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.

In the current economic climate, organizations need to adapt their network security to fit remote work requirements. In particular, many organizations are facing challenges when assessing their security in an increasingly distributed environment.

Employees are constantly accessing vital business information while outside of the company’s on-premise network. They’re at home or in a hotel on insecure networks accessing data from personal devices and networks.

When it comes to navigating the obstacles that arise from assessing and addressing security issues in a distributed environment, Guardian Computer’s Co-Founder and President, Jean Prejean, has some advice to keep your business safe.

The Importance of Security Assessments 

According to a recent Gartner survey, “82% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time.” More than likely you have and will continue to have employees working remotely.

In a distributed environment, security assessments are critical. This is your chance to assess issues with your staff’s hardware, identify any security vulnerabilities, and evaluate the overall effectiveness of the network and infrastructure you already have in place. 

According to Jean, “In an office environment, you can monitor your network for incoming and outgoing traffic and anticipate potential threats. But once you get out of that space, monitoring becomes more challenging.” 

Once your data is accessed outside of your company’s boundaries, it becomes more susceptible to a breach. By performing a security assessment, you are taking the first step in creating and maintaining the safety of your organization’s data.

Challenges of Security Assessments in a Distributed Environment

A graphic showing people on a video conference call from a variety of devices, illustrating some of the security assessment challenges in a distributed environment.

Assessing your organization’s security can feel daunting when you have to account for employees accessing company information while traveling or working from home, using public Wi-Fi or personal devices. While it may be tempting to procrastinate on performing a security assessment, these changes make it more important to stay up to date with regular assessments.

We’ve outlined a few of the top challenges you might face and our advice on how to tackle them.

Multiple Devices, Multiple Locations

In a distributed environment, your employees are using personal devices linked to their home networks or public networks. One of the challenges businesses face is trying to assess these different endpoints and minimize the risk of a data breach in this type of environment.

“If you have 50 people working outside of your office, you could have 50 different firewalls,” says Jean. “That’s 50 different firewall passwords. There’s so much diversity in the equipment and configurations that people have.”

Here are a few things to consider when assessing your security and next steps so you can make your IT environment safer and more secure:

Establishing A Safe Perimeter

A perimeter includes all of the devices inside of a network, the security system that monitors and protects it, and the network itself. When you’re operating in a distributed environment, one way to reduce your risk of a cyberattack is to create a secure environment within your employees’ perimeter. When establishing a safe perimeter, it’s vital to:

  • Set Up 2FATwo-factor authentication is an extra layer of security you can require for most services or applications being used to access company data. Even if a password is compromised, a 2FA login requires a second form of approval to allow interaction with secured data. All systems that support 2FA should have it configured and required.
  • Set Up 2 Environments — In a distributed environment, it’s difficult to expect employees to use the best practices when accessing work data on personal devices. It’s a good idea to separate the two environments the best you can by providing company devices that are encrypted to protect your data. Employees should only be allowed to access company data from managed, company devices. If this is not possible, there are other options, such as using Cisco Umbrella on all devices that access company data.
Despite the security assessment challenges in a distributed environment, one key piece of advice is to establish a safe network perimeter using the tips in this infographic and the rest of our blog post.

Educating Your Users

Employee error is a major contributor to data breaches for businesses, especially in a distributed environment. Data from a recent Malwarebytes Labs report shows that 20% of businesses surveyed have had their security breached during the pandemic as the result of a remote worker.

All of your employees must be trained to effectively use their devices in the safest way possible and be aware of all company security policies. When a company has policies in place, employees can use them to fall back on when uncertain about how to interact with company data.

“It’s good practice to have a policy requiring phones to be encrypted; make sure you have secure logins enabled with PIN, facial recognition, or fingerprints; make sure you have the ability to wipe if it gets lost or stolen; and so on,’” says Jean. “When we tell people to set those three things up, it’s received well. Most employees are happy to protect their environment and just didn’t know that those things existed or how to do them.” 

