, ,

How Two Factor Authentication Can Save Your Business Money

In 2017, the number of exposed records and data breaches reached an all-time high according to Statista. The 1,579 data breaches serve as a reminder that our accounts aren’t always as safe as we think they are! The simple “username and password” log-in approach can be compromised within minutes by skilled hackers. Even with your longest and complicated passwords! Your business needs an additional security layer that addresses the vulnerabilities of a standard password-only approach.

What is Two Factor Authentication?

Two Factor Authentication, commonly abbreviated, 2FA, is a method of securing online accounts through two means of authorization. In the case of two factor authentication, you’ll need two factors (or verifications) to successfully log in. This includes something you know, usually a password, and some other method of verifying your identity. This is usually a code sent via text or email. It’s essentially an extra layer of protection designed to ensure that you’re the only person who can access your account, even if someone else knows your password.

Purpose of Two Factor Authentication

An email or any other cloud-based application hack can cost a company thousands of dollars. Hackers aren’t reading your emails for fun. They’re going in to learn how your company works. They’re waiting to see how they can utilize that information to their own gain. Hackers can look through emails for private client information like bank account numbers, or personally identifying information. Once the hacker finds the information they need, they can steal huge amounts of money.

Phishing scams, where fake but authentic-looking emails are used to steal information, are one of the easiest ways hackers can gain password information. When two factor authentication is used, it makes it considerably harder for a hacker to be successful in logging into the account.

Even if the hacker is able to crack your password, they won’t be able to log into the account without access to your second factor. Some of the benefits of two factor authentication include improved security, reduction of fraud and theft, and the increase of productivity and flexibility.

Security Solutions for You and Your Business

The easiest and most common way to implement two factor is by receiving a text message with an access code every time you log into an account. But, no solution is 100% secure. Getting two factor authentication from text messaging does have some vulnerabilities. Specifically, it leaves you exposed if someone steals your smartphone or its SIM card.

For businesses with high-security needs, hardware-based two factor authentication is the most secure option. Instead of typing in a passcode from a text message to log in, a physical security key has to be plugged into your device when prompted. This method is often used for highly sensitive systems used industries such as the financial and healthcare industries. Security keys can be found online for as low as $20 and are available for both desktop computers and mobile phones!

Our Favorite Free 2FA Applications

Many websites you use for business have some sort of two factor authentication built in such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon, and Rackspace. To protect your other online accounts, there are apps specifically for providing two factor security. Our two favorite 2FA apps are Authy and Google Authenticator.

  • Authy simplifies using 2FA on your online accounts using your smartphone. It generates a code each time you open the app. You’ll have 20 seconds to log in after which Authy will generate a new code. It’s free, desktop and mobile-friendly, and available Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Chrome.
  • Google Authenticator is a mobile-only app, so you’ll need to have your phone with you. This provides stronger security for your Google Account. A small authenticator is tied to a single device, you must manually change it in your Google settings when you switch phones.

Personal Use of Two Factor Authentication

We don’t just recommend this for businesses, it’s important to protect your personal accounts as well. Many of the social platforms that you use every day have options for enhancing security.

Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter all have options for two factor authentication. Go to the settings of your account, then scroll down to security. Each application has different options including the texting feature we’ve mentioned. Utilizing two factor authentication whenever possible will help to keep you safe online!

John On Two Factor Authentication:


Two factor authentication is only one step in security. There are many ways to keep yourself protected online, such as using secure cloud storage, secure online backup, and a VPN solution. We help our clients to ensure the security covers all of their users! Let’s chat about how we can improve your business security!

,

How Big Commercial IT Help Desk Solutions Can Harm Your Business

There is no substitution for knowledgeable, helpful, real-human service.

Those big-box commercial IT help desks simply can’t compete with personalized customer service. When you need IT solutions, you don’t want to be a number in a queue, wait on hold four hours, or wait to be helped next Tuesday between 10 AM and 5 PM. You need effective solutions immediately, right? That’s where we come in.

Whenever You Need Us, We’re Available

Rather than going back and forth for ten or more emails, we believe that a simple five-minute phone call with a qualified and knowledgeable staff member can fix your IT problem. We pride ourselves on the fact that if you call Guardian Computer, whoever answers the phone can fix your problem.

When is the last time you talked to a team of actual experts with a commercial IT help desk? We know that saving your time and solving problems quickly can be hugely beneficial for your business.

The Personal Touch Really Does Matter

We sometimes hear that great customer service doesn’t matter so long as the problem is fixed. We wholeheartedly disagree! Having a personal relationship with our customers isn’t just nice for them, it’s helpful for us too! It helps to build up our team relationship and retain our staff.

At Guardian Computer, our employees are a big, friendly family and our clients are extensions of that family. We work hard to make sure that all of our client-business relationships are unique, by having their back with any and all IT problems.

Even when we can’t have a one-on-one, in-person conversation with a customer, we make sure they know we are still there for them. We’re just a phone call or email away! We make sure that all of our interactions with our customers are real, personal and engaging.

Our Personal Edge

We pride ourselves in knowing our clients as people, not numbers or line items. Our business is small enough to get intimately familiar with our clients’ specific needs. At Guardian Computer, we make sure that what we offer is closely aligned with our clients’ needs and aspirations.

A positive organizational culture is critical to success!

Having a close focus on the client’s work helps us to rectify their problems quickly, and to delve far more deeply into potential issues. Rather than dealing with an impersonal commercial, IT help desk call center, our clients call us, the people they know. And we are available and authentic on the other end of the line.

Over 20 Years of Expertise

We’re a close-knit team at Guardian Computer! Maintaining a positive work environment helps us to keep quality people on staff, so our clients can draw on their knowledge of their business. Our team members are cross-trained as subject matter experts, so our clients don’t get volleyed from one tech to another.

Also, all of the members of our team are empowered to act in the best interest of our clients. There are no layers of bureaucracy to get an answer or escalate a problem. We are proud to say that anyone answering the phone at Guardian Computer is empowered to solve your IT problem.

