Working from home as a legitimate and recognized alternative to office-based environments is probably the most prominent change to happen in decades of traditional work culture. For companies without a dedicated in-house IT department or MSP, the remote workforce is largely reliant on their own equipment and resources to do their jobs.

Remote workers are currently among the most vulnerable targets for cybercrime. The most obvious reasons stem from the incredibly quick transition from a controlled business space to a home office. Personal WIFI and a family computer generally do not have the same protections as the network and devices distributed and managed by a dedicated security team, making hacking a much easier job for cyber criminals.

Diligent companies with a distributed workforce should be working towards a complete audit of connection practices, availability of resources, use of approved and unapproved applications devices and permissions. All things which can be covered in a rigorous risk assessment and managed for the future through adaptive and responsive company policy. If those last two sentences made your head spin, don’t worry. Guardian can help.

Security Best Practices

If you are a WFH employee using your own device, consider the following:

Your work machine should be dedicated to work. Keep the online games and random websites to your personal devices for best protection.

Guardian Protects Your Remote Workers

As a Managed Service Provider (MSP) with more than 25 years in the business, Guardian Computer has serviced companies with a distributed workforce far longer than the pandemic. Some of our clients will use their own machines, however, they are required to follow specific security policies. If the remote worker is using their personal equipment for work, our team will need to access the device to install security software. Guardian can offer suggestions on security frameworks and cyber insurance policies to best fit your needs.

Many of our clients with end users working from home will be given a new machine, including iPads and laptops. This equipment will come prepped with an encrypted hard drive, remote management software and antivirus protection. We take these steps so that we can keep your machines up-to-date with the newest patches and protections. Our systems are set up as a watchdog to monitor any suspicious activity and we’ll send you a report letting you know when it’s fixed.

Set Up Your Work From Home Employees for Success

If you have recently transitioned out of a traditional office-based environment and are looking for an IT solution compliant with your industry regulations, give us a call. Our team will work with you to determine the type of equipment your workers will need based on your budget. We’ll take care of the specs, ordering, and configuration before shipping it out to your employees. Once your employees receive the new devices, we’ll hop on a call to complete the set up.

For more information, read through this Cybersecurity Spring Cleaning checklist.

While the new year is the time to reflect on the past, it’s also the time to make resolutions for the future. With ransomware attacks becoming an increasing trend, small businesses should consider cyber insurance to protect their company.

Cyber insurance covers your business’s liability for data breaches and attacks. The insurance provider will offer a variety of coverage including ransom attacks, network security, tech error and omissions, and so on.

It’s important to understand the type of cyber insurance coverage you are paying for in the same way you examine your car insurance policy. For example, if you get into a car accident only having limited liability insurance, your insurance provider may not cover all costs once you’ve exceeded certain limits. Costs associated with repairing your car or medical bills may fall to you because you weren’t sufficiently covered.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about cyber insurance, we’ll explain how to apply for adequate coverage. If you already have cyber insurance, you should familiarize yourself with your policy and review it from time to time as the policy may change at renewal.

Applying for Cyber Insurance

When applying for cyber insurance, you need to understand what the carrier is offering. You’ll receive a questionnaire from the carrier to assess your current set up. The questionnaire will determine the tech your company uses and the coverage you may need.

It’s imperative that you answer these questions to the best of your ability. Do not mindlessly check of all the boxes you think the carrier wants to hear. Answering the questionnaire without thinking through your systems or putting too much focus on the coverage price tag will be to your detriment.

Just like limited car insurance, a limited cyber insurance policy may leave you stuck footing the bill after a data breach. Alternatively, you may end up overpaying for coverage if you selected systems that you don’t actually use.

If you’re not sure how to answer the questions, contact your Guardian Support Specialists. We’ll be happy to help.

Insurance Claim Considerations

Data breaches and ransomware attacks happen. Don’t panic if you’re on the receiving end of an incident. But, be aware of the criteria your policy may require.

Get in the habit of reviewing your policy at the time of renewal. Insurance companies will renew the policy with updated requirements from the previous year. If you have a breach but your systems don’t comply with the new obligations, the insurance company may void your policy leaving you stuck with the clean-up costs.

If you do get hit with an attack, the carrier will require you to follow specific steps. Each policy will have explicit criteria you must follow once a breach occurs. You can bet the insurance provider will look at the fine print before paying out on a claim. Familiarize yourself with your policy before you need to make a claim.

If you need to make a claim, consider the following:

  1. Most insurances have minimum configuration settings and written internal policies. Without those, a policy may be void.
  2. Insurance companies also have a time limit for notifications after suspecting a breach. If you wait too long, your policy is void.
  3. They also require THEY do all remediation. If a business starts troubleshooting the breach, the policy can be void.

Let Guardian Be Your Guide

Guardian doesn’t offer cyber insurance, but we do review our clients’ policies to ensure they have their bases covered. Send us that questionnaire, and we’ll help you fill it out. We can also help you assess your current policy to make sure you are adequately covered and meet the policy requirements.

Our team is also developing trainings for your cyber security needs. In the meantime, check out these resources to learn more:

Let Guardian manage the behind-the-scenes tasks that keep your business running so you can manage your clients. Trade your downtime for technological peace of mind. Connect with us to learn more.  

You may have seen a notification on your device for the Windows 11 update released on October 5. Odds are you’re like most who ignore these annoying prompts. The question is, will your laziness benefit you this time around? The short answer: Yes, it will.

What exactly is in this new update?

On October 5, 2021, Windows released a free upgrade to their operating systems eligible for Windows 10 PCs. Number 1 on the “11 highlights of this release”:

That’s marketing lingo for: this update has minimal new features but provides a new look.