Overcoming Misconceptions

Businesses have little to no control over personal firewalls or the other devices that may interact with company data, which is all the more reason not to wait to conduct a security assessment. Don’t let these common misconceptions get in the way of performing this essential task:

Security Assessments Are Not Penetration Testing

“Some people think of an assessment as just penetration testing, where a security company is coming in and trying to poke holes in your network,” says Jean. “That’s not the case. This is a self-assessment.”

When IT support performs an assessment, it’s for the betterment of the company. The goal is to assess the risks and determine how to implement procedures that prevent breaches. 

Consider Risk When Evaluating Cost 

One of the biggest misconceptions about security assessments is that they will cost a fortune. But a security assessment should only ever be an assessment. Its purpose is to give your organization the information it needs to decide which security measures it’s going to take, as well as which can be handled in-house and which should be outsourced. Contrary to popular belief, an assessment should give your company more insight and control over its security practices.

Imagine how much the downtime, loss of business, and data recovery of a data breach would cost your business. You have to account for the standards within your field to determine the risk you’re willing to take. Without regular security assessments, however, you lack the information necessary to properly evaluate your risk.

It’s also important to note that security assessments shouldn’t take place only when there is a breach. Perform assessments annually so you can make informed decisions about your security vulnerabilities. Once you’ve had your initial assessment, subsequent ones are like a checkup, making it even more critical to take that first step now.

Get Expert Security Assessments with Guardian

If you need help performing a security assessment, give the experts at Guardian Computer a call. With fair pricing, a foolproof assessment formula, and actionable solutions, Guardian will evaluate your IT infrastructure and empower you to make the best decisions for your organization.

By creating a detailed roadmap of your IT needs and providing solutions catered to what we find, Guardian can improve the effectiveness and security of your business’ IT. Contact us today to find out more.

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.

Every business is concerned with minimizing expenses, but most don’t consider the true cost of network downtime. The cost of network downtime is the total cost of lost productivity, lost revenue, recovery costs, and intangible costs associated with downtime.

With so many other costs and concerns competing for your attention, it is all too easy for technology to fall to the bottom of the list. Maintaining employees, property upkeep, or any of the million other expenses that affect your business can feel more urgent—not to mention, you may have a better grasp on their solutions.

However, technology malfunctions like network downtime impact both productivity and revenue, while also incurring additional costs. If you’re trying to lower your business expenses, investing in quality technology and IT support will reduce your long-term costs.

If you find yourself wondering if investing in network technology, monitoring, and support is worth it for your business, you might want to weigh the cost of network downtime before planning your yearly budget. Keep reading to learn exactly what network downtime is, what it costs, what causes it, and how to prevent it.

What Is Network Downtime?

Your organization’s computer network is what controls interactions between the many devices and digital platforms that help run your business, including desktops, laptops, phones, smart appliances, company websites or servers, and more. Your network allows these devices and platforms to communicate with one another and access the internet.

Network downtime occurs when this digital network shuts down or becomes unavailable for use. Downtime can be either planned or unplanned.

When your IT team needs to make important technology updates, they may have to turn off your network temporarily. By planning ahead, your IT team can schedule the outage during a time that works best for your organization, such as after business hours.

When we talk about the consequences and cost of network downtime, we are discussing unplanned network outages. Unplanned network downtime can not only be a financial drain on your business, but also indicate potentially serious issues for your IT, such as a cyberattack.

The Real Cost of Network Downtime

When your digital network slows or goes down, there can be serious consequences for your business. Employees can’t access the tools or information they need to get their work done. Your team, stakeholders, and customers aren’t able to communicate. You may have to shut your entire office down for the day, if not longer.

The bottom line is that in the digital age, when your network goes down, so does your business.

Data from Gartner indicates that the average cost of network downtime for businesses is $5,600 per minute. This can vary greatly from one company to another, but there are many formulas available to calculate your unique cost of network downtime.

Use our formula to calculate the cost of network downtime: add the losses to both productivity and revenue, as well as recovery costs and intangible costs.

In the end, these calculations all come down to the sum of your losses and costs associated with a downtime incident. To calculate the total cost of network downtime, add the losses to both productivity and revenue, as well as your recovery costs and intangible costs.

