A Note on the Recent Cyber-Attack

June 14th, 2017 No comments

You’ve probably recently heard about the cyber-attack that was executed on an unprecedented scale. The attack was executed globally with more than 150 countries affected; companies of all sizes and various government agencies were targeted. Known as “WannaCry”, this ransomware gains access into the computer, encrypts data, and locks the user out until a ransom has been paid. This has been an increasingly popular tool for hackers who use vulnerabilities in security and software to exploit business for financial gain.

While not an extensive list, we wanted to give you a reminder on basic steps to take to increase your security and decrease your risk for attacks like this one.

  1. Review with every member of your organization the importance of careful browsing habits. It is strongly suggested to never click on unknown links, especially those embedded in email. (This cannot be stressed enough, as the recent examples we’ve seen have resulted from users opening an email that at first glance appeared to be legitimate.)
  2. Assure that all apps (for example your browser; Flash; Java; etc.) are updated with the latest versions, contingent upon compatibility with your company’s third party applications; and that all relevant Microsoft security updates (patches) have been installed.
  3. Make certain that you have a good backup. Intellicom may or may not manage your backup already – if you’re not sure please contact our helpdesk.

This is real and very serious, and we continue to see examples of local companies and individuals being affected by malware.

If you would like our assistance in implementing any of these steps, please let us know by calling us at (308) 237-0684, option 1. We believe that these types of attacks and exploits will continue into the foreseeable future and will require us all to be ever more vigilant with the security of our networks. Intellicom is committed to staying on top of the most current toolsets to help you protect your business.

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How to Know it’s Time for a New Website

April 19th, 2017 No comments

There are several signs to indicate that a website needs to be updated. Outdated design and functionality are a classic sign because it’s easy to notice the pain and hassle of trying to navigate a site that wasn’t designed for modern browsing. The thing is, our detection system sometimes turns a blind eye when it comes to our own sites. Apply these three areas of inspection to your own site and see where yours stands.

Outdated

Like stated in the opening, outdated design is one of the easiest things to check for but sometimes is hard to identify in your own site. One of the biggest telltale signs that your design needs an update is if your site over explains what it is trying to convey to your audience.

Modern design has been moving more and more towards visually telling your story. Think about breaking up large chunks of text into “bite size” chunks that allow users to scan and easily find what they are looking for.

A website being outdated doesn’t only refer to its look and feel either. One sign of a website that needs a revamp is having an outdated content management system. The problem with having a faulty or older content management system is that sometimes support for security is stopped and your website could be at a higher risk for malicious attacks without you even knowing.

Lack of Functionality

Having your site work for you includes working for your customer as well. This is to say that having features on your site that actively contribute to your business goals is important. Enticing customers with helpful content, then capturing your visitors with online forms and registrations is vital for turning your website into an active asset to your company.

The other side of the coin is that your website needs to be helpful for your visitors as well. Along with providing helpful content through your website, you also need to focus on navigation. Having intuitive navigation helps visitors find that great content fast and easily. Check your website, do you have a website that offers value to your visitors and your company?

Fear of the Unknown

Can you easily run analytics on your existing site?  Do you know what is working and what is not?  When it comes down to it, you can have a great looking website but you will still be missing a key element if you don’t know how it performs. That’s because the key to a successful website is tracking how it performs and reinforcing what works.

With analytic systems like Google Analytics, you can track how individual pages are performing in your website so you can tweak that site to perform better and better.

There is no magic formula when it comes to creating a great site.  Although there are factors that generally help with all websites, each business and their respective audiences require different strategies that work best for them. With the right website, you have the potential to have an asset that actively works for you 24/7. Take these steps to help determine if you should start looking for web providers that help you unlock the right solution for your specific needs. 

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Office 365: What You Need to Know

March 13th, 2017 No comments

Office 365 is the latest in the modern push for services that allow businesses and individuals alike to take advantage of having enterprise level software at a fixed monthly fee. If you are new to Office 365 or are thinking about whether it is right for you, there are a few defining aspects of the new software that you should know.

