Why Regular Security Assessments Should Be Your New Normal

Security AssesmentsBy now you know that improving your cyber security is just as important as improving your cash flow – both are essential to your success. While most businesses keep an eye on the financials, they tend to think cyber security is something they can ignore or just set and forget. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new methods of attack and the security you had in place yesterday may not be sufficient today.

Instead of reacting to breaches and taking on the costs of downtime, lost files and destroyed trust, a periodic security assessment can identify blind spots that place you at risk. Once you know about these issues, you can setup adequate protection before cybercriminals strike. It is best to use independent IT experts who can audit your security from an outside perspective, often seeing risks that you would otherwise miss.

Regulations change – Are you affected?

Many businesses need to comply with strict government regulations around the way they store, process and protect data. Their operating license depends on staying as secure as possible. All regulations require regular security assessments but they vary in scope and timeframe. As regulations change, so do the security assessment requirements. You can imagine how much stricter they are now compared to just 5 years ago. Our team can ensure your business is meeting the relevant regulations, diving deep to be certain you are safe.

Security patches and updates are vital

It’s so easy to fall behind on your security patches (both for software and hardware), after all, it seems like there’s a new update every week and each one takes precious time to apply. What we are seeing though, is that cybercriminals are targeting any business running up=patched hardware or software. If you are unpatched, you are an easy target and are inviting the bad guys in. When we conduct your security assessment, we take a look at your history and see if your business has a robust patch plan in place and make sure you are up to date. If there’s an issue that is placing you at risk we will find it.

Viruses are always evolving

Just like the human variety, computer viruses are constantly evolving to skip past anti-virus scans and do damage in new and interesting ways. Cybercriminals know people are more aware of the traditional infection methods like downloading an attachment or inserting an infected USB, so they’re getting more and more creative. Your security assessment doesn’t just include ticking that you have the latest anti-virus, it includes identifying where where your biggest vulnerabilities are. This type of precise awareness has a lasting impact on reducing your risks.

Your business may have changed

As your business has grown over the years your entire setup has changed. More employees, expanded remote access, additional vendors, other locations etc. With each change has come a new risk, particularly if your security has been growing around you. It might be your password policies that haven’t been updated since you began, or that you still have the old voicemail system even though phones are within easy reach of customers. This is perhaps one of the most useful areas a security assessment can help with, as you and your employees are accustomed to the business working in a certain way, whether that way leads to risk or not. Our experts will be able to see things from a different perspective, particularly as we make sure to think the same way a cybercriminal would.

What to do with your assessment results

While many experts might present you with a long list of problems and leave you feeling overwhelmed, our team ensures you have a benchmark for progress. You will know exactly what you need to do, what takes priority and how we can help. You will also know exactly what you’ve done well and where your security strengths lie. Employees will see how much you value security, which in turn helps to create a stable culture, and you’ll be able to report your commitment to customers, confirming they’re making the right choice by staying with you.

Book your security assessment today. Call us at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

Why Your Business Needs a Firewall With Unified Threat Management

Unified Threat Management - FirewallUnified Threat Management (UTM) is a special kind of firewall solution focused on proactive protection. Consider it like a team of virtual bodyguards that stand at the door between your business and the internet, keeping trouble out while your legitimate traffic can come and go normally.

With the increasing number of connected devices in your business network and the different ways your employees can now connect, it is more important than ever to set up dedicated security systems that give integrated protection. UTM is a series of solutions that work together, simultaneously layering your protection across the board. We’ll cover the four main inclusions here and show exactly what they can do for your business.

Robust Firewall

Put simply, a firewall keeps an eye on all the data coming in and out of your network and looks for anything abnormal. While every home PC comes with a software firewall built in, those ones pale in comparison to what a UTM firewall can do. Remember the team of virtual bodyguards? Imagine the home firewall asking nicely if the data should be doing that, while the UTM slams the data to the ground and demands answers. Its job it to make sure the data entering your network is safe, that it is not part of a cyber-attack, and that in the rare event your network becomes infected, your servers aren’t being used to attack another business.