Losses in Revenue and Productivity

Lost revenue is often the biggest cost of network downtime. When systems fail, they impact your company’s ability to carry out its services and earn money.

How much profit does your company make on average per hour? For every hour of downtime, you lose out on that potential profit.

There are also intangible costs related to your profitability to consider, such as the potential loss of current customers, loss of reputation and future sales, or drop in stock price.

Directly related to your loss in revenue is your loss of productivity. When a network failure occurs, it often impacts your personnel’s ability to perform their jobs. This not only results in a loss in profit during the hours your network is down, but also the cost of paying your employees during time they cannot work efficiently or at all.

Similarly, there are intangible costs related to productivity you must take into account. If employees can’t do anything while the network is down, their work and project deadlines will have to be moved around. This can cause missed deadlines, project delays, customer dissatisfaction, and all-around confusion that your organization must spend even more time and energy addressing.

Recovery and Intangible Costs

Recovering from network downtime comes with its own set of costs. To get your network up and running again, you may need to pay for replacement parts or repair services.

Once your network is running, you might have to pay for employee overtime to catch up on work and meet deadlines. If the outage resulted in data loss, there may be data recovery costs as well. An outage can also cause supply chain delays and related fees.

There are also a number of unexpected, intangible costs that can arise when a network goes down. Although they are harder to anticipate, they are nonetheless important to consider when weighing the potential cost of network downtime.

Intangible costs include those related to revenue and productivity, such as missed deadlines, project delays, loss of customers, loss of reputation and future sales, and drop in stock price. They can also include public relations costs if your business needs to recover its reputation or legal fees if your downtime resulted in a breach of contract, compliance violation, or lost or stolen data.

Top 3 Causes of Network Downtime

To avoid network downtime, you should understand what causes it in the first place. There are 3 major causes of network downtime to look out for in your organization.

Human error, equipment failure, and lack of cybersecurity are top causes contributing to the cost of network downtime.

1. Human Error

Human error is a common culprit for tech problems. It can cost you network downtime, among other issues.

Common mistakes can lead to network downtime, including:

  • Failure to regularly update software applications or server hardware.
  • Improper software installs on your business devices.
  • Accidentally unplugging or detaching power plugs for key network devices, such as routers or desktop computers.

2. Equipment Failure

Equipment failure is another common cause of network downtime. This can be the result of low-quality technology or improper care and maintenance.

It’s possible for server hardware—even recently upgraded server hardware—to shut down when overheated. Technology can get overheated without constant air conditioning to cool the equipment. Interruptions from a power source can also result in network disruption.

3. Lack of Cybersecurity

A lack of cybersecurity is not only a concern for the security of your network, but also the security of any information system or sensitive data that passes through your organization. Employee ignorance, outdated or nonexistent security software, or the absence of a robust, proactive cybersecurity approach could mean huge losses for your business—beyond simply the cost of network downtime.

Without proper cybersecurity, you leave your organization open to phishing, viruses, malware, ransomware, and other major security threats to businesses. All it takes is one wrong move from an employee to open your network up to a cybercriminal.

If you are not carefully monitoring your network and systems, a hacker could remain in your network undetected for days, if not weeks or months. The longer a criminal spends in your network, the more access they can gain and damage they can cause.

Once inside, a cybercriminal could take down your network. But downtime will be the least of your worries. The hacker could be stealing your sensitive information or even holding it ransom.

Network Downtime Solutions and Proactive Prevention

Fortunately, the cost of network downtime can be prevented! There are several proactive measures you can take to avoid or minimize your downtime.

1. Professional Equipment Maintenance and Lifecycle Management by a Reputable Managed Services Provider

The best way to prevent equipment failure is to take extra care when selecting, handling, and replacing your hardware and software. Purchase quality equipment and keep it well-maintained so it will perform its best and your organization can operate efficiently. At the same time, regularly review your inventory of equipment and replace older tech before it slows down your operations or breaks, resulting in unplanned downtime.

If it doesn’t make sense for your budget to upgrade certain equipment, consider simply keeping your software up to date whenever possible. Staying on top of software updates can optimize your technology’s performance and minimize your chances of network downtime.