Our Flexibility Saves You Time

Small businesses tend to be more nimble than larger businesses. So, their reaction time tends to be faster than big businesses. At Guardian Computer, we can customize the services we provide to a client’s specific, individual needs. We’re also able to adjust to any unexpected changes or issues a client may have. We actively listen to all feedback and observe changing preferences.

Unique Solutions For Your Business

We all hate those impersonal hard sells that turn out to offer something unnecessary. We’re your IT company, not an infomercial!

As a small business, we are able to produce goods and services that stand out from those commercial IT help desk solutions. We understand our clients need to work within a tight budget and don’t need all the extra “fluff”. We don’t use proprietary software and we make sure to include the client in the planning and execution of their services.

Customer Satisfaction Is Always First

At GCIT, we are committed to providing extraordinary service by consistently going the extra mile to create the best experience for our clients. We make sure to deliver reliable, highly individualized, and responsive customer service to all of our clients. Our advanced network monitoring tools allow us to catch the small issues before they become big problems for our clients.


Tired of trying to work with rigid solutions offered by big commercial IT help desks? We offer customized solutions for businesses of all sizes! Let’s chat about how we can improve your business technology.

,

Everything You Need To Know About Cloud Technology For Businesses

Utilizing cloud technology can make a huge impact on the bottom line of your business.

We’re talking about saving your time, your money, and staying safer in an emergency. Every business can get on board with that, right? Even though there are so many positives to using cloud technology, many businesses are hesitant to make the leap. This post is going to cover everything you’ll ever want to know about cloud computing as it relates to your business.

First Things First, What is The Cloud?

We’re sure you’ve probably heard of the cloud or cloud technology by now. Don’t worry, it’s not as intangible of a concept as it may sound. When working with tech companies, you’ll often hear the term “cloud” when talking about storing your data “in the cloud” or “working in the cloud”.

Simply put, the cloud is the software and services that you can access from the Internet rather than locally on your computer. A great example of a cloud service is Google Drive. Instead of storing files on your desktop or laptop, you can create documents on Google Drive and access them from anywhere, on any device, so long as you’re signed into your account.

The Main Uses For The Cloud

In our experience, we see three main uses for the cloud, besides as a storage solution.

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). For example, using Salesforce, Box, and Office 365 all use the cloud.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). This category includes services like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). This includes services like Google App Engine, AWS PaaS, and Azure PaaS.

What Are the Benefits of Using the Cloud?

The benefits of switching to the cloud can be huge for your business! We know because we help our clients make the transition all the time. The major benefits of using the cloud break down into four categories: cost, power, recovery, and security.

Cloud Technology Cost

Using the cloud helps to remove or reduce the need for an upfront capital investment. That alone can be huge for a business! When using local servers, the costs of maintenance and management are often unpredictable. But, when you use the cloud, the cost of system upgrades, new hardware and software are usually included in cloud provider contracts. Plus, you get the option for services and storage just when you need it. This means you can pay as you go instead of investing all at once.

This last one can be a huge help for small and medium businesses: no extra staff needed. An in-house expert on staff tends to be a high salary position. For big companies, they may need help to maintain servers, storage, and backup/recovery. But, honestly, there is rarely justification for keeping such a person since it doesn’t require a full-time person for a small or medium sized business.

Capacity and Computing Power

When using an in-house solution, you would need to buy more hardware each and every time you needed to increase storage. Now, with cloud technology, businesses of any size can tap into computing resources that were once only available to large corporations.

Cloud computing allows practically unlimited data storage and processing power due to the pooling of computer resources. It provides on-demand scalability that corresponds to a company’s needs so as your applications grow, you can add as much storage, RAM and CPU capacity as needed. Cloud-based applications have the ability to automatically refresh and update, which saves you time and resources.

Backup and Recovery

Private cloud solutions include backups that offer an easier, less resource-intensive method to protecting your data. In fact, most cloud providers distribute backups between data centers to ensure access.

When critical business information is saved on the computer or a server at your office it can be damaged in an emergency situation. In these cases, there is no guarantee that your data is able to be recovered. Utilizing cloud technology solves this problem.

No matter the event, a natural disaster, power failure, or other crisis, the cloud services will provide quick data recovery. For example, having critical data stored in the cloud ensures it is backed up and protected in a secure and safe location. This allows companies to conduct business as usual, minimizing downtime and loss of productivity. When critical business information is saved on a computer or a server at your office it can be damaged in an emergency situation. In these cases, there is no guarantee that your data is able to be recovered.

Enhanced Security

Our cloud is fully managed and secure, which means your data is secure no matter where you access it from. The economies of scale which apply to computer resources also ensure that the best security measures can be put in place with high-level oversight from IT security experts.

The key to this amped-up security is the encryption of data being transmitted over networks and stored in databases. By using encryption, information is less accessible by hackers or anyone else not authorized to view your data. As an added security measure, with most cloud-based services, different security settings can be set based on the user.

How We Protect Our Clients In The Cloud

While most people know that the cloud gives you a lot of flexibility, there are some security concerns if done improperly. We’ve seen concerns such as:

  • Theft of data from cloud infrastructures or applications.
  • Lack of a plan for GDPR Compliance.
  • Cloud providers using data centers in potentially unstable countries.
  • Advanced attacks against cloud infrastructure.

At Guardian Computer, we protect the intellectual property, Protected Health Information (PHI), and sensitive data of our clients who use cloud technology. With over 50 years combined in the tech solutions industry, we bring our experience to the table. We help our clients avoid the pitfalls, know the right questions to ask a potential cloud provider, and ensure our clients have a comprehensive plan to migrate to the cloud.

Questions You Should Ask A Potential Cloud Provider

Not all cloud technology service providers are of the same caliber. We have a comprehensive list of questions you should ask before making any decisions on your cloud service provider.

Transitioning To Using The Cloud

At Guardian Computer, we help organizations understand how a migration to the cloud is different than what IT administrators are used to deploying in their legacy infrastructure environments. We want our clients to understand what they are getting into, how the process works and what they should expect.

For example, often a business’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded to handle the stress and traffic of a full-scale migration to the cloud. We help organizations develop and execute a plan for the data migration including deciding which applications and datasets need to migrate to and what tools and technologies ease the migration process.


