses passwords until it gets it right.” Furthermore, a survey conducted by Google revealed that 65% of respondents reused a password across multiple accounts, if not every account.

Weak or outdated passwords can leave your organization’s accounts vulnerable to a cyberattack, putting you at risk of data loss as well as company downtime, which can quickly rack up a high price.

Andy’s Tips

The best way to handle the issue of weak passwords is proper employee training and authentication, said Andy. Your company should have at least a two-factor authentication (2FA) to validate user identity, and passwords should be changed at least once every six months. In industries where HIPAA compliance is a factor, organizations should consider changing their passwords at least once every three months.

3. Ransomware

The rate at which ransomware has exploded is alarming. In 2014, there were just 3.2 million ransomware attacks worldwide. In 2019, there were 188 million, and these attacks only continue to grow in popularity and sophistication as more people work remotely.

Hackers have moved away from hitting the occasional laptop or desktop, instead developing more patient strategies to infect and encrypt file servers, web servers, and more.

There’s a common misconception that small businesses don’t get targeted often by hackers. Tech Times reported that 71% of ransomware attacks were aimed at small businesses, with an average ransom of more than $100,000.

“Cybercriminals know that small businesses are more likely to pay up because they often don’t have the most robust backup solutions,” Andy said. “Backups are important, not just in case a server breaks down, but also in case someone manages to get ransomware on your network and effectively torches your data.”

Andy’s Tips

The two best ways to protect your organization from ransomware are:

  • Implementing a centrally managed antivirus software that will alert you to infections and monitor your endpoints.
  • Regularly backing up your data, as well as checking to make sure it’s backing up correctly. According to Andy, too many companies run backups without confirming that they’re working properly. “And if you don’t have backups,” Andy said, “I don’t have enough coffee for that discussion!”

2. Phishing

Phishing is one of the most common cyberattacks affecting businesses today. In fact, the SANS Institute reports that phishing is responsible for a whopping 95% of attacks on company networks. It only takes one of the many employees on an enterprise network clicking on a malicious link in a phishing email.

While there are a number of ways to filter out a large portion of these emails, some will invariably get through. According to Andy, “End users need to be able to spot phishing attacks and flag them without being tempted to click a link. It’s important for a framework to be in place for sensitive tasks like these.”

Andy’s Tips

The most effective way to combat phishing is to prioritize user training. Your organization should have a system in place to properly filter emails as well, and you can even add a banner for emails that originate from outside your organization. But nothing can replace having knowledgeable staff who are able to catch phishing attacks before they harm your business.

1. Failed Compliance

Failed compliance is the number one concern that companies should know about. “Compliance can be a nightmare if left unchecked,” said Andy.

Whether it’s HIPAA, PCI, GDPR, GLBA, or another regulation, failed compliance could put you out of business. The American Medical Association states that each HIPAA violation could cost your organization up to $50,000, with an annual cap of $1.5 million for repeat violations.

Compliance can be a tangled web of provisions, audits, and fines, but these regulations are in place to ultimately protect the sensitive data of your customers and your business.

Andy’s Tips

Vulnerability scans, keeping IT systems updated, and proper monitoring and management are the best ways to stay ahead of the curve. As a business owner, it is vital that you stay on top of the constantly evolving regulations in your industry and keep your organization prepared for anything.

Improve Your Security with Guardian Computer

You already have enough on your plate. Let the professionals handle your security, so you can focus on your business.

Guardian Computer has been serving businesses across the U.S. since 1996. With knowledgeable IT professionals like Andy, a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), our team can help you navigate these security challenges and many others.

Contact us today and build the cyber resilience you need to thrive through 2021 and beyond!