Without an IT background, it can be difficult to know how to balance quality with cost when purchasing equipment and determining when to replace it. A reputable managed services provider will have the latest industry knowledge and firsthand experience required to help your business select the right equipment for the long run—without overspending on unneeded bells and whistles.

2. Boosting Cybersecurity

A rule of thumb for cybersecurity is that there is always room for more! Whether it’s purchasing security software or training your staff, cybersecurity is an investment that continues to yield benefits for your business.

There are more ways than one to improve your security, allowing you to choose solutions that fit your needs and budget. Using antivirus and anti-malware software is a great place to start. Look for highly rated security programs that have the features you’re looking for. If you already have this software, make sure there are protocols in place to keep it up to date.

Data encryption is another critical security tool. It turns your sensitive information into gibberish for anyone attempting to view it without the key. Even if a hacker gains access to your information, it is useless without the encryption key.

In addition to cybersecurity measures that prevent attacks, it is important to keep an eye out for issues and prepare for the possibility of a successful attack. Continuous monitoring of your network and systems allows you to spot potential problems right away. This can help stop hackers before they can access or get them out as soon as possible. You should also back up your data and develop a disaster recovery plan so you can act quickly and efficiently if you are attacked.

If you’re not sure what’s best for your business, consult with an IT expert to make the most of your cybersecurity budget.

3. Due Diligence Assessment

An IT due diligence assessment will evaluate the effectiveness of your network and systems. Even if you have an IT team, their evaluations will be inherently biased. Getting a third-party assessment can help you better understand the technology needs of your business.

A thorough due diligence assessment should review your IT infrastructure, systems, personnel, and processes. It can identify areas where your organization could improve, as well as provide a plan for how to make those improvements. If there are redundancies or cost-saving opportunities, a good due diligence assessment will reveal them.

4. Employee Training

Employees are the first line of cyber defense for your organization. Human error is a big problem, but a solvable one.

Invest in periodic IT and cybersecurity training for all employees. Everyone at your organization should know how to operate the technology they need to perform their jobs. Not only will this reduce equipment failures, but also it should improve productivity and efficiency.

Your employees should also understand cybersecurity basics, such as creating strong passwords, keeping antivirus and anti-malware software up to date, and knowing how to spot phishing, ransomware, or other cyberattacks. As more and more employees switch to remote work, they should also know what precautions to take while using public Wi-Fi and other cybersecurity best practices for travelers and remote workers.

For bigger IT and cybersecurity issues, make sure your IT team or IT provider is available to field employee questions, concerns, and issues.

Avoid the Cost of Network Downtime with Guardian Computer

An IT professional explaining the cost of network downtime.

If you’re concerned about the cost of network downtime, seek assistance from the highly trained professionals at Guardian Computer. With decades of combined cross-industry experience, as well as a commitment to customer service and growing alongside changing technology, we are ready to meet your IT challenges head on.

We want to help you make the most of your current technology, while also preparing you for the future. Technology should serve your needs and support your bottom line, not drain your time and resources. Our expert recommendations and responsive IT support turn technology into an asset instead of an enemy.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your next IT project or provide for all your IT and cybersecurity needs!

Whether you’re grocery shopping, working at a coffee shop, or waiting in an airport, public WiFi is a convenient way to hop online. Unfortunately, it’s also a risky one. Hackers take advantage of the lax security and easy access that often accompanies public WiFi.

If you need to connect to public WiFi, you should take precautions to maintain the security of your device and information. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is one of the most common privacy measures for public WiFi usage. But many users still wonder, is it safe to use public WiFi with a VPN? Are there any risks?

While VPNs are generally considered an essential security tool for remote work and other public network usage, there are weaknesses that can still leave your work and personal data vulnerable to cybercriminals. Keep reading to learn more about using VPNs, their security benefits and shortcomings, and our expert tips for using public WiFi.

What Makes Public WiFi Risky?

On an unsecured network, hackers may be able to spy on the information you send, such as when you enter a password or credit card information on a website. They may even be able to monitor the keystrokes you make on your keyboard, allowing them to record your logins or private conversations.