Applications Offered

With Office 365 you can choose your bundle.  Many Office 365 bundles contain all the applications that were previously available in the Microsoft Office Suite. This includes Word, Excel, Publisher, Powerpoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Access. This aspect of Office 365 is on par with previous versions of Microsoft’s Office software.

This is important to know because it means that the transition will be smooth in terms of how you use the applications you are already familiar with. Changes that Office 365 brings from previous versions are how you can now use these applications to collaborate and increase efficiency.

Cloud Based

Office 365 has taken to the cloud. All activity that you do on the included applications will be saved and stored online. Cloud-based computing can completely change the way that you work with your team and can increase productivity greatly. When you have all your working documents set up in the cloud, you can have that file available to any team member with any edits being made to everyone in real-time. Not only this, but all updates are done over the cloud which allows users to continually have the latest updates instantly.

The cloud-based service also applies to how to get started with Office 365. In most cases, there isn’t any physical CD or hardware that comes with Office 365.  All installation is done over the internet, which makes it simple to install for many users.

Subscription Pricing

With the increasingly popular payment structure, Office 365 operates on a subscription based billing schedule. So instead of one, large, upfront cost; users pay annually or monthly at a lower cost. This could be appealing to businesses that desire being able to budget for the service without having to worry about one large payment that they must pay again when they need new software.

Security

Much debate has been said over security of cloud-based software. Businesses want to be assured that their information is secure and they need software that does that.  With the rising use, programs like Office 365 are only becoming more secure. As stated earlier, since you are automatically getting the latest updates online, your software will always have the newest security patches and additions with Office 365.

Bottom Line

If you decide to should make the switch to the cloud based Office 365, you need to take into consideration exactly how this software works. Understanding the cloud, payments, and security may require further research. Consult with professionals to get the most from your Office 365 and see how it can boost business in the connected world.

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4 Tech Trends that Will Shape Small Business in 2017

February 10th, 2017 No comments

A new year always has the tendency for bringing new changes to businesses large and small. Both internally and externally, companies must evolve to continually compete with the ever growing competitive landscape.  For small businesses, technology is bringing some key trends that could potentially change the way we do business.  These four are key areas you should pay attention to in 2017 as small business is increasingly utilizing them all to become more adept in the modern world.

1. Cloud Computing

Cloud has been popular over the last few years with small business but looks to be taking another leap in 2017.  A large part of this is the expanding availability of analytics that small businesses are beginning to utilize.  No longer is in-depth data analysis limited to large enterprises.  New software is allowing more companies gather data to help them make better decisions and a large portion of that is being done with cloud services.

Cloud services like Office 365, Salesforce, and Google Drive are continuing to help small business shift to internet based services; providing management and data sharing capabilities that rapidly becoming more mainstream

2. Subscription Bases Services

More businesses are opting to a subscription based sales model in industries that have traditionally never done so; think companies like Dollar Shave Club that take something like razors and make it into a monthly subscription. The benefits like recurring payments create easier sales projections for small business; while consumers also benefit from the ease of an automatic payment while receiving what they need monthly.

For small businesses, this form of recurring payments has benefits that include more stability and an increased capability for accurate budgeting and planning.  Look for more businesses to develop ways to add subscription services for their consumers.

3.  AI Support

Machine learning has taken off in the last year and 2017 may be when we see an explosion of the applications in action; one being online support.  With the advance in technology, small businesses can now able to utilize “smart bots” that can live chat with customers via instant messaging and solve a multitude of problems for them.  This may raise some eyebrows among small businesses because it allows them to handle a much larger workload with less manpower.

One such bot is Facebook’s version of this technology.  Companies can utilize “Answerbot” on their Facebook pages and after connecting the bot to their information base, have the program respond to customers right away.  Technology like Answerbot is only becoming more advanced, too.

4. Cyber-Security

Ok, so security isn’t something that’s exactly new in 2017.  With this being said, the trend remains a top priority for small business because of the new trends and the overall societal trend.  That is an exponentially expanding network of technologies that are being connected.  Cloud computing, subscription based services, AI support; they all create massive opportunity but they also demand a high level of security because they lead the way in that tech connection.