The remaining 10 highlights have a heavy focus on the user experience “designed to bring you closer to what you love.” What improvements do these design features have on your day to day? Probably little to none. But, upgrading right away could be a nuisance for your applications and especially your printers, scanners, sound and graphics cards.

Unless you’re curious (and you have a backup computer to play around with) there’s no reason to update right away.

How Often Are Updates Released?

These massive operating system overhauls don’t happen often. Windows 10 was released in 2015, for example. And, in the grand scheme of things, Windows 11 is a minor upgrade in terms of new features and applications.

Most of the time however, Windows will push out minor updates to the current operating system. These minor updates can happen at an incredible speed. Microsoft may release an update which doesn’t work properly. A week later an update to that update will be pushed out to fix the issue.

Issues You May Run into After Installing the Windows 11 Update

As with all new operating system releases, Microsoft will need to push out a handful of updates in the coming weeks. Since this is a new system, vendors who supply your printers, scanners, and so on haven’t had time to update their drivers to meet the new operating system criteria.

This means that if you update to Windows 11 before the vendor you purchased your printer from has had a chance to update the driver, your printer may stop working. Rather than wasting your resources figuring out why this goofy thing happened after you upgraded, be patient and let the other vendors catch up.

Most of your Microsoft applications will probably work fine. Since this is a Microsoft update, they had time to update their applications before release. Your other software vendors have only had access to a pre-release, and it may take them a while to catch up as a result.

When should you update to Windows 11?

Eventually, we will recommend an upgrade. Microsoft will primarily focus on Windows 11 now, meaning sooner or later they won’t waste time developing fixes for previous versions, like Windows 10. If you don’t ultimately install the upgrade, it could result in lax security on your computer.

Let Guardian test things out for the next month or two. Don’t do your own research (unless you’ve got a spare computer laying around)! Our team will see what goofy changes happen on our spare computers, find the solutions for you, and will notify you when things have settled.

Wait for the Guardian All Clear.

Let Guardian work out the kinks to this new operating system first. We’ll give you the “all-clear” when ready. Did you already update and find that your printers and scanners aren’t working anymore? Don’t stress, but…

Give Us a Call

When it’s working well, technology can streamline operations, increase productivity, and support your business objectives. But as we become more reliant on technology, its failures can cause major issues.

Want to be proactive about your company’s technology? Check out our list of 8 major tech issues and how to prevent them to get started.

Issue #1: Failed compliance that relates to technology requirements

Solution:

  • Regular vulnerability scans
  • Keeping IT systems updated
  • Ongoing monitoring
  • Mapping security controls to compliance regulations in order to identify noncompliance and document compliance

Read our blog post about the top 5 concerns companies should know in 2021 for more information about failed compliance and how to avoid it.

Issue #2: Infected devices, which underperform, become difficult to use, and present a security risk

Solution:

  • Antivirus and antimalware software
  • Malware detection (we recommend Malwarebytes)

Read our blog post about computer viruses and malware for more information about this threat and its warning signs.

Issue #3: Weak passwords and insecure password practices

Solution:

  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Longer and more complicated passwords
  • Unique passwords for each user and each account
  • New passwords every 6 months
  • Using a password manager

Read our blog post about the top 5 concerns companies should know in 2021 for more information about password security issues and best practices.

Issue #4: Insecure network perimeter due to multiple devices and locations accessing company information

Solution:

  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Using Cisco Umbrella on devices that access company data
  • Keeping antivirus software up to date on devices that access company data
  • Requiring devices that access company data to be encrypted
  • Using mobile device management software (we recommend Microsoft Intune) to monitor and manage any devices that access company data

Read our blog post about the challenges of a distributed work environment to learn more about this issue, and read our blog post about the benefits of mobile device management for more information about this solution.

Issue #5: Insider threats from current and past employees

Solution:

  • Limit employee access
  • Use separation of duties
  • Establish clear security processes
  • Control onboarding and offboarding
  • Utilize data monitoring and auditing technology
  • Use a Data Loss Prevention program

Read our blog post about the top 5 concerns companies should know in 2021 for more information about insider threats and how to combat them.

Issue #6: Data loss, whether due to human error, cyberattack, or natural disaster

Solution:

  • Multiple backups (daily, weekly, and monthly)
  • Multiple locations to store backups
  • Daily monitoring
  • Alerts for failed backups
  • Backing up files as well as program file data

Read our blog post about multiple backups for more information about data backup issues and best practices.

Issue #7: Inefficient IT infrastructure, which can negatively impact productivity

Solution:

  • Invest in an effective firewall, wireless system, and switch (we recommend Cisco Firepower and Cisco Meraki)
  • Get an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) for the switch and surge protectors for computers and other tech

Read our blog post about easy IT fixes for small businesses for more information about building a better IT infrastructure.

Issue #8: Physical damage to tech equipment from storms or accidents

Solution:

  • Regular backups
  • Surge protectors
  • Storm prep, such as unplugging power cables and power strips, taking home essential computers, and moving tech away from windows, doors, and floors

Read our blog post about creating an IT hurricane preparedness plan for more information about keeping tech safe from storms.

Need Help? Contact Guardian Computer

Let our team of experts handle your IT, so you can stay focused on your business. We’re ready to help with all of these major tech issues and many more.

Contact us today to learn how Guardian Computer can help you make the most of technology.

Creating a disaster plan is essential for all businesses, but those in the South should make sure to also have a hurricane preparedness plan in place—especially for their IT systems and data. This straightforward blog post answers common questions about formulating and updating an appropriate plan to protect your digital assets in the unique context of a hurricane.

For this topic, we spoke to Charles “Andy” Andrews, our Senior Technical Consultant. Having lived in Louisiana his entire life, he’s as well-versed in hurricane preparation as he is in IT. Check out his expert insights below.