Anti-virus Where it Matters

With so much new malware being released daily, it’s easy to fall behind in updates and discover you’ve been infected. Your employees are likely doing their best, but manually scanning each file can be exhausting and time-consuming. Your UTM anti-virus is built into the firewall, ensuring known or suspicious malware is stopped at the door removing any risk. Clearly that is the best outcome possible and will allow your employees to work at maximum efficiency, while you can run your business with confidence.

Spam Blocking

Most cyber-attacks come via email these days, with either an attachment or a link. Once clicked, the malware wreaks havoc in your network. Obviously, your employees are smart enough not to open random attachments/links, so hackers use phishing emails. These are emails that look legitimate and may refer to vendors you use, financial services you have accounts with or even seem to be from other employees. Your UTM strips down each email and checks it against high-tech legitimacy markers. If it sees anything suspicious, the email is marked as spam and either held for review or bounced away.

As the phoney emails are blocked, your employees never see the emails so they can’t accidentally open up the network for attack. While the UTM is monitoring for phishing/fake emails, it’s also culling out the general spam that clogs up inboxes. Employees will no longer have to spend precious minutes each day wading through the junk, and the likelihood of missing an important customer email has greatly dropped.

Content Filtering

In a perfect world, your employees would only access work-related sites and do work-related things online. Content filtering can help you limit the risk they’re bringing into your business via their Internet browsing. Your UTM can be set to restrict sites that infect computers, such as adult content, gambling or illegal downloads. It can also be used to restrict access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, either during work hours or completely. It’s up to your policies how much you’d like to filter and whether to add any flexibility. Some businesses allow social media during lunch breaks or have special reward hours each week. Simple tweaks like this can increase productivity overnight and give you the security you’re looking for.

You can see how a layered security solution like UTM provides a space for your business to thrive, where systems are secure, employees are able to maintain efficiency, and cyber problems stay outside the doors. The way the layers work together is more effective than a patchwork of separate systems, and a UTM is much easier to configure and maintain.

We can find the right UTM solution for your business. Call us today at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au!

Why You Shouldn’t Let an Amateur Loose on Your Network?

Amateur Computer TechnicianMost of us know a fair amount about computers, even kids are soldering electronic circuits and doing programming courses in schools – but does that make everyone an IT guru? Most workplaces have an employee they can turn to for basic computer troubleshooting. Yes they have skills, but they often know just enough to be dangerous if let loose on your business network.

Casual IT skills are learned on home computers which are very different to a professional business setup. When something goes wrong on a home computer, there is no drastic impact if parts need to be replaced, data is lost or it stays down for a week or two. In a business setting, every problem costs time and money and can create a domino effect throughout the entire network. Would you gamble the success of your business with a non-professional who did a quick Google search? You wouldn’t let someone be your lawyer purely on the fact that they can deliver a good argument, nor would you let someone perform surgery just because they saw it in a video on YouTube! Businesses have unique, specialist IT needs that to go beyond amateur computer skills and there is always a lot more money and time at stake.

Designing a custom backup solution for your business is a particularly interesting area. While most home users skip this part entirely, an IT professional has seen (and recovered) all manner of situations and will use that knowledge to ensure that if the worst happens to your business, you are safe and the data can be recovered. This could mean anything from having a complete copy of your drive stored securely in the cloud or drilling down to backup only the most important data. An IT expert is equipped to help you identify the value in each piece of data and implement a plan so robust that if your business is ever hit by disaster or breach, downtime and any losses are kept to a minimum.

If a disaster ever does occur, like fire, flood or theft, would an amateur know what to do? Who to call? These situations are so charged with tension and panic and making a wrong moves can lead to more damage. A professional helps design continuity / disaster plans, which show exactly what should happen, who should do it and in what order. It takes out the guesswork during the mayhem when issues occur and minimizes downtime. Perhaps more importantly, the expertly written disaster plan will include a complete risk analysis so that you know in advance in what areas to strengthen your protection. It also includes a business analysis so you know which systems are dependent so you can stop the domino effect, plus know the legal / contractual & financial impacts and so on.

Your IT professional will also help ensure your business is meeting any regulatory requirements. Many businesses are subject to strict data rules set by the government. These regulations change often and demand increasingly more attention to data security, with hefty penalties for businesses that fall behind. Professionals are constantly in the loop around upcoming revisions and how to best comply with little to no disruption to your daily business. Part of ensuring your business is safe means staying on top of security, software updates and patching multiple computers at the same time.