Changing to the cloud can be challenging to start! But is more than worth it for the time and expense your business will save. Want to chat more about cloud technology? Let’s chat!

,

How To Avoid A Costly HIPAA Violation

The healthcare industry is incurring a higher rate of data breaches than any other industry.

This makes HIPAA regulations of critical importance to doctors and healthcare organizations of every size. Patients (rightfully) demand it as a protection of their personal information. Not doing so, can cause a HIPAA Violation that can be exceptionally devastating to a business. Besides being an important step in protecting their patients, it’s also a great business practice to know how to keep data safe.

Some small clinics may think that because there are larger organizations to keep an eye on, they wouldn’t get investigated. But, they may be surprised by just how many investigations are initiated by a single patient complaint.

What is HIPAA Law?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. There are 5 major rules of the act that covers: privacy, security, transactions and code sets (TCS), unique identifiers, and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) enforcement.

This act was created to develop a national standard of how medical professionals need to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health info. Patients now have much more control over their health information. Boundaries have been set on the use and release of their health records. HIPAA violations are investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Office for Civil Rights.

How Do HIPAA Violations Occur?

Many people are surprised when we tell them that the single biggest threat is from inside of a healthcare organization. According to McAfee, insiders (including doctors, and other healthcare professionals) are responsible for 43 percent of data breaches. The Information Security Forum puts that number at 54 percent.

These are not usually actions with malicious intent. Human error plays a significant role in data breaches. Here are two easily done HIPAA violations:

  • Lost or Stolen Devices – Laptops and mobile phones are easily lost or stolen. When the theft includes Protected Health Information (PHI) stored on the phone it becomes a HIPAA violation.
  • Texting Patient Information – When using standard texting software on your phone, it ’s too easy for information to be stolen by cybercriminals.

More examples of human error resulting in data breaches include improper disposal of records, sharing of photos with patients on social media, and accessing patient information on home computers or public wifi networks.

Who Does a HIPAA Violation Affect?

When a HIPAA violation occurs, it is damaging for the doctor and the patient alike. Potential attackers will specifically target healthcare providers to obtain medical records, financial records, and intellectual property. This doesn’t just threaten the patient’s security. On average, medical identity theft victims pay $13,500 to resolve the issue.

When the violation is reported and action is taken against the doctor or clinic, there is usually a significant fine. The fines are adjusted based on the severity of the violation but can range anywhere between $100 to $1.5 Million, and can even include prison time.

Besides the fines, doctors can also be impacted by potential lawsuits, a disruption of care, damage to their reputation, and loss of patient’s trust.

HIPAA Violation Fines

The fines that doctors or clinics can receive for violating regulation are significant and can be highly destructive for their business. To determine the fine, the Department of Health and Human Services have created four tiers of severity.

  • Tier 1 – The least severe violation. In this tier, the violation was unknown, and would not have been known while exercising reasonable due diligence. These violations are often covered by cyber insurance. Cyber insurance is important to have because it’s usually excluded from professional liability insurance policies. Fines can range from $100 to $50,000.
  • Tier 2 – In this tier, the violation had a reasonable cause, but was not due to willful neglect. Negligence due to “sticking your head in the sand” automatically raises the violation to Tier 2. Fines can range from $1,000 to $50,000.
  • Tier 3 – When this violation occurred, it was due to willful neglect, but it was corrected within a reasonable time period. Fines in this category can range from $10,000 to $50,000.
  • Tier 4 – The most severe violations are in tier 4. This is when the violation was due to willful negligence and no attempts were made to correct the violation. The fines in this tier range from $50,000 up to $1.5 million with a potential jail sentence.

Becoming HIPAA Compliant as Small or Medium Healthcare Organizations

It is important for small and medium-sized organizations to understand they will never reach the perfect state of 100% compliant. It would simply be cost prohibitive to do so. What we do recommend is finding the biggest risks and solving those first. From there we advocate for building a clinic culture of compliance and ongoing education.

This involves doing a full assessment, creating processes and procedures, educating employees and management, and using security applications and technology.

How We Cover HIPAA Compliance

When we start working a doctor or clinic, the first step is to do a comprehensive HIPAA security review. This is to determine their current state of compliance and any specific violations they may have already had. We tie each HIPAA rule to an assessment question, then we rank the likelihood, impact, and risk of not being in compliance with that rule.

Some of the Questions We May Ask our HIPAA Compliance Clients are:

  • Does your organization control access to electronic PHI and other health information by using encryption/decryption methods to deny access to unauthorized users?
  • Do employees ever leave an unlocked computer alone in a room with an unauthorized employee or patient?
  • Can employees identify potential ransomware? If so, do they know what to do with it?
  • Do employees know how to use their phone and computer in a HIPAA compliant manner when using public or hotel Wi-Fi?

Benefits of HIPAA Compliance Assessment

For each rule, we share with our client solutions for ensuring their compliance. Which includes improving their processes, procedures, education, and technology. This, in turn, helps a clinic to make more informed decisions on where to focus their efforts and resources with remediation.

For example, those two HIPAA violations we mentioned above both have quick fixes to prevent the violation. We would password protect and encrypt most devices like phones and laptops. Then, we would also install encryption for texting to allow safe communication of PHI.

Going through an assessment like ours can lessen the penalties associated with violations. Generally, when you have an assessment and a plan in place, you can keep a violation in tier 1, the least severe.

How to Prevent a Violation

According to the Ponemon Institute’s Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft, 68% of patients aren’t confident in the measures taken to protect their medical records. It’s important not only for the patient but the clinic too, that each and every staff member knows their role in HIPAA compliance.

With only 33 percent of healthcare providers believing they have sufficient resources to prevent a data breach, education is critical. We always advocate that our clients focus on education and training. Ensuring that the office staff understands their role in HIPAA compliance is a critical part of protecting their patients’ medical records. It takes a commitment to make internal training a priority and continuing to educate the staff of the proper processes and procedures.

Since we are considered business associates to our healthcare clients, we are required to be HIPAA compliant as well. We practice what we preach with constant HIPAA training along with reviewing and updating our processes and procedures. To make sure your business is kept safe too you must have plans set in advance.