Cybercriminals can also circulate malware or launch worm attacks over unsecured WiFi. Even public WiFi networks that require a password aren’t safe if that same password is readily available to anyone in the establishment, such as a coffee shop or doctor’s office.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN allows a user’s devices to connect to a private network over a public network. VPNs were created to securely connect devices within a business network to private internet servers. They allow network users to access their business network remotely from home, another office, or elsewhere using public WiFi.

How Do VPNs Work?

Is it safe to use public WiFi with a VPN? Check out our infographic or keep reading to find out.

A VPN works by connecting your computer, tablet, or smartphone to a server, so you can go online using the server’s internet connection. The public WiFi network is only used to connect your device to the server, rather than to any of the websites or applications you subsequently access.

A VPN grants you access to a private, anonymous network, which is very appealing if you handle sensitive information. VPNs use encryption to scramble your data and make it unreadable when it’s sent over a public network.

Without a VPN, an internet service provider has access to your entire browsing history, from the websites you visit to the passwords you enter. That’s because web activity is normally associated with a local IP address. A VPN allows you to funnel your own internet traffic through a private server, so your activity is associated with that server’s IP address rather than your own. This effectively masks your location and keeps your online activity and data private.

How Safe Is It to Use Public WiFi with a VPN?

A VPN app open on a smartphone and laptop, illustrating one way to more safely use public WiFi.

Both the Federal Trade Commission and Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommend the use of VPNs while using public WiFi. Even so, many people still wonder exactly how safe it is to use public WiFi with a VPN.

Generally, a VPN is an important security measure to have in place. But there is a vulnerability that occurs at the moment you connect to a public WiFi network.

Most public networks will allow devices to automatically connect to the WiFi. However, you must open a browser to what’s called a “captive portal.” There, you manually agree to local terms of service before actually being allowed to access any websites.

Despite being connected to the internet and having a VPN, there is a gap in coverage after you connect to WiFi but before you can turn on your VPN. This brief period leaves you vulnerable to risks associated with public, unsecured networks.

Although you face risks during this vulnerable period, it is only for a very limited amount of time. Using a VPN in public is still much safer than logging onto a public network without any additional digital protection.

Do VPNs Have Additional Security Features?

As VPNs have become more popular, VPN service providers have found other ways that their services can protect your data while in public.

Some VPN services offer a feature called an “Internet Kill Switch,” for example. In the event that your VPN connection is ever interrupted or disconnected, this feature protects your device and its data from prying eyes. It works by blocking all internet-bound traffic to your device until the connection with your VPN is reestablished.

VPN clients may offer an Internet Kill Switch at a granular application level. If you are using a VPN to access particularly sensitive applications and information, this tool is incredibly valuable. At the moment a VPN disconnects, the Kill Switch would close that sensitive application and require it to be manually reopened after reestablishing a secure connection.

For those who need an additional level of security when accessing public WiFi, finding a VPN service with an Internet Kill Switch is an excellent option.

Safety Tips for Using Public WiFi

While having a VPN can bring peace of mind while using public WiFi, there are still a number of other measures you should take to keep your data safe—no matter where you are.

  • Use strong passwords. No matter how secure your network is, a weak password leaves you vulnerable to hackers. Ensure that your passwords contain a healthy mix of case-sensitive letters, numbers, and other characters. Avoid including personal information, such as your birthdate or pet’s name, which can often be found on social media. Do not repeat passwords you have already used or reuse the same password for multiple accounts, or else a breach of one can compromise them all. Do not leave your password written on a sticky note on your desk or send it in plain text via email, instant message, or text message.
  • Don’t leave your device signed in while unattended. It’s all too easy for a smartphone to get stolen off a desk or out of a bag. If you’re working in a public space, be aware of your surroundings and your possessions. Even in your company building, you never know if a delivery person or visitor might come across your computer while you’re in the bathroom. Log off of any device whenever you are not actively using it. Keep any portable devices you aren’t currently using in a secure case or bag within your sight.
  • Turn off automatic connectivity. Some phones will automatically connect to open WiFi networks as soon as they’re in range. If your device connects to an unsecured network and you don’t immediately enable a VPN for protection, you’re leaving yourself at risk of having your information stolen.
  • Enable two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires two verifications before users can log into an account. In the event that your password is compromised, two-factor authentication will keep unwanted guests from accessing your account by requiring more than just that password. If an unauthorized user fails to bypass the two-factor authentication, you will be alerted. This gives you the chance to change your password and protect your private information.
  • Beware of phishing. Even with a VPN in place, a successful phishing text or email can easily collect your sensitive information. A phishing message appears to be from a trusted company or individual, but is actually from a cybercriminal. It will usually ask you to visit a link, open an attachment, or confirm your identity or login information. Fast-paced communications and interactions, such as texting, can make people more prone to click on links, playing right into phishing schemes.