The technology age has led the way for many years and doesn’t plan to stop in 2017.  The fact is, machines are becoming smarter and doing so paves the way for small businesses to have access to elements that have, up until now, have been solely available to large enterprises. Though there are many expanding aspects of tech, keep these trends in mind as you begin your new year, because technology isn’t slowing down.

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5 Ways to Increase Your Security This On-Line Shopping Season

November 18th, 2016 No comments

The holiday season marks a time of the year known for joyous times with friends and family.  Unfortunately, with the ever increasing shift towards online shopping, the holidays also represent a time of great risk; especially when buying gifts for loved ones.  These tips offer a great start to decreasing your chance to falling victim.

1. Strong Passwords

One of the most tried and true online safety measures is ensuring you have a secure password on your online accounts.  This includes involving a healthy mix of upper-case, lower-case, numbers, and special characters in that password.

This may seem like a no brainer to some, but far too many people still use simple entries out of convenience that create mounted risks which are never worth the extra moments it would take to remember and type in a complex password.

2. Familiar Sites

With the growing array of sites to shop at, it’s important to know that the ones that you visit are verified retailers. Of course, the reason for this is because when you’re shopping online, you are entering very sensitive information into these sites.

One way to spot a secure website is to check to see if the URL is certified and secure.  If the given URL begins with “https”, rather than just “http”, it means that the owner of that site has gone through a validation process to ensure its security.  You should also be aware of the domain in general.

Often times, phishing sites will mimic actual companies in an attempt to trick people into giving them that prized personal information (such as credit card numbers).  Simply taking a second to ensure you are at a legitimate site can save you big in the long run.

3. Keeping Up with Balances

Not only is monitoring your checking account balances and reconciling purchases a good habit for personal finance; it’s also a valuable tool in staying secure while you’re actively online shopping.  When you take note of your recent purchases, you can save valuable time when noticing unauthorized purchases and taking the steps to quickly stop any further damage from occurring.

4. One-Card

Having all your on-line purchases on a single card simplifies the process and makes it much easier to track where you’ve been and whether the purchases are correct.  Like many things, simplicity can lead to security as it’s generally easier to fortify and protect one spending card in contrast to multiple cards in multiple places.

5. Anti-Virus/Malware Software

In addition to all the practical steps you take to decrease your risk, having a solid base in anti-virus/malware software is always a smart idea for safety.  Many times, our manual attempts can have a human error factor; forgetting one of the above steps simply happens and when it does, having software protection can make the save.

While deciding what software is right for you could be a much longer discussion, but professional providers often can help with this council.  This is important because while it’s paramount to have some form of protection software, there could be a difference in your needs.  For example, are you needing to protect a home PC or business network?

To be clear, advanced cybercrime is not going to be completely preventable, no matter what you do.  These steps are a great way to begin to reduce your risk.  Anything that makes your account more difficult to break into can go miles for your financial security.

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3 Reasons Your Next Budget Should Include Updating Tech

October 19th, 2016 No comments

The time of the year has come again for many businesses.  The time for budgeting.  Budgets can often create headaches for those who decide where the dollars go. With all the different matters pressing, many times there are opportunities missed.  One such instance is an aspect of a business that’s often overlooked, but no less important; your hardware and software technology.

Many businesses don’t realize that when you invest in hardware and software, the rewards last much longer than the initial purchase and can often affect your business positively in more than one way.

Reoccurring Costs

There are several ways that dated hardware and software can cost you in the long run through reoccurring costs.  One of these are the warranties that are tied with certain products.  It will progressively cost you more and more for the warranties on your products as they get older.  So when you update your tech, you aren’t only getting the perks that come with newer technology (we’ll cover this next), you are also saving money by easing the repeated cost of warranties.

Not many companies think about the operational costs that come with aging tech.  For the most part, the more modern your equipment is, the better features you are going to have and some of these will save you big in operating costs, namely energy consumption.  Now, energy consumption may seem like something that isn’t going to affect your budget enough to make a dent, but if you take something like servers and workstations that are constantly running, energy efficiency can add up.

Productivity

There are some obvious reasons for increased productivity from updating hardware and software and then there are some not-so-obvious ones.  One of the reasons for increased productivity after updating your equipment is because the new and more efficient features that many times accompany new releases.  Despite the learning curve that sometimes factors in, the features can pay off in no time with a more efficient office.