The Five Security Tests We Use In HIPAA Compliance Audits

We always perform five tests when helping clients become HIPAA compliant. Learn more about these necessary tests!


Staying HIPAA compliant is a critical move all doctors and clinics need to do. It keeps your patient’s information safe and keeps your business safe from hefty fines. These regulations are also good business practices for ensuring every staff member is on the same page and takes their position seriously.

Interested in your company’s HIPAA compliance? Let’s chat.

,

Why A Positive Organizational Culture Is Critical In Every Industry

You spend the majority of your week at work, which is why we believe it is so important to be in a positive work environment.

Environment and organizational culture are crucial to employee satisfaction and can have detrimental effects on the workplace no matter what industry you are in. Here at Guardian Computer, we pride ourselves in maintaining our healthy work environment and culture.

A positive organizational culture is critical to success!

Why Is Organizational Culture Important?

A work environment is the location where employees are completing their tasks, and the benefits of working at a company. The culture is the personality of the company itself.

The main reasons we believe work culture is so important are:

  • Maintaining retention, and reducing employee turnover.
  • Encouraging happier employees, which results in positive client relationships.
  • Showing appreciation to employees, which shows that their work is not done in vain.
  • Open communication and transparency, which builds trust with the staff.

For example, Southwest is one of our key role models for the ideal company culture. They value their employees above all else, and they ensure they work in a fun and casual environment. They also commit themselves to provide excellent salaries and benefits along with empowering and appreciating their employees.

Maintaining Retention

In a negative work environment, employee turnover rates can be high. But it’s not always because the employees don’t like the job they are doing. Usually, it’s because they don’t enjoy the work environment or organizational culture they are in.

Having unhappy employees on your hands isn’t great, and having a high employee turnover rate is bad for business! There can be costs when the employee leaves, the costs of hiring new employees, and the cost of training those new hires.

A positive organizational culture is critical to success!

We are proud to say that in over 20 years of business, we haven’t had one single employee quit at Guardian Computer. We don’t believe in the old mantra of “leave your problems at home”. Our office is our employees’ home away from home. Coming to work in our pajamas, bringing our children, and even bringing a puppy to the office are all a-okay!

A positive organizational culture is critical to success!

Encouraging Happy Employees

Happy employees lead to having great pride in their company. When our employees come to work, we want them to come to work feeling good about themselves and their families. Work should be a place where employees feel safe and comfortable rather than stressed or upset. No one wants to miss their child’s afternoon soccer game or not be able to take their elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment.

“We started Guardian Computer in our home because we were having trouble with daycare, and balancing our work and family life. That set the tone for our company culture of making our employees’ personal lives a priority” says our president, Jean Prejean. Employees can concentrate better at the office when they know their family comes first.

We firmly believe that if we take care of our employees, they’ll take care of our clients. Our clients are a part of our work family too, so we strive to have our organizational culture spill over into our interactions with them! We can make the client experience more pleasant with a simple explanation in plain English and a brief chat about our client’s kids. That makes a big difference.

Showing Appreciation

Recognition and appreciation motivates employees and shows them that their work is valued. According to Glassdoor, more than 80 percent of employees say they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.

Some ways to show appreciation and recognition are bonuses, raises, and promotions. Our employees appreciate knowing that everyone receives an annual raise due to their personal work performance and the company’s performance. “We never want anyone to think we haven’t noticed their performance or haven’t bothered to review their pay,” says Jean.

Building Trust

Honesty, sincerity, and transparency are the key elements to building trust within your work environment. From celebrating accomplishments to providing support during rough times, we make sure to show our employees our sincerity and commitment to them. It can be something as simple as giving someone the afternoon off if their child kept them up all night or giving a gift card for someone to take their spouse to dinner on their anniversary.

We go out of our way to be as transparent as possible. Open and honest communication helps to solve many difficulties in a positive light. For example, every six months at our team meeting we review the financials, the trends, and goals. This makes sure our employees know what’s going on within the company. Having open communication can also encourage employee feedback. Employee feedback is important because it can be valuable information that in turn helps to make the company better.


Some companies let their organizational culture define itself and it takes a backseat to balance sheets and productivity metrics. At Guardian Computer, we intentionally put our company culture and a positive work environment at the top of our priority list. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of life of our people, both in and out of the office.

Want to join our work family – as an employee or a client? Let’s chat.

How To Comply with GDPR for US Companies

Are you affected? GDPR for US companies

All businesses should take a hard look to see if and how they are affected by GDPR now that is is in effect.

GDPR (or the General Data Protection Regulation) is a law governing the data protection and privacy for people in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area. This regulation has been officially in effect since May, 25th 2018. But, this law doesn’t apply only to businesses in the EU, there are impacts from GDPR for US companies.

Our GDPR expert, John Prejean, says that any business associated with the EU needs to comply with the law. “There are serious consequences for violating the regulation,” John says, “including hefty fines, up to $20m euros or four percent of global revenues, whichever is higher.” And, of course, potential damage to a company’s reputation.

GDPR For US Companies: Is Your Business Affected?

Any US company with a connection to the EU (including subsidiaries, customers, and suppliers) must comply with the regulation. It’s important to take a deep look into your customers and suppliers, in particular, to see if they are tied to the EU. In this global economy, it’s simply not safe to assume you’re unaffected.

In A Nutshell What Does GDPR Cover?

GDPR Is all about data protection and privacy. Basically, it requires the businesses to know and document where their data is stored and how and where it moves. “Outside the need for GDPR compliance, this foundational requirement is extremely valuable to the organization,” John says.

You’ve probably noticed more and more websites requesting you opt in or out of allowing the site to capture cookies. This is in response to one of the main components of the GDPR: consent. Clearly defined consent is required for all GDPR affected businesses, but it also helps to gain customer confidence.

Why GDPR Is Important For US Companies, Regardless of Regulation.

Even if your business is completely untied to the EU, and the GDPR change does not affect your business directly, it can still be helpful for your company. It’s unwise to view the GDPR as a big, scary, negative change – many businesses can benefit from following GDPR practices!