The best option is to run the updates before employees arrive for the day, and since the process can take a few hours and be quite fiddly, it is generally not something amateurs will prioritize and thus they can tend to forget them. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with recent cyber-attacks, delaying a security update can lead to disaster. Engaging an IT professional is a cost-effective solution that keeps your business running, growing and earning.

Let the professionals manage your tech the right way by calling us at 08 8326 4364 or at support@dpcomputing.com.au.

What’s Best for Your Computer: Shut Down or Sleep?

Off or Sleep?Most offices and homes are trying to reduce power costs by turning off lights and appliances, but do the same rules apply to computers? After all, it requires more than flicking a switch on your way out the door. Some people believe you should shut down your computer after every use to save wear and tear, others believe you should never shut down your computer – ever. While others simply want to make sure the programs and documents they left open are still there waiting for them when they return. So, who is right and who is wrong?

Back when computers were huge behemoths that took a long time to start, you’d go nuts at the person who shut it down when it was your turn. If you have an older computer you may still do! Modern computers actually have two options for their downtime: Shut down or sleep.

When it shuts down, the system goes through and closes any open programs (often prompting you to save first), then gradually cuts power to all components. It is a  process that seems quite fast to us but is actually made of 1000+ intentionally ordered steps. If there’s a sudden blackout or you hold the power button until it turns off, these steps aren’t followed and damage may occur. The second option is to put your computer to sleep. This can be triggered by an automated timeout or a user click. Your system uses a special type of memory called RAM to hold all your running programs exactly as you left them but using minimal power. The hard drive stops spinning, the graphics card lets the screen go black, and even the system fan slows to become almost silent. When you wake it by moving the mouse or pressing a key, it ‘wakes’ again almost instantly.

Reasons to Shut Down

A switched off computer isn’t drawing power which is great for the environment. But shutting down is about more than saving power. It can sometimes give improved stability over a machine that’s been running for days/weeks. This is because every time you shut down, you give your computer a chance to clear out all temporary junk files it’s been carrying in memory. It also triggers various health checks on startup that may otherwise be missed, important routines like checking for updates or scanning for viruses. It’s certainly more convenient to spend an extra minute booting up than lose everything to a system failure or cyber-attack. For older computers or those under heavy strain like gaming or video editing, shutting down also provides a necessary chance for the components to cool down.

Reasons to Sleep

Speed is the big selling point here. You can literally sit down and start working where you left off without the delays of bootup, finding your program, opening your saved files, scrolling down… it’s all right there and ready. You can even tell it how long to wait before putting itself into sleep mode, just in case you get called away and forget.

The best method is….

Since the whole point of having a computer is that it’s ready to work when you are, we recommend shutting down at night when it’s definitely not in use but using sleep mode during the day. Updates will get all the rebooting they need, memory is refreshed for the new day, and you’ll get the best of both worlds – speed and stability.

 

We can help give your computer a service and improve your computers boot time, give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

How Fast Is My Internet?

Internet SpeedWith more and more people either moving onto the NBN or thinking of moving onto the NBN, one of the questions I often get asked is “how do I test the speed of my current internet connection?”.

Well the easiest way is to go to one (or both) of these popular speed testing websites:

SpeedTest by Oookla – www.speedtest.net
Fast by Netflix –  www.fast.com

A few things though before you perform the tests are:

  • Reboot both your router and computer.
  • To get the best results plug you device straight into your router via cable. You can test via wireless but your wireless connection may be slower than your Internet connection.
  • Perform the test multiple times over a few days and at different times of the day.
  • Make sure that no one else is using the Internet at the same time as you are doing the test.

Hope these tips help you out and if your tests don’t match the speed you are expecting contact your ISP.

How To Survive A Hard Disk Crash

How To Survive A Hard Disk CrashThere’s been a massive digitization within businesses but with that comes one gaping flaw – a hard drive crash could wipe out all your data in an instant. Nobody and no data is immune – accounts, quotes, documents, email etc. are ALL at risk.

If you’ve ever lost your data or had your computer stolen, you know the panic and rage that follows…turning your business upside down, hoping desperately to find that USB drive that might contain a backup of data…before collapsing onto the floor as it sinks in: it is all gone.