With this being said, there should be a word of caution for companies that only update certain parts of their business with new equipment.  Sometimes newer technology only operates successfully with other new technology.  For instance, if you purchase new computer monitors but have dated printers or scanners, there is a chance that there will be compatibility issues.  That’s why it’s equally important to do your research before making these decisions.

Security

At Intellicom, we regularly highlight the importance of online security because it’s absolutely vital to the longevity of your business.  Well, updating the technology in your office is going to directly influence the level this security, particularly with software.

One of the large issues that plague many businesses with older software is the lack of support that is available from the vendor after the software reaches a certain age.  Much like warranties, vendors tend to allocate more resources around maintenance and security to the newest versions of their products.  The result is that you may eventually be left without the necessary protection or support.  With one attack or extended amount of downtime having the possibility of seriously damaging a business, it’s imperative that you make sure account for the latest security software (and hardware) in your budget.

The time to budget can often sneak up on businesses and, as a result, it’s treated as a chore and many opportunities are overlooked for the staples of the budget.  Although there are more, these three examples are an excellent place to start turning that annual planning exercise into a lasting investment. 

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Setting Yourself Up for a Successful Facebook Page

September 16th, 2016 No comments

Like many different mediums, Facebook is a powerful tool for any companies marketing strategy.  The social media site is generally free to use and gives you access to interact with thousands and thousands of people in your market.

Unfortunately, many businesses don’t take the time to create a proper plan when developing their Facebook business page and subsequently end up with little to no results.  Simply put, a major aspect in determining the success or failure of your Facebook page is actually going to happen before you even publish one post. These tips will get you started on what you need to know to getting the results you are looking for from Facebook and other social media sites.

Specific Goals

Without goals, you are likely to have no purpose behind your posts and the impact of that can be devastating to your page.  Having specific goals can help you determine what you want from your Facebook page and how you are going to get there. Some examples of goals for a Facebook page can be:

  • Overall brand exposure.
  • Community connection and interaction.
  • Demonstrating expertise in your area of business.
  • Sales.

These are just a glimpse at some of the things you may want to accomplish through your page.  Now, many of you may be gravitating towards the “sales” goal because, well, that is the ultimate goal.  With that being said, focusing on some of the other goals, in combination with broadcasting sales-driven content, may be more beneficial in the long run because people could be turned away by a Facebook page that merely sells to them.

Schedule Monthly

Once you have your goals set, you can begin to develop a schedule of when you want to post.  This is crucial because being current and consistent with your posting is paramount to being relevant to your audience and having a monthly calendar for this is a way to keep yourself on track.  Without scheduling ahead of time, it’s all too easy to have days go by and forget to post.

Not only is scheduling important for posting in general, but it also gives you the chance to focus on your specific goals and create posts that reflect those goals.  If you want to enhance your overall brand exposure and community connection, maybe you want to make sure you schedule in posts about your businesses community involvement or include questions for your audience to respond to. On the other hand, if you’re focusing on your expertise, you may want to schedule links to articles that explore your area of expertise or post about blog topics that your business covers.

Plan “Spontaneous” Posts

No matter what line of business you are in, audience interaction (likes, comments, opening links) is correlated to the success of your page.  Posts that highlight office life or “live photos” at business or community events are always good ways to enhance interaction with your page.  This is why planning your “spontaneous” posts ahead of time are a good strategy for maximizing the amount of posts that capitalize on this.  All it takes is thirty minutes of planning where you can go over community or company events that you can take pictures at and create social buzz.

Utilize Insights

With any goal, you need a way to measure the success of your campaign, and Facebook is no different.  Luckily, there are some very helpful tools that Facebook provides for doing just this.  When you create a Facebook page, you have the option of an “insights” tab that will show you all kinds of information on when you post, what kind of posts you have, and how successful each post is.  Explore this feature and find out where you need to tweak your strategy month to month.

While there are, of course, more elements that come to a successful social media campaign, these tips are always a good starting point.  Decide what you want from your page, make tangible goals that achieve that, and build a calendar to ensure you stay true to that strategy and successfully build a purpose-driven Facebook business page.