John says that the fines for breaking the GDPR law are “only part of the cost the business
would incur with a data breach”. He explains that GDPR gives investigative powers to the Member States’ supervisory authorities. These authorities may discover the breach. But, it is more likely that a 3rd party would report a breach, or submit a complaint to the authorities. Companies are obligated to comply with requests from authorities for GDPR related compliance information.

Having a data breach isn’t cheap. There is the cost that comes with finding the breach in the first place. Then there are the post-breach costs, any business lost due to the breach, and any litigious expenses. Having a data breach is not good for business, regardless of GDPR.

How To Comply With GDPR Regulations:

As John says, most of the stipulations in GDPR for US Companies are just good, solid business practices. Really, it shouldn’t be totally new to a business, as there should already be some data security and privacy measures in place. We like to think of it more as an opportunity to make data security part of the company culture. Shoring up your data security and privacy practices have many benefits, including saving money, resources, and your reputation.

When we’re working with GDPR compliance, the first thing we do for a client is a full risk assessment. This includes evaluating the staff, processes, and their technology. It allows us to identify any holes in the process and determine associated risk. Knowing these weaknesses is half the battle! From there we can create a plan to address any compliance and security issues. This gives us the ability to work with the business to prioritize the timing and resources needed to become compliant.

Should A Novice Try To Comply Alone?

In the grand scheme of things, the concepts covered in GDPR for US companies are pretty simple and easy to understand. The main difficulty we find with most compliance clients is the identification of vulnerabilities in their processes. It can be difficult to seek these out without a trained eye, let alone correct the problem. Seeking expert help can save a lot of time and money.

Data protection is so important to us, we created a basic set of data protection principles ready to plug into a business. We also ensure that compliance becomes part of the company culture. To do this we always have training sessions with our clients to help staff members understand the importance of their role in maintaining compliance. We usually find there is a misconception that being compliant is a one and done exercise, but a major component is a shift in culture. This is one reason why ongoing training is one of the most critical areas to get right.


Whether or not you need to worry about GDPR for US Companies, data protection, and privacy are critical business practices. In some ways, we can thank the GDPR for forcing many companies to think about how they’re using data while doing business. Data security affects all the people in an organization from accounting to sales to legal andIT.

Need help getting your data security on point? Let’s talk about different solutions for your business.

,

Every Business Needs An IT Emergency Preparedness Plan

Create an emergency preparedness plan for your business

When disaster strikes, the last thing you should be worried about is how it will affect your business.

As a New Orleans IT firm, we can tell you from experience that when a natural disaster occurs, your people and your family come first. Making sure your business and IT systems have a clearly defined emergency preparedness plan ready in case of any extreme event saves you time, money, and heartache after it’s done. As our IT disaster preparedness expert Charles Andrews (Andy) says, “the biggest problem is the one you aren’t prepared for.”

Read on to learn why you need a disaster preparedness plan and to download our FREE checklist!


Who Needs To Be Prepared For A Disaster?

Different areas of the US are more or less likely to have significant weather events that can cause an IT disaster. We’re in the heart of hurricane country, but events like tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires can be disastrous for businesses all over the country.

But, no business can afford to ignore creating an emergency preparedness plan. Even if your business is located in an area that doesn’t often see natural disasters there are still vulnerabilities. Anything from fire, gun violence, and terrorism can affect a business, their people, and their data.

Every potential disaster comes with its own set of challenges, but, we strongly feel that it’s better to be prepared for the unexpected than it is to do damage control after it happens. We believe every business needs an IT disaster plan to be integrated into their overarching disaster plan that should address their people, processes, and technology.

The First Thing A Business Should Do:

First things first, you need to know your risks. Doing a risk assessment lets you know the potential impact to your business of not being prepared. In our experience the biggest issues are:

  • The business has no emergency preparedness plan in place.
  • The business has a plan but doesn’t fully cover all three prongs (people, process, and technology).
  • The plan relies on the wrong technology or relies on recovering data in a way that isn’t in line with actual IT capabilities.
  • The plan is untested, or not fully tested.

It’s critical that your employees know their role in preparing your business for potential disasters. We often see coastal businesses focus on hurricane preparedness but neglect planning for other unexpected disasters.

Disaster Affects Every Aspect Of Your Business

When a disaster hits, very little is untouched. There are the obvious issues with the loss of sales or income from the business being down. You can also find revenue delayed if there is a disruption in the supply line, or your customers were likewise affected by the disaster. Plus, you may find yourself with a lack of cash flow as you wait for insurance to kick in.

But, it’s not just a money waiting game. You’ll likely have increased expenses from cleaning up, purchasing new equipment, recovering damaged inventory, and paying overtime if necessary. You could also experience contractual penalties if you have a major contract as a vendor or supplier. Delays in providing your product or service could breach a contractual agreement.

What’s The Biggest Weakness When A Disaster Hits?

Any physical part of your business that can be affected is going to be a huge problem. From our experience, we’ve found that the weakest link is having critical IT systems on physical servers in the office. If you have any critical applications or data saved only on a local server, you need to take the physical machine with you when you evacuate.

If that server is damaged by any physical attack (fire, water, even terrorism) it can be devastating for a business. We have even seen simple events like a hardware failure, electrical surge, and accidental user deletions make physical servers extremely problematic.

What About Data Recovery?

Although data recovery is possible, you’d be depending heavily on luck! It’s not as simple as restarting your computer. There is usually a significant expense and time used to recover data after a disaster if no other backup is used.

What You Should Do Instead

We firmly believe that you shouldn’t have a physical server on-site that houses your critical systems. Andy says that off-site backups are by far the best step to take when protecting business data. For such a significant safety measure, off-site backups are an easy and inexpensive process to implement.

Keep It In The Cloud

Utilizing the cloud makes off-site backups easy. Systems are stored in specialized facilities (or data centers) and most data centers have off-site redundancy. This means your information is stored on multiple servers in different locations, which makes sure that your data is safe even if one server goes down.

This is also important for businesses with multiple office locations. Having multiple servers can be a huge risk if a disaster hits. In order to protect your data, you would need to set in place failover options between locations, which can be expensive to implement. Plus, these systems need to be constantly monitored and routinely tested to ensure that they’re working. Instead of having a server down in one area affecting all the others, using the cloud eliminates a lot of challenges.