What to Know About Creating a Hurricane Preparedness Plan

1. What Is a BCDR?

A BCDR, or Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan, involves knowing exactly what you have and how it needs to be protected, Andy explains. It allows your business to stay active regardless of a variety of issues, ranging from a hurricane to a ransomware attack.

In New Orleans, Guardian Computer’s headquarters, you not only have to deal with the wind and rain, but because of the landscape, the city is also prone to serious flooding.

“Hurricanes specifically have been a threat that I’ve had to deal with all my life,” Andy says. “Living in New Orleans has given me certain insights into how they need to be dealt with.”

2. When Should You Make a BCDR, or Hurricane Preparedness Plan?

You should make a BCDR as soon as possible and be sure to update your hurricane preparedness plan every year.

As Andy points out, you cannot prepare for a disaster while the disaster is happening. The most common mistake he sees in organizations is having a plan that hasn’t been updated or tested since its creation and has become obsolete.

“I’ve seen instances where they pulled out a printed copy that literally had dust on it,” he says. 

When it comes to hurricanes, you can see them coming and have time to prepare. We recommend including special triggered events as part of your hurricane emergency plan, such as:

  • Making additional data backups 24 to 36 hours before expected landfall.
  • Moving computers away from the windows and doors, as well as off the floors, the last day before work is closed for the storm.
  • Unplugging power cables and power strips, as well as getting them off the floor the last day before work is closed.
  • Making sure the windows are boarded up the last day before work is closed.
  • Ensuring your team brings any essential computers with them when they evacuate, especially computers with business-critical applications that are installed locally, such as QuickBooks, AutoCAD, or custom applications.
Consider this list of 5 special triggered events to include in your IT hurricane emergency plan.

3. How Can You Keep Your Team and Plan Up to Date?

Part of regularly updating your hurricane disaster recovery plan also includes making sure everyone knows what role they are going to play in the continuity of the business.

For managers, that includes keeping a real-time inventory of software and hardware, knowing where employees are going, and having up-to-date contact information. You will also have to decide who is responsible for updating clients on how to contact the business during this time, who will come back post-storm to assess the damages, and more, depending on the severity of the storm. 

You should also test your BCDR each year before hurricane season begins to make sure the plan runs smoothly. To do this, you can try to restore the backup and make sure it boots up correctly, or simply do a file restoration. Double-check that everything is there and opens properly, and time how long it takes for the restoration to be complete.

If disaster does strike, you should only have to worry about your safety. Not updating your hurricane disaster recovery plan regularly only makes it that much more difficult for your organization in the long run.

4. What Does a Hurricane Disaster Recovery Plan Include for IT, Specifically?

Regardless of hurricane season, you should be regularly creating digital backups of all critical information. Daily backups are standard for most companies, though depending on the company and its needs, you may be able to go weekly. But for mission-critical servers, consider switching up to hourly backups.

Ideally, you should also have a backlog ranging from six months to a year so that you can go back in time if needed. This data should be stored in three different locations: onsite, offsite, and replicated elsewhere. With that, alerts can be configured so that any missed backups, errors, or low storage space issues are being sent to the proper channels. 

“You don’t want to find yourself needing a backup only to find out they failed three weeks ago and somehow nobody knew,” Andy points out.  This is one of the benefits of having your IT managed by a company like Guardian Computer. “It’s a lot easier when you have more than one pair of eyes, and people are actually going through and making sure the backups are done.”

In a worst-case scenario, your place of business could be destroyed by a hurricane. Before that can happen, Andy recommends that businesses start pivoting to cloud migration for any business-critical applications. The good news is that most tech is already moving in this direction, and Guardian’s experts are well-equipped to help our clients with cloud migration and management.

5. What Is Guardian Computer’s Process for Clients’ Hurricane Preparedness Plans?

With Guardian Computer, each client gets their own personally tailored emergency plan. This is done by taking into account the line-of-business applications and determining which software is necessary to keep the business running, along with other factors.

In general, Guardian’s process starts with hurricane monitoring. (For New Orleans clients, Andy recommends everyone keep an eye on Weather Underground the entire season.) If the city is in a 50% cone of error for a category two or below at landfall, our team makes sure that backups are up to date and verified 2–3 days before the hurricane is expected to hit. We also send out an email to warn clients who may be impacted and give them last-minute reminders.

“We have alerts that we constantly monitor, but we still want to make extra sure before a storm,” Andy says. But at a category two, he explains, “There is a good chance that no one is evacuating and most people will be riding out the storm except those directly under the path.”

If New Orleans is in the 50% cone of error for a category three or greater hurricane, Guardian takes additional steps to ensure everyone is on the same page with evacuation and communication plans. 

“Some clients will make local backups to external drives and carry those offsite as an added precaution,” Andy says. “If your servers are backed up and your plan is thought through, you should be able to focus on your people and their safety.”

What Does It Mean to Be Cloud-Enabled?

“It means having your servers and applications running on a cloud service provider like Azure or Amazon Web Services,” Andy says. “This way, the data can be backed up and replicated across data centers as well as widely available to end-users, no matter the location or size.”

Many organizations are already moving in the direction of either being hybrid cloud or full cloud, and some Guardian clients are already serverless, completely operating in the cloud. This is especially helpful in the case of a disaster such as a hurricane. Without the cloud, if something does happen, the amount of time it takes to get new servers and hardware is longer than most businesses can afford to be out of service.

Need a Hurricane Preparedness Plan?

If you’re working on creating or updating a hurricane preparedness for your business and need assistance with the IT aspects of your plan, Guardian Computer can help. We offer comprehensive IT management services, including remote support, monitoring, scheduled maintenance, disaster recovery, and much more.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact Guardian Computer today.