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Cloud vs. On-Premise Solutions: What You Need to Know

August 18th, 2016 No comments

You’ve come to the point where you have to make the decision.  The dreaded decision.  Will you host your valuable data with a cloud-based vendor or will you opt to keep it close to home with an on-premise solution?  Well, before we dive into the pros and cons of each, we should probably cover what each option entails.

Cloud computing usually consists of your data sitting in a secure data center maintained by the third party vendor.  The client then connects to this vendor, and their data, via a secure internet connection.

On the other hand, the on-premise option is a little more self-explanatory.  Like the name states, this is when the client physically stores their data on servers that are located on their own premise.

So which of these options should you choose?  Well, like most technology decisions, it’s not so much of which option is superior, it’s more about which option is better for you based on your individual circumstances and needs.

Reliability

The strengths that cloud and on-premise solutions provide for reliability can also be their weaknesses.  For example, with cloud, you are very reliant on an internet connection in order to connect with your data.  This means that if the internet is down, so are you.  An on-premise server doesn’t rely on an internet because the physical servers reside in your building.

With this being said, the cloud’s reliability and redundancy can also be a benefit.  If an instance occurs when your on-premise servers are compromised, such as a natural disaster, the downtime will likely be significant.  With the same natural disaster, having your data in the cloud will prevent this downtime.  As long as you have an internet connection, you can access your data from anywhere in the world.

Cost

The cost can sometimes be misleading in the cloud vs. on-premise storage debate.  You can begin by comparing the higher up-front costs of on-premise storage with the usually ongoing subscription costs of the cloud. Another thing to think about is making sure you have adequate bandwidth to access your data in the cloud.

This isn’t where the costs come to an end, though.  Particularly with the on-premise storage, there are a number of on-going costs that people usually don’t think of right away.  You are going to need IT professionals that can maintain and update servers and buying more servers as you require more storage is a distinct possibility.  Even electricity must be taken into consideration when accounting for a room full of servers that must be consistently powered and cooled.

Security

Security is an issue that is many times at the forefront of any decision making; especially with technology.

Although you may have more control over your data with on-premise solutions, storing your data with the cloud usually means getting access to world class security for fraction of the cost.

There is also the matter of the breaches themselves.  Despite popular beliefs, most breaches are more about carelessness than foul intent.  It’s difficult for a company that doesn’t specialize in technology to keep their security practices up to date.

A Different Approach

There is also a third option that is gaining more ground among technology circles recently.  The hybrid approach takes aspects of both the on-premise storage and cloud storage and creates a new solution.

Many times, a company’s decision to take a hybrid approach is less about the sensitivity of the data and more about how critical the application is.  For example, a company may choose to have applications that they need on-premise while applications that aren’t as crucial, and storage of data, is opted to the cloud.

Whether you choose to store your data on-premise, in the cloud, or take a hybrid approach, considering your unique needs is paramount to finding the right solution.  Reliability, cost, and security play important roles in data management but this is by no means an exhaustive list.  Consider talking with a technology expert and make sure you are moving forward with the best option for you.

Building a Positive Relationship with Technology

July 21st, 2016 No comments

There is no denying the power of technology in our day to day lives. Technology has the capabilities to help us do great things. It takes productivity to the next level and creates avenues of communication that are unmatched. With this being said, have you ever found yourself being overly attached to your favorite mobile device or piece of technology? These simple tips, broken down to parts of the day, can help you get the most out of your technology without risking your health or relationships.

Starting Your Morning

Did you know that the average time someone spends on Facebook, per visit, is 20 minutes? This may not seem that long, but compounded, it can add up fast.  How many times have you woken up and immediately checked your phone for emails or Facebook?  The time that you’re spending on your device before you get out of bed may be more than you realize.  Just think, you could be well into your morning routine while you are still in bed for that 20 minute visit to Facebook.

Instead, try waking up and beginning your morning without looking at your phone.  Preparing for your day (showering, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast) without the distraction of tech can save you more time than you think.