We Know From Experience

Over 10 years ago, Hurricane Katrina forced us to put our own emergency preparedness plan into action. We had to take our servers with our critical systems with us, which taught us just how important it is to use the cloud. Those precious hours you have to prepare need to be spent on family and your own personal belongings, not hauling servers. After Katrina, we became early adopters of cloud technology, and we’ve used it ever since. We store everything in the cloud including all of our client documentation, automated monitoring systems, and service call systems.

Our Emergency Preparedness Plan

When hurricanes threaten our area, we start implementing our plan early. Our emergency preparedness plan includes two different teams. One team assists our clients who are disaster preparing, and the other focuses on our business. We all know our own roles and we practice year-round to keep us fresh and ready or any unexpected disasters.

We have created specialized programs that monitor our clients’ IT systems and often correct any hiccups before they become problems. This way, much of our work can run on auto-pilot for a short period of time if necessary.

Also, we use hosted VOIP phone system and online chat. This allows us to stay in contact with our clients and our team without relying on cell service, landlines or other local systems. Lastly, we have a prearrangement with technical resources outside our own company. This 3rd party service can handle our client requests while we are in crisis mode taking care of our own families.

FREE Disaster Preparation Checklist

We know just how important it is to keep your business safe. Download our emergency disaster checklist to make sure you’re prepared if disaster strikes.


A disaster can hit anywhere at any time. We know your first priority is keeping your people and your family safe through the storm. To make sure your business is kept safe too you must have your emergency preparedness plan set in advance.

Interested in your company’s risk in a disaster situation? Let’s chat.

, ,

A NOLA IT Professional’s Advice on Staying Safe on the Internet

Everyday there is a battle of Good versus Evil on the internet. Every morning guys and girls like me wake up, have a cup of coffee, and prepare to do battle with malicious programs out there on the world wide web. Fortunately for me, a NOLA IT professional, there are a few lines of defense that make my job a whole heck of a lot easier; namely the end user, firewalls, antivirus software, etc.

But let me be honest, none of these forms of protections are perfect. Firewalls and antivirus software are not entirely impenetrable, and I can’t tell you how many times I come across “PEBKAC” errors [Problem exists between keyboard and chair)], but as a Networking Technician it is my mission to better educate you guys on how to keep your computers safe while exploring the vast sea that is the Internet. This morning, I want to focus on how YOU, the end user; and how YOU can keep your sensitive information safe

1. Never call Microsoft

What do you mean never call Microsoft? Shouldn’t they be the most prepared to confront a virus that has made its way into my operating system?

And the answer to that is… Yes, absolutely. But the bullet point is purposefully misleading to emphasize a point. It should actually read “Never call Microsoft if your computer tells you to do so.” Often times, if we are not careful, we may accidentally click on the wrong button, link, or drop down menu that these internet villains programmed to cause a pop-up to come up on your screen that looks something like this:

nola it professional don't call microsoft
Do NOT Call Microsoft if a Warning Screen like the one Pictured Above Pops Up!

Don’t be alarmed if this happens to you! These pops-up are designed to scare us. Some of them will even cause alarming sounds to come out of your speakers. These sounds are designed to raise your heart rate and spook you into calling that number. DON’T!!! All you have to do is close out of the browser and the message and the annoying sounds should go away. Some of these

Some of these pop-ups are a little more malicious and therefore harder to close, and if that is the case we need to open our Task Manager and force the browser to close.

Here is  a list of instructions at the end of this section about how to do that:

Steps Open/Use Task Manger to Close Pesky Pop-Ups

  1.  Press ctrl+alt+delete.
  2.  Open Task Manger
  3.  Right click on the browser that generated the pop-up
  4.  Select the option that reads “End Task” . The pop-up should close and the noises should stop
  5.  (optional): The likely hook of a virus getting on your machine if you close this popup without clicking else is pretty low, but for safe measure use your antivirus software to run a scan on your computer to make sure it is clean.

Don’t feel alone or dumb if this ever happens to you, everyone here at the office has done it at one point or another. Accidents happen!  Even if you do click the pop-up, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed as long as you’re anti-virus works properly and you don’t call any numbers.

What they want you to do is call this number so they can “show” you that your machine has a “virus,” and then will attempt to solicit you into giving them your credit card information so that they can “fix” your computer. It is ALWAYS a scam. Microsoft will NEVER contact you about viruses on your computer.

2. Uninstall McAfee and Norton Antivirus

I am absolutely certain that everyone who has ever used the internet has heard of Norton and McAfee Antivirus software, and I guarantee that those same individuals, at one point or another, have been prompted to download or even offered a free trial version of these two programs. Well, I’m typing before you today to BEG YOU to avoid this software at all cost. These programs are known to be more malicious to your operating system than most of the common viruses out there. They update at inappropriate times, they may cause your operating system to freeze suddenly, and they definitely do not play nice with other applications on your computer. Not only that, but uninstalling these programs is not exactly a

These programs are known to be more malicious to your operating system than most of the common viruses out there. They update at inappropriate times, they may cause your operating system to freeze suddenly, and they definitely do not play nice with other applications on your computer. Not only that, but uninstalling these programs is not exactly a straight forward process; and even after they are uninstalled occasionally little bits of the software are still left behind on your machine and a technician such as myself will have to open the registry and remove the bits and pieces by hand.

*WARNING! Do not! I repeat! DO NOT open the registry to your computer without knowing exactly what you are doing. While the registry is open, one can destroy the computer’s operating system with a couple of mis-clicks of the mouse; thus, causing the user to lose ALL of the data they have stored on their computer. *

In fact, McAfee is so rough on computers that the former CEO, John McAfee, put out a rather comical but extremely inappropriate video about how to uninstall the McAfee Software; and let’s just say, he “disposes” of the computer entirely using a firearm. (As a disclaimer, I would link you guys the YouTube video but as previously stated the video is extremely inappropriate, and does not reflect the opinions, ideals, or beliefs of Guardian Computer in any way, shape, or form.)