Here at Guardian Computer, we frequently use SharePoint to consolidate company data, documents, and communication for our clients. In our experience, it is one of the best technologies on the market today to store, organize, share, and access information from any device.

Despite its numerous benefits, we’ve noticed that many businesses are unfamiliar with exactly what SharePoint is and what it does. Especially with more organizations engaging in remote work and telecommunications, there has never been a better time to learn how to use SharePoint effectively for your business.

Felecia Foy, one of our IT Support Specialists, is a big proponent of SharePoint and has plenty of experience helping clients set up and manage the platform. Keep reading to learn what SharePoint is, how it can help your company, and how Felecia and our experts can help you get started.

What Is SharePoint?

Before worrying about how to use SharePoint effectively, you should know the basics about what it is and what it does. In short, SharePoint is a collaborative platform that is integrated with Microsoft Office.

As Felecia puts it, “SharePoint is the amalgamation of all Microsoft services presented in one location. It creates a single accessible hub where people can share documents, collaborate on projects, share information throughout the company or with a subset of people within the company, and integrate with all of Microsoft’s other platforms.”

SharePoint can be customized, making it useful for a range of different needs, from storing information to supporting an organization’s internal communication. Many organizations use it to store, share, organize, and access information securely from various devices and as a platform to build intranet websites.

A laptop with SharePoint open on the screen, demonstrating how to use SharePoint effectively.

SharePoint in Microsoft 365

SharePoint in Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based application that allows users to use SharePoint technologies without installing SharePoint Server. Instead, your business can subscribe to a Microsoft 365 plan. Users can share information with employees, clients, and partners through sites they can create.

SharePoint is the backend for what Microsoft refers to as SharePoint as well as OneDrive. The distinction for us is that “SharePoint” is for company documents shared with others. In our opinion, “OneDrive” should be called “Personal SharePoint.” This is where you store your documents to make them easily available, no matter what device you are using.

To make life more confusing, the application used on computers to synchronize documents from both SharePoint and OneDrive is called OneDrive. With this application installed, you can easily sync folders and files used regularly to your computers for easy access. Having multiple computers and devices accessing the same files is no longer a chore.

With so many potential integrations and capabilities, SharePoint can benefit organizations of all sizes and industries. Below are a few features your company can use right now.

Check out this infographic or keep reading to learn 3 key benefits of SharePoint and how to use SharePoint effectively for your business.

Automating Workflows and Processes

One of the most useful ways we use SharePoint at Guardian Computer is as an integration tool to help you create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services to synchronize files, get notifications, collect data, and more.

“Power Automate can create workflows that automate business processes and cut down on competitive tasks and overhead,” Felecia explains. The Power Automate platform can connect to over 500 different services and applications.

“So in that way, you can really link SharePoint to just about anything you want, and you can do really anything you want with it—as long as you have the time and expertise to do so,” says Felecia.

Onboarding New Employees

Currently, Felecia and our other SharePoint experts are helping one of our clients keep up with rapid company scaling using SharePoint. We are using SharePoint’s integration capabilities to manage the onboarding processes for the client’s large group of new employees.

This includes managing their email accounts and Azure Active Directory (AD) information, as well as creating a new site on SharePoint that assists them in the onboarding process. Felecia describes the process like this: “We have a form that they can fill out with the new employees’ information. And then in the backend, we have a script that will automatically create the accounts, assign the licenses, and assign the correct groups.”

SharePoint’s vast integration capabilities help businesses consolidate tedious tasks into a simple automated process, allowing your workforce to prioritize the tasks that need more specialized attention. Knowing how to use SharePoint effectively when onboarding new employees can drastically reduce the amount of time and effort required by your team.

SharePoint Across Industries

Given its customizability and integration capabilities, SharePoint can be used effectively for a wide range of applications across industries. Industries like healthcare and finance in particular benefit from the strong security associated with SharePoint services. This allows healthcare professionals, for example, to share information and data while maintaining HIPAA compliance.

In addition, all data stored on SharePoint is backed by Microsoft’s servers. With this information automatically backed up to the cloud, nothing will be accidentally deleted and lost forever while in the middle of work. “It can really provide peace of mind for companies that everything will remain confidential and accessible to them,” says Felecia.

Getting Help from Guardian Computer

SharePoint can take significant time and expertise to integrate into the everyday functions of a business. But don’t let that intimidate you. At Guardian, we have the knowledge, experience, and resources to onboard your company with SharePoint services.

Not only that, but we can ensure your organization is making the most of SharePoint’s capabilities in pursuit of your business objectives. “What we offer at Guardian is that expertise, the willingness to put in the time and the effort so that businesses don’t have to,” Felecia says. “Our clients can focus on doing what they do best, and we’ll make it easier for them to do that.”

When setting up SharePoint for a client, we provide a stress-free experience with our thorough, streamlined process. After an introductory meeting to understand exactly what you want from SharePoint integration, we determine how to customize the platform so it’s tailored to your specific needs.

After setup, we walk you through how to use SharePoint effectively: what its capabilities are, how to use them, how to add services, and more. From there, Guardian will monitor your information and infrastructure to maintain its security and functionality. If you ever have any questions or experience any issues, our experts are only a phone call or email away.

Contact Us to Start Your SharePoint Integration

We know you’re busy running your company and keeping your customers satisfied. Incorporating SharePoint into your operations will only make it easier. Let our professionals handle this so you don’t have to.

Guardian Computer has been serving businesses across the U.S. since 1996. With knowledgeable IT professionals like Felecia, our team can help you navigate new technologies and challenges. Contact us today to get started.