Take Control of Your Day

Taking control of your day and your tech, of course, involves confronting the idea of multitasking. This is a common practice that many feel help them get more done during the day. In reality, multitasking is shown to be a detriment to productivity and downright dangerous at times.

This is arguably best exemplified with driving.  It goes without saying that using your tech while driving is not a good idea.  In fact, Edgar Snyder & Associates points out that one out of every four car accidents is caused by cell phone use.  If the urge is just too great, there are apps that can prevent you from texting or emailing while you are driving.

Another way to take control of your day is to set specific times for checking your email. This prevents unnecessary interruptions every time you receive a new email (which can be quite often).  Most devices have settings to control how you receive notifications.

Having a healthy relationship with technology doesn’t solely benefit you, either.  Ever been out with someone who is constantly looking at their phone instead of you? Consider putting your tech down during occasions where it just isn’t appropriate. Whether you are going out with friends or spending time with your kids, your full attention is just courteous to those around you.

This isn’t to say that tech can’t be helpful in social occasions. Whether finding the correct address or the best place to eat, using technology has advantages in these cases. It’s simply important to be aware of when it is or isn’t appropriate.

Settling Down

First thing in morning and the last thing at night, right? Consider avoiding screens an hour before going to bed. Studies show that exposing your eyes to the blue light that screens produce actually inhibits the melatonin that tells your brain it’s time to go to sleep.  While features like Apple’s “Night Shift” seek to reduce blue light from devices, reducing your tech use before bed remains the most effective.

As we all know, sleep pattern interruptions can have a negative effect on just about every aspect of life and be severely detrimental to your productivity throughout the day. Instead, try some activities that can lead to the natural “cool down” of the body and prepare you for sleep.

Technology is a tool that can create limitless opportunities. The catch is that this tool can be abused, like others, and become a detriment instead of a benefit. Use these tips in your own life and see how you can transform your relationship with technology for a better, more productive life than ever.

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Keys to a Successful Business Continuity Plan

June 7th, 2016 No comments

Disasters usually don’t come with an advanced warning.  Even if they did, lacking a plan on how to continue your business could prove fatal.  In fact, 40% percent of businesses don’t reopen after a disaster and another 25% fail within one year of such an event.

A business continuity plan can serve as the difference between success and failure for your business.  Although there are many characteristics to these plans, three major keys stand out as factors any business should keep in mind when planning for the unplanned.

Research

You can’t fight an enemy that you aren’t aware of.  Before you start discussing what to do in the event of a disaster, you must layout any and all scenarios that could leave you vulnerable.  This includes both natural and manmade situations that hinder your business from a slight inconvenience to major disruptions.

What are the most vital aspects of your business to keep running regardless of the circumstances?  What is the most likely disaster to befall your company?  Knowing these questions will put you in a better position when planning how each part of your business will continue on in the event of a disaster.

Response

Now that you have laid out all the scenarios that could hinder your business, it’s time to plan how each compartment will respond in such situations. This part of continuity planning needs to be as detailed as possible and provide alternatives in case “plan a” doesn’t work.

For example, if you are a technology company and you lose access to your main business office, do you have backup options that can keep your business running?  Can you still communicate with customers remotely?  Does everyone on board know how they will continue their respected duties away from the office?  Are backups for data secure? These are all questions that need to be answered when you are developing your continuity plan.

Rehearsal

So you know what threats you face and have laid out a plan to counter them and keep your business running.  Now it’s time to practice.  You need to make sure every individual knows what his or her role is when facing a disaster.  With this being said, go beyond mere knowledge.

To have a water-tight plan, you should consider staging “drills” in which you simulate a certain disaster and note how your business responds.  This could include, for example, not allowing your staff to enter the building.  Would everyone be able to function properly outside of the office?  If not, would the most essential aspects of your business be able to? Simulating disasters is a great way to test the resilience of your business continuity plan.

Unfortunately, disasters do happen and whether you are a large enterprise or a small business, you need to have a plan for when they do. It’s important to remember that this is by no means an exhaustive list of everything you need to plan for.  Tailor your plan to your specific business needs because your best solution may be different from others.  Do some research and contact a professional that can help because with a disaster, you can never be too prepared.

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