How to Set Up and Use a VPN

In addition to other cybersecurity best practices, using a VPN is a wise choice, whether for personal or business use. Setting one up for the first time isn’t as difficult as you might think. You have the option to set up a VPN for your entire home network or on individual devices.

Setting Up a VPN at Home

If you frequently work from home or want additional home protection, setting up a VPN for your entire home network is a good idea. This means that any device that connects to the internet at your home will be using a secure and protected network. However, adding this extra step can slow down web traffic, which may lead to longer loading times for all users.

When setting up a VPN at home, there are a few options that you can choose from:

  1. Get a router with VPN capabilities. Some higher end routers come with built-in VPN servers that are ready to go out of the box. If your home office is your primary office, this may be an appealing option. The process is completely automated, and your server will automatically connect all your internet devices to the VPN without the need for an additional VPN app or service. Once those devices are removed from your home network, however, they will not be protected by the VPN.
  2. See if your current router supports third-party firmware. Routers actually have their own operating systems, known as firmware. If you have some advanced technical skills under your belt, it’s also possible to replace your current router’s firmware with one that can support a VPN in order to secure your home’s WiFi network.
  3. Set up your own dedicated VPN server. To set up a dedicated VPN server, you’ll need a computer that’s on all the time, rather than a desktop you turn off when you’re done using it. This option also requires some technical ability. But if you’re a business owner, setting up a dedicated VPN server for all employees to use can be a smart choice.

Using VPN Services and Apps in Public

If you need to work at coffee shops, hotels, airports, or other public places, then VPN services and apps are a more appropriate choice for keeping your data secure. These apps download onto individual devices so that you can bring the security of a VPN with you, no matter where you are.

VPN app services are available for an annual or monthly subscription, which often varies from around $4 to $12 per month. Examples include NordVPN, TunnelBear, and ProtonVPN. These apps will typically allow a set number of devices to operate on a single VPN account, with scalable options for adding more user licenses and servers on business accounts.

Many VPN apps work with a variety of browsers and operating systems, such as Windows 10, macOS, iOS, Android, and Google Chrome. These apps offer a host of features, such as easy-to-use interfaces, good speed tests, affordability, and a number of servers located around the world for additional security.

In addition, many VPN services come with prepackaged installers. After you decide on a VPN service, setup can be relatively straightforward once the proper permissions and settings are in place.

If you own a business and are looking to get a VPN for your employees, IT professionals can set up a VPN on a variety of devices (both hard-wired and mobile) that regularly connect to your business network. Ask your IT department or managed service provider, or contact an IT company to provide this setup service.

Set Up a VPN and Improve Network Security with Guardian Computer

Guardian Computer is a full-service IT provider with over 100 years of combined experience in the tech solutions industry. We’ve worked with a wide variety of businesses to protect their data, including everything from setting up VPNs to networking services, cybersecurity, and data backup and recovery.

Our expertise means you can rest easy, knowing your IT project is professionally handled and our team is preparing your organization for potential issues before they ever become a problem. Whether you need help with a single IT project or want us to fully manage your IT, we have a wide range of services to meet your business’ unique needs. Where you see a tech headache, we see a new challenge to tackle!

Ready to talk to someone on our team? Contact us today to learn how Guardian Computer can protect your business!