In today’s age of digital transformation, new and sophisticated cyberattacks, adoption of VPNs for public Wi-Fi usage, and more, it can be hard to keep track of all the latest technology trends, challenges, and solutions. Viruses are one issue in particular that consistently receives attention but is plagued with myths and misconceptions.

The concept of the computer virus has transformed into a catch-all term for a variety of programs that could damage your computer. In reality, when most people say “virus,” they really mean anything with malicious code.

So what do you actually need to know about viruses today, and what computer virus myths can you disregard? To be able to protect your company computers and data, you need to be aware of the popular types of malware you might see, as well as warning signs that point to an infected device.

“The most common misconception is that it is not going to happen to me or that if it does happen, it won’t be that bad,” says Charles Andrews (better known as Andy), our cybersecurity expert. We’re here to share his insights and the critical information you need to know about computer virus myths, threats, symptoms, and solutions.

Different Types of Infectious Malware

Awareness is a critical component in combating viruses and malware. One harmful computer virus myth is that certain types of devices (namely, Apple products and mobile devices) aren’t susceptible to malware.

All devices can potentially be infected by malware, and there are many different types of malware that leaders and employees need to watch out for. That’s why it is essential to train all end users on how to avoid different types of malware, popular tactics used to infect devices, and how to detect when there is a problem.

The following are some of the most common types of infectious malware that could infiltrate your devices.

A computer screen with a malware notification. One of the biggest computer virus myths is that these malicious softwares are viruses, but actually they're malware.

Viruses

The type of malware with the most name recognition is the virus. A virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself, typically resulting in a detrimental effect on the screen of the infected computer.

Getting a virus can be as simple as a user opening an email or clicking on a link that executes a malicious program. From there, the virus will multiply and attack varying aspects of the computer.

Viruses often come from an infected webpage or a phishing email. It is important to remember that secure websites should have “https” at the beginning of the URL. If you just see “http,” think twice before visiting the site and do not enter any of your information.

Worms

Worms are able to replicate with incredible speed. Once they are inside your network, they’ll seek out any available weak computer system that’s online and try to infect it.

Worms work autonomously, and they can transfer themselves from one computer to another without any interaction from users. This makes them one of the more dangerous types of malware and very difficult to detect. 

Trojans

A trojan’s purpose is to get itself installed onto your computer via a seemingly innocuous download, email attachment, or ad. Once installed on your computer, the hacker will have remote access to your network via your device.

Trojans are named as such because they seem harmless and work hard to remain undetected on your computer. They want to remain inconspicuous so that they can be an anchor point to attack other devices, making them especially threatening for company networks with many connected devices.

Botnets

Botnets are a group of infected computers that respond to the call of a botherder or command-and-control server. Botnets’ end goal is to attack en masse against a target in what is referred to as a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS).

A DDoS attack involves one or more attackers attempting to make it impossible for a service to be delivered. The attackers will drown a server in requests so that it will cease to function. 

Ransomware/Crypto Viruses 

This type of attack is rapidly growing in popularity. With ransomware/crypto viruses, hackers will encrypt your data and then ransom it back to you for a price. There are many different ways that hackers will attempt this: sometimes they use botnets, while other times they may use a virus. 

Warning Signs of an Infected Device 

One of the most damaging computer virus myths is that antivirus software offers a complete solution to infectious malware. While antivirus software protects against viruses, it won’t keep you safe against trojans or botnets, for instance.

This is why widespread awareness and proactive prevention are crucial. The sooner you identify a malware infection, the sooner you can remove the malicious code and limit the damage it causes. “Early detection and prevention can’t be overstated in their effectiveness,” says Andy.

No one thinks it will happen to them, but cybercriminals know to target smaller businesses whose cybersecurity may not be as robust. Andy adds, “It’s much better to catch one of these issues early than it is to try and clean it up after.”

The signs of an infected device can differ depending on the type of malware that has infected it. Here are a few common warning signs to watch out for.

Prepare yourself against computer virus myths by reading about the common warning signs of an infected device in our infographic or in the rest of our blog post.

Blue Screen of Death

The Blue Screen of Death, or BSOD, is a name that’s been given to error messages that you will typically see on a Windows computer. If you see the Blue Screen of Death, it means your computer can’t continue with what it was doing and will likely shut down and try to restart.

Typically, a BSOD does not mean you have a virus. If it only happens once, it could be a hardware issue. But if it’s happening frequently, it is possibly the result of a virus.

Increased Overheating or Fan Speed

Is your device overheating during normal activity or inactivity? Is your computer’s fan running higher than normal, even though you don’t have any programs open? If so, this may be a sign that malware is on your device.

In this case, a virus or worm may be causing your device to work harder than it needs to, though it appears not to be doing anything.

Slow Performance

If you notice that your computer or smartphone takes a long time to start running or to open programs, it may be a sign that you have a virus. Before assuming that malware has infected your device, first check to see if you have ample space on your hard drive.

If you do have space and your computer is still running slowly, the culprit could be a damaged hard drive. If the hard drive is not damaged, however, it is highly likely that some kind of malware is infecting your computer.

Other signs of malware may include: frequent pop-ups, error messages, missing or damaged files, system crashes, or unprompted computer restarts. If you notice any of these problems or anything else unusual, Guardian Computer can help.

Guardian Computer: Your Computer Virus Myth Buster and Problem Solver

Our IT experts are here to tackle your technology needs, including everything from malware detection and protection, to Helpdesk support, to fully managed IT services. We are available to answer any questions or concerns you may have, solving issues with fast, friendly customer service. We also provide proactive monitoring to spot issues quickly and prepare for your future needs, so you can have peace of mind about your IT.

Contact us to get started with Guardian today and keep your data protected.