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

3. Free Antivirus Software We Recommend

bit defender fre

Bit Defender– If you already have Windows 10 installed on your computer, oh boy do I have good news for you! Windows 10 already has a built in Antivirus Software known as Bit Defender. It works really well for users who do what they are supposed to be doing on their computers and not clicking on anything too suspicious.

avast

Avast– I personally used Avast before I upgraded to windows 10. It generated a few more popups than I would like, but those can easily be turned off in its settings. We really want our antivirus software to be “seen and not herd,” if you know what I mean. I only my antivirus software to yell at me if there is a major problem, but then again if there is a major problem with my computer I am probably going to recognize the change in performance of the computer right around the same time that my antivirus software does.

malwarebytes

Malwarebytes– This is a Guardian Computer’s favorite. We use Malwarebytes pretty much every day to clean up computers that are already infected, and its antivirus works well and will not bog down a computer’s performance. The free version of this software performs a thorough scan of your machine should you ever accidently click on the wrong link and is quick to quarantine these bugs from doing any more damage to your machine.

webroot

Well if that is the case then I would have to recommend using Webroot. This is the soft where we put on all our Managed Services machines and it works like a charm. Occasionally, we will have to step in to fix a few bugs that leak through, but since we have started using Webroot I haven’t seen to many major viruses get through; but that does not give our users the go-ahead to freely click around the Internet I’m just pointing out that it has been doing a solid job of protecting our machines! If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please give us a call at the office and one of our Techs would be happy to discuss the inner workings of Webroot in more detail with you over the phone!

Conclusion from a NOLA IT Professional on Internet Safety

No matter what antivirus you are using do not assume you are completely protected out on the Internet. At the end of the day, it is always up to the user to be cautious of the links they are clicking on and the files they are downloading.

, ,

Landing a Job in the Computer Industry

From the time we are old enough to recognize the sheer power and awesomeness of the almighty dollar, we are told, that every decision we make from here on out will affect our ability to find that first job. Throughout high school, we are introduced to just about every field of study in one way, shape, or form so that we may gauge our interest in the different realms of academia. During our adolescents, some of us will read Shakespeare’s Sonnets and be taken away by the sheer beauty of the English Language. Some of us will develop an intense desire to learn about the history of man and find their passion in the realms of History and Sociology. Then there are the “nerds;” those whose curiosities piqu

e when they use the other half of their brain as they learn to “solve for x” and dissect various animals such as frogs and piglets. But in more recent history children are being introduced to technology earlier and earlier; which only make sense because the technology industry is growing exponentially! The problem with the tech industry is that it is still relatively new and I’m afraid that the kids who develop a curiosity for technology may not know how to go about making a career out of it.

When it comes to landing that first job as doctor, lawyer, teacher, architect, etc. kids are bombarded with notions such as: You HAVE to go to college; You HAVE to learn how to interview well in order to land internships with potential employ, andand you HAVE to be graduate in top 5 percent of your class in order to make a living in a given particular field of study. But when it comes to the technology industry that is not always the case! Lucky for us, we have options when it comes to making our first career move; but it all starts with getting that first interview. So how do we get that first interview? We pad our resume with College Degrees or Certifications.

As a matter of full disclosure, it is only fair that mention how I landed my first job as a Networking Technician. I am a college graduate from Louisiana State University where I acquired a Bachelor’s of Science in the realm of Mathematics with an emphasis in Pure Mathematics. While I was in school, I also took enough Education courses and passed enough Educational Certification Exams to teach High School Mathematics and Biology. With that being said, you must be thoroughly confused about how I got an interview for current position here at Guardian Computer; which leads me to my first point.

My degree and really any college degree for that matter open a lot of doors. Once the resume of a college graduate is placed on a potential employer desk, he can reasonably infer that the applicant is going to be relatively intelligent and a well-rounded individual (or at least I hope so or why else did I have to take 4 English classes to acquire my math degree). Secondly, going to college really offers its students numerous networking opportunities. Now when I say networking of course I’m not talking about routing and switching, but rather I’m referring to the ample opportunities students have to meet people with similar interest and presumably similar career paths. Throughout your career everyone builds up “contact list” of people that can help them push their careers in the right direction, and college is a great place to start building up this list. For example, while I was in college I made three very close friends whose parents owned and operated their own companies, and I have worked for ALL of them at one point or another! Therefore, to finish my story from earlier, once I was armed with my degree and my contact list I was able to get my resume hand delivered to my current boss’s desk and got the job few weeks later! But back to my point…

As go we through college not only do we get the chance to build up this list of contacts, but we also get develop our social skills and get to learn how to work as a team; which I’m sure I do not have to tell you how important these notions are when it comes to developing a great work environment. These notions of socialization and team work are really emphasized by group projects and internships. And let me tell you, college opens up a whole realm of possibilities when it comes to landing internships. Colleges do this so that their graduates have real life experience in their given fields upon graduation. For example, most prominent engineering programs require their students to complete at least a semester worth, if not a full year, of internships before they will even think about giving their students a diploma. And I cannot say this enough, EXPERIENCE IS EVERYTHING!

But I will also be the first to admit that college is not the right learning environment for everyone! Unfortunately, when it comes to getting a college education there are very limited options when it comes to time, place, and subject matter! This is how students like myself end up taking General Chemistry at 8 am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning; when an hour after that final exam I will not care about the noble gases, moles, or how much hydrogen is left over after given reaction (man that semester was rough). But this is the beauty of the Certification route to landing that first job. Individuals who made their way into the computer industry through the route of certifications have a lot more time to focus on material that they are actually passionate about, and they do not get bogged or bored writing 14-page research papers about the troubled youth of some far off European country (I made an A on that paper by the way). Also with the technology industry being as big as it is we as potential employees can narrow down our scope of studies even further depending on the realm of computing we find to be to be the most prevalent to us or the most enjoyable. For example, some individuals may find their calling in software development, or web design, cyber security, or maybe they are like me and are curious about routing and switching. There are so many paths within the realm of technology that I may have to write an entirely different blog post just encompass all the different fields! Flexibility is the key here!

When it comes to acquiring these certifications one can take classes in the fields they are interested in or if you happen to be like a few of my coworkers you can simply read up on the subject matter and teach yourself the material in the comfort of your own home! But we would be kidding ourselves if we did not recognize the flaws in both of these career paths. As an informed writer, I would be doing the reader a disservice if I did not also mention the drawbacks of each of these educational paths.