Are you frustrated by your company’s technology? Looking for quick, easy IT fixes that will make a measurable difference?

When you’re running a small business, IT problems should be the least of your worries. It’s critical to keep technology issues off your plate, so you can put your time and energy into the core of your business.

With an efficient IT infrastructure and a knowledgeable IT support team behind your business, you can keep tech issues to a minimum and help your organization run smoothly. Whether your staff is transitioning back into the physical office or still working remotely, Guardian Computer’s Helpdesk Lead, Ryan Prejean, has compiled 6 easy IT fixes to get you started.

Building the Right IT Infrastructure

The transition into a distributed work environment has led many small businesses to invest in IoT devices and update their tech without knowing what’s truly necessary for their business. IoT devices can provide ease and speed to assist in data transfer and accessibility, but the issue is that small businesses are often skimping on the things that matter most when they decide to upgrade their devices. 

According to Ryan, “It’s a firewall, switch, and wireless. Those are the three main things—firewall for protection and control, wireless to get everyone on the network, and the switch, which serves as a central hub.”

Make the most of your technology with these easy, practical additions to your IT infrastructure, or contact us for help managing your IT.

When looking for easy IT fixes for small businesses, consider the 3 key IT infrastructure purchases in this infographic: a firewall, a wireless system, and a switch.

1. Professional Firewall

While it may be a good decision for businesses to accommodate the use of IoT devices, it shouldn’t come at the expense of adequate security. The alarming 20% of small businesses that “plan to invest in cybersecurity software” is strikingly low, especially considering the variety of security concerns that demand companies’ attention today.

Fortunately, a good firewall goes a long way toward addressing many of these issues. Implementing a strong, professional firewall is one of the greatest contributions you can make to your IT infrastructure because it offers critical protection against cyberattacks and data breaches.

“We recommend the Cisco Firepower,” Ryan says. “Cisco Firepower can use AI technology to detect places where you’re likely to get malicious content and block certain websites or ads. We try to put as many walls as possible between users and potential threats.”

2. Seamless Wireless 

“Everyone has to get on the network,” says Ryan. No business wants to deal with the cost of network downtime, so you need a fast, secure, reliable network to make the most of your technology and workforce productivity. 

Ryan recommends using the Cisco Meraki wireless system. As a wireless mesh network, it has the advantage of establishing multiple nodes, offering better coverage and stronger performance than traditional networks.

An office with lines connecting different devices as a representation of seamless wireless, which is one of the easy IT fixes for small businesses to make.

In addition to providing seamless wireless access throughout your building, the system can perform automatic updates and alert you when there’s an issue with your network. “When your employees bring their own devices, having a sophisticated wireless system helps boost your security,” Ryan explains. 

3. Central Switch

“Your switch is the central point, where all your expensive pieces of equipment connect,” says Ryan. “It will communicate with your firewall and it goes out to every plug.”

As such, it’s worth investing in a solid switch, setting it up to properly communicate with your tech, and protecting it with a UPS (uninterruptible power supply).

4. Surge Protector

Speaking of UPSs, here’s a bonus tip for your IT infrastructure:

“You don’t need a fancy UPS for every computer,” says Ryan. “But if you’re getting your employees good machines that are going to last 5 to 7 years, then they’re probably $1,000+ pieces of equipment and you don’t want them fried if there’s a storm. Get a $20 surge protector on Amazon to protect them.” 

Keeping Everything Up to Date 

When you’re building a strong IT infrastructure, you have to make sure your software is up to date or you could run into security and performance issues. Today, keeping devices updated is more important than having the latest model.

“It used to be the case that if you got a laptop, 3 years later it would crawl compared to anything modern-day on the market. This is changing slightly as our field matures,” Ryan explains. “For desktops and laptops, it is not critical that the hardware be new but that the OS is up to date.”

5. Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Azure

It’s no secret that Microsoft is the industry standard. With most businesses already using Microsoft products (such as Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more), an easy way to keep tech up to date, streamline operations, and potentially cut redundant costs is to fully leverage the Microsoft ecosystem with 365 and Azure.

Some of the top benefits that Microsoft 365 offers include:

  • Easy integration with Microsoft apps
  • Automatically synced email, contacts, and calendar
  • Access to apps offline
  • Seamless login and authentication
  • Built-in compliance features
  • 5GB of free storage via OneDrive
  • 1 TB of storage via SharePoint
  • Sharing and collaboration features via SharePoint

As for Microsoft Azure, it’s the only way to establish a serverless business infrastructure that seamlessly integrates with the Microsoft ecosystem. If you put a virtual server on Amazon, for instance, it won’t integrate with Microsoft 365. You would have to tie it in manually.

A few of its other advantages include:

  • Application and device management
  • Threat detection and multi-factor authentication
  • Guest user accounts and sign-ins
  • Hybrid interaction with desktop and cloud-based applications
  • Identity governance to manage identity, audit, and verify its effectiveness
  • Reporting and monitoring

Learn more about the advantages of Microsoft 365 over G Suite from our co-founder, co-owner, and CEO, John Prejean, or read about more of Microsoft Azure’s benefits from Ryan.

6. Antivirus Protection

This might seem like a no-brainer, but up-to-date antivirus software is critical. Be sure to put antivirus protection on every company computer and keep it updated. Ryan recommends the professional package from Malwarebytes for most small businesses.

“Malwarebytes automatically blocks users from accessing malicious links and blacklisted websites. This program is installed on machines all over the world, and the free version is one of the most installed antivirus software ever,” Ryan says.

Make More IT Fixes with Guardian Computer

Need support on any of these IT fixes? Looking for more advanced services and solutions? Guardian Computer is here to help. Ranked among the world’s best 501 managed service providers, our clients come to us for trustworthy, expert services and outstanding customer support.

Don’t pay an upcharge, face confusion with IT word salad on your invoices, or be forced to modernize your technology where your business doesn’t need it. With competitive prices and straightforward services, we empower you to make informed decisions about your IT. Contact us today to learn more.

There’s a reason why you haven’t gotten started with cloud storage at your organization yet. Maybe you still have questions about how it would fit into your current infrastructure or security measures. Maybe you’re not convinced it will be worth the time and effort to set up, teach your employees, and maintain. Maybe you just have bigger fish to fry at the moment. But there’s still a nagging feeling that you should figure it out.

No matter what your reason is, the idea of migrating to cloud storage can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Now is the perfect time to finally make the change and reap the benefits in an increasingly digital world. Every client migrated from local server storage to cloud storage was skeptical and did not like it initially. Then the benefits become glaringly obvious.

Learn how to migrate to cloud storage today in just 4 steps:

  1. Create a plan
  2. Decide what will be stored
  3. Transfer your data
  4. Train your employees

We’ll take you through each step, as well as how to avoid some common pitfalls.

Migrating to Cloud Storage in 4 Steps

Check out this infographic listing our 4 steps for migrating to cloud storage or keep reading for more information.

1. Create a Plan

The first step to adopting cloud storage is creating a plan. The more information, existing data storage, employees, and security requirements you have, the more complicated the process becomes.

Having a plan can help keep you on track, establish deadlines, maintain your normal business operations, and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. It also ensures you prepare for any costs, such as the cloud itself and any IT services required to set up, manage, or secure your cloud.

If you are lucky enough to have all data in a single location, your plan will be much easier. Collecting data from multiple servers, workstations, or cloud accounts requires much more planning. No matter what your situation, use this time to define structure and permissions that are easy to navigate and maintain.

2. Decide What Will Be Stored

Your next step is to decide what information will be going into the cloud. Do you want to store customer information? Company logins or financials? Business intelligence?

It may be tempting to skip this step and say you’ll just store everything on the cloud. Especially with remote work on the rise, it seems like it wouldn’t hurt to have everything accessible remotely. While we do not disagree with having all information available, files that are no longer needed or relevant should be deleted. Adding garbage could increase storage costs and will cause unnecessary clutter.

Visualization of a cloud and the many items stored on it, underlining the importance of deciding what to store when migrating to cloud storage.

As you compile the list of information to store on the cloud, note who needs access to it. Some information can be available to everyone in your organization. Sensitive information should only be made available to those who need it—and only for as long as they need it. Establish policies for granting, removing, and periodically reviewing who has access to the information in your cloud.

3. Transfer Your Data

Actually transferring your data is going to be the most significant step of this process. We have found that setting up a data sync is the best option, if possible. This gives you the ability to migrate users in phases as opposed to all at one time. A sync allows users to modify files in the original location and the cloud location without risk of losing data.

Allowing users to use the data from both locations helps to identify your power users. Power users can assist with user training and become cheerleaders for the change.

4. Train Your Employees

The last major step is to train your employees. Although it is often overlooked, this step is critical to implement cloud storage successfully in the long term.

Your employees are what keep your business running. If they are failing to save information, saving it incorrectly, or not following security procedures, it can cause big problems for your business.

Train employees on all cloud procedures, including:

  • What information should be stored in the cloud
  • How to save information to the cloud
  • How to make sure information is synced and backed up
  • How to search for information in the cloud
  • Who should have access to what information
  • How to request or grant access to information
  • What security measures they should take

Don’t rush this step! Cloud storage can increase your organization’s efficiency, but only if employees actually understand how to leverage the cloud. Schedule periodic refreshers to make sure everyone is following protocol and use the opportunity to share new tips and tricks for greater productivity.

The Risks of Cloud Storage

As with any technology, there are risks associated with cloud storage. Some of the risks include:

  • Information previously stored offline faces new cyber risks.
  • If you don’t monitor access and enforce policies for granting access, employees may gain access to information without permission.
  • With data backed up and synced across multiple devices, it can be harder to make sure something is truly deleted from the cloud.
  • At the same time, employees still might accidentally delete or alter information, spreading these faulty changes across all synced devices.

However, these issues don’t have to keep you from taking advantage of cloud storage. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce these risks:

  • Keep any information that is too sensitive off the cloud, and implement cybersecurity measures to protect data stored on the cloud.
  • Establish policies for access to data and regular reviews of employee access. Keep track of who has access to what as well as who granted access, creating more accountability.
  • Choose cloud services that allow you to completely delete information when needed and train employees how to properly delete information.
  • Choose cloud services that track changes to your information and allow you to easily restore previous versions.

By learning how to implement cloud storage with these risks in mind, you can be sure to guard against these issues from the very start. If there is anything you’re still concerned about or that your team needs help with, you can also outsource your cloud storage needs to a trusted IT provider!

Get Expert Help to Implement Cloud Storage Now

Having access to your information from anywhere is valuable, especially when employees are working remotely. Our expert staff can help execute this transition efficiently and seamlessly, so your organization can rest easy and simply reap the benefits.

Our team will set up and closely monitor your cloud, run regular performance checks, and apply updates as they become available. If you have specific requirements for keeping your data storage compliant with federal regulations, such as HIPAA, HITECH, the U.S. Patriot Act, CCAR, FINRA, CFPB, OCC, and more, talk to our team about incorporating this into your cloud setup, monitoring, and maintenance as relevant.

If you ever have a question about your cloud or run into an issue, our experts are available to provide direct support over the phone, online, or in person as needed.

Ready to take advantage of cloud storage? Give us a call at 866-488-4726 or contact us online today!