When it comes to these technology certifications, they may only last 2 to 3 years before they need to be renewed. This should make sense because the world of technology is ever changing and essentially revolutionizing itself every few years. Therefore, hopefully one can see that it only makes sense that we must keep our certifications up to date to keep up with the changing times! On the other hand, a college degree last forever. It keeps a permanent place on your resume. I never have to go back to school in recertify in Abstract Algebra or Complex Analysis. I get to claim my degree as my own forever and always. It’s mine. I own it, and no one can take it away from me no matter how hard they try. On the other hand, because I never have to go back and recertify, if I don’t use it, I lose it. I’d be lying to you right now if I said I remember everything I learned about Math during my four years in college. Hell. I’d be lying to you if I said I remember everything from the last semester of my senior year! But that’s the beauty and the appeal of these certifications. Employers realize that these candidates, are always up to date on notions within the realm of expertise, so they know that when they hire someone they can go right to work with minimal training!

Now, I know what on everyone’s mind at his point. Which is the cheaper alternative? Where do I get the most ‘bang for my buck’? Again this is another topic that I could write an entirely different blog post the covers a cost-benefit analysis between these two paths; but I will do my best to explain the difference using generalities. The beauty of getting your college degree is that it’s a once in a life time investment. Unless of course you are taking out loans then obviously you are making multiple payments, but that is beside the point. Like I have stated previously, even if you are continually making payments towards your degree is never going to go away. Whereas with these certifications you have to continually buy books and other study materials to stay relevant and up to date. Also one must continually pay to take these certification exams, and I’ll let you in on a little secret, the higher you go in the different branches of certifications the more expensive the tests become and some even require you to fly out to a different location to take the exam. So you better pass those tests the first time!

But Bradley, be straight with us, which path is best when it comes to landing that first job? Well that is a loaded question, and it is my hope that the reader recognizes that I tried to stay completely objective throughout the bulk of this article, but in my personal opinion…I had an absolute blast in college. I learned so much about myself and I met so many great people; and that is why I can say with absolute certainty that acquiring my college degree was right career move for ME. And that is just it! I cannot sit here and tell you which path is the best for YOU. Everyone has different hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations and only you can possibly know which path will work best for you!  But listen to this… The longer I stay in the Networking Industry the more useless my Math degree will become, but it will continue to open doors for me and that is what I love about it! And I have to be honest, do I wish I was a Cisco Certified Networking Administrator currently? Of course I do, and I know I will get there some day; but I would not trade my college education for the world.

 As always if you have any questions, comments or concerns about Information Technology or where to acquire any of the certifications we talked about today please do not hesitate to give us a call at the office. We have quite a few degrees and quite a few certifications floating around the office and we would be happy to point you in the right direction.

,

Ask a New Orleans Tech: How Safe is Public Wi-Fi?

At this point in the 21st century, “What is the Wi-Fi password,” is an instinctual phrase for kids of all ages. And let’s be honest, most of you adults also have acquired this learned behavior as well. The real question is though, does either party know what is at stake while they surf the web on public Wi-Fi?

Whether you are checking in on the latest Trump versus Hillary debate or getting lost in the vast world of YouTube, we all need to take these necessary precautions to ensure that our devices and personal information are safe when we sync our devices to a foreign network.

1. Whose Wi-Fi Am I About To Use?

Always be suspicious of which network you connect to in public places. It would take minimal effort for a hacker to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot outside of a local coffee shop with a network name like “FreeCoffeeShopWifi”. This actually happens all of the time! Hackers do this to trick innocent bystanders into joining their network.

If you get lured into joining a hacker’s network like this, then you have essentially left a key under the mat for the hacker so that they may let themselves into all of your personal data! With that being said, always make sure to as an employee of the establishment for the Wi-fi Name to make sure you connect to a safe network.

2. NEVER, EVER Perform Any type of Banking or Personal Transaction Away From Home

Stick to looking up the latest meme or catching up on the news while using public Wi-Fi; your bank account will thank me later. Even a seemingly innocuous banking transaction, like transferring money from your savings account to your debit card, can lead to a hacker infiltrating your account.

3. Stay On Recognizable Websites

Preferably you should stick to what IT nerds call the surface level of the web, i.e. Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, etc. You know, the websites almost anyone with an internet connection can identify.  By taking these precautions, it makes it difficult for someone to intercept any data you send out or receive.

If you insist on exploring beyond the basics, makes sure to just visit secure websites and applications. When using your laptops on a public network always look for the HTTPS:// line rather than just HTPP:// to confirm you’ve established a secure connection.

4. Turn Off File Sharing

Turning off file sharing will only take a minute and it could potentially save you a lifetime worth of problems. Below is a guide.

For Windows users, we can find this option by opening the Control Panel and making our way to the Network and Sharing Center. From there, we want to Change Advanced Sharing Settings and Turn Off File Sharing.

For Mac users, we want to find our Systems Preferences on our toolbar and be sure to uncheck the box next to File Sharing

5. What If I Want To Work On a Public Network? Is My Data Safe?

In short, the answer is:  NO, your data is not safe!

The good news for you is that this does not have to be the case, there are numerous ways to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so that the data being shared between you and your work is encrypted in case a hacker decides to make you his next victim!

Without the encryption key, it is going to make it challenging for the hacker to make any sense of the data he intercepts from your device thus leaving you and your company files protected. Unfortunately, these types of networks are not always ready, but if you would like to look into getting one of these virtual connections set up one of our Guardian Computer Networking Consultants would be we would happy to help you and your company stay protected!

Ask a New Orleans Tech Conclusion: Public Wi-Fi Is Definitely NOT Safe

The internet is a wonderful place, and it is amazing that we have access to the internet on every street corner. Unfortunately, this ability to access the internet so easily is exactly what makes everyone so vulnerable to cyber-attacks! If we keep these ideas in mind on our next trip to the local coffee shop, I promise you will be able to enjoy that mocha frappuccino much more knowing that your personal data is not being exposed. Please be safe, and always keep your head on a swivel when you are out there on the world wide web!