Mobile device management (MDM) software, such as Microsoft Intune, allows for visibility and management of the mobile devices accessing your enterprise’s network. As mobile threats loom large over organizations of all types and sizes, MDM is quickly becoming a critical part of protecting confidential business and employee data from a variety of digital threats.

But what exactly is an MDM software and what does it offer to businesses? Should small and midsize businesses consider adopting an MDM software for their network? What makes Microsoft Intune a standout option for MDM?

Not only does Guardian Computer provide clients with a variety of MDM services through Microsoft Intune, we also use this software for our own tech network. Jeremy Wirtz, our Senior Technical Engineer and in-house Intune expert, offers his expert opinion about the top benefits of Intune, as well as the reasons why your business should consider adopting an MDM solution.

What Is MDM Software?

MDM software is a key element to the emerging field of mobile device management within the business world. MDM softwares like Microsoft Intune, Scalefusion, and SOTI MobiControl are designed to provide an organization with a wide range of visibility and control features for in-office and remote network devices.

While not all MDM softwares are identical, many include similar features, such as: 

  • Device monitoring and remote configuration, which allow your IT team to track the activity and location of your business’ network devices, including laptops, PCs, tablets, IoT devices, or smartphones
  • Remote disconnection, which allows IT admins to lock or wipe certain devices in the event of a potential or confirmed data breach, theft, or loss
  • Regulatory compliance management features, such as activity and data logs
  • Application and OS management tools that can schedule and control device updates, as well as block certain device and application features that may threaten data security
Keep reading or check out our infographic to learn about the top benefits of mobile device management.

What Makes Microsoft Intune Stand Out?

Today, there is a massive global market for mobile device management softwares and strategies. According to Business Wire, the MDM industry is anticipated to grow by approximately 23% by 2023. This expansion is primarily driven by increases in smartphone usage across enterprises, as well as growing threats to corporate data across the business world.

So what makes Microsoft Intune a great MDM software? To start, Jeremy argues that Intune is a perfect solution for any business currently using Microsoft’s cloud services, such as Microsoft Azure. “It comes down to the tight integration that Intune has into Microsoft’s other cloud-based offerings, as well as their other products in general,” he explains.

If your business already uses Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, Azure, or Active Directory, then the team that manages your IT will have a clearer understanding of how Intune works from the start. “That’s going to make it significantly easier for them to understand and implement Intune,” Jeremy says.

An open laptop on an employee desk, which could be monitored with Microsoft Intune.

Even if your team doesn’t already use Microsoft products, Intune may still be a great MDM software solution for your team, depending on your IT infrastructure. Intune does not currently support Chromebooks, which makes it an incompatible MDM software for any businesses with Chromebooks in their device network. 

However, this doesn’t prevent companies that rely on G Suite from getting the most out of Intune. “Even if you’re using Gmail or Google apps, you may still have all of your users on a Windows-based operating system, like Windows 10,” Jeremy says. “And that integrates into Intune.”

Any organizations that rely on Microsoft operating systems or products can have more granular control over the policies on the operating system itself by using Intune, rather than another MDM software.

Is Microsoft Intune Worth It?

Some business leaders may still be skeptical about implementing Intune into their network. They may fear the additional costs of maintaining this software or worry about the length of the implementation process. Others may believe that mobile device management software is too complex for their business’ needs. However, MDM software like Microsoft Intune offers many practical benefits to businesses’ everyday and emergency operations.

Cybersecurity 

Company-issued smartphones, tablets, and laptops, as well as some personal devices, have become essential items for many modern businesses. But these devices are often vulnerable to cyberattacks or employee errors, both of which can lead to major expenses, extended network downtime, or even compliance issues and legal troubles for an organization.

According to Jeremy, these threats are the top reason that any business should consider integrating an MDM software into their digital infrastructure. “The main reason companies would want to consider implementing an MDM solution is to protect their corporate data,” he says.

Lock symbols over a phone, document, computer, email, and cloud to represent cybersecurity, one of the benefits of mobile device management.

Data protection is especially important for small and midsize businesses. CNBC reports that over 50% of America’s small businesses experienced a data breach between 2018 and 2019, with an average cost of $200,000 for damages and fees associated with a single attack.

Long-Term Benefits

Jeremy recommends that business leaders also consider how their organization may grow in the coming months or years. “It’s much easier to get that MDM solution in place when an organization is still small,” he explains.

In addition, Jeremy notes that the initial costs of adopting mobile device management software for your business should pay off in the long term. “Once you do have a proper MDM solution in place, you can actually end up saving the company money by increasing the efficiency at which your internal IT—or your managed service provider— can manage those devices and keep track of them.”

Remote Device Management 

As personal devices become more commonly integrated into company networks, businesses will need to consider solutions to the visibility and privacy issues that personal devices can introduce.

Employees looking at each others' phones, which can be monitored with Microsoft Intune or other mobile device management.

2020 revealed the gaps in many companies’ data privacy and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) management policies. Jeremy points out that the pandemic has rapidly accelerated MDM software adoption due to the ways that they conveniently centralize data management and control for both in-office and remote employees.

Jeremy recommends that leaders carefully consider and develop bring-your-own-device strategies for their businesses before deciding what MDM software to go with. This way, they can ensure that the software options they’re considering are those that can best accommodate their company’s personal device policies and procedures.

Implement Microsoft Intune and MDM Solutions with Guardian Computer

Guardian Computer has years of cross-industry experience helping businesses manage and monitor their networks and the devices that access them. We’re experts in providing flexible, friendly, and comprehensive IT services to commercial clients both big and small.

Curious about Guardian’s MDM services and other technology solutions? Get in touch with us today and see how we can help your business.