Currently your hard drive is probably still in a good shape but surprise failures do happen. The mechanics don’t last forever, and even brand-new drives can be blitzed by a power surge. Theft is always a risk, as is user error like deleting files accidentally, or even getting hit by a nasty virus that destroys or holds your files for ransom. Some businesses are using apps like Dropbox, iCloud or OneDrive as their backup, thinking if their hard drive crashes or gets stolen, they’ll just download the files from there. Unfortunately, those very handy apps are no help if you’ve been hit with ransomware. Almost instantly as the malware encrypts your local files, those sync apps upload the infected versions. Older, safe versions of the files no longer exist, as these apps are designed to give a constant mirror of your drive, not a proper backup.

Stop for a moment and think about what you’d lose right now if your hard drive failed. What’s on there? Accounts, orders, client details, financial records, tax info, photos, videos – your entire business. It’s not a feeling we would wish on anyone!

What You Can Do

Backing up at data used to be something only tech geeks did, but like everything cool, it has gone mainstream. We recommend at least a 3-2-1 approach: 3 copies of your data, with 2 local at your office and 1 offsite.

Typically, this means keeping your regular hard drive where your data is now, one copy of precious files on at least one (preferably 5 – one for each workday) backup USB drives, and one that automatically uploads to the secure cloud as you add new files. That way, the USB drives protects your data if your computer dies, and the cloud copy protects you if something happens to the computer and your USB drive, like fire, flood or theft. It’s a good idea to make sure you unplug that backup USB drive afterwards and lock it away in a fireproof safe or even better, taken offsite – as connected devices can easily become infected during an attack or stolen during a break-in.

Two of these methods require you to actually pay attention, which is where many businesses struggle. Not that it’s tricky, but unless you’re one of those cool geeks it’s pretty boring and not a high priority after a long day! That is why we recommend a cloud backup solution and also an automated local backup.

You’ll be able to retrieve files at will, without having to roll back your entire drive, and know your solution has caught even the smallest file change without you needing to flag or mark it in any way. Even better, because there is a copy in the cloud, you can access your secure backup from anywhere. So if the unfortunate happens (ie a fire or flood) and you can’t access your office at least you have your files safe backed up in the cloud.

We are able to get you set up with the perfect backup solution that meets your needs, both now and in case of emergency.

If you’re ready to protect your data before you lose it, give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

Why Do Computers Break?

Why Do Computers Break?As you know computers always break at the worst possible time, but what things can actually cause that that failure? It is easy to think it was something you did at the time of the crash, but normal user actions are rarely the cause of the issue. In this blog post we list some of the real reasons for a computer crash.

1. Physical Damage

People drop their laptop or spill things on their systems. Liquid damage is a big problem with spills the main cause – this could be anywhere from a spill on the keyboard or even a flood that reaches the computer. Laptop users need to be really careful when putting down their systems – surfaces can often have small puddles (especially cafes and kitchen tables). If you are lucky and the liquid didn’t fry the circuits and ongoing corrosion is likely.

A dropped or knocked computer isn’t going to be happy. Even a light bump can cause loose cables, disconnections and internal damage.

2. Age

Computer parts have an expected lifetime, especially moving parts like fans or mechanical hard drives. Some computers can run 24/7 for up to a decade, while others can be barely used but fail within warranty. When age is the issue there are usually early warning signs like extra noise or slowing down, but the actual ‘break’ generally happens when you go to turn the computer on, perhaps after a crash or overnight – either it makes a valiant effort before giving up, or nothing happens at all. Sometimes lasting age is the luck of the draw with how it was manufactured, and quality does play a big part in how long it can keep churning.

3. Power Surges

Computers are very sensitive to both surges (too much electricity) and brownouts (not enough electricity). Some indicators of power issues are when the lights are dimming or flickering (during a brownout) or glowing just a tad too strong (during a surge). These variations usually last long but they can easily break your computer. A surge protector can guard against mild increases in voltage, but brownouts and strong surges can still cause damage unless a high end UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) is used.

4. Heat

Overheating is a big contributor to a computers death. The insides of a computer runs hot and they need plenty of cooling to keep them working optimally. You might not feel it from the outside, but internal components can rapidly build up heat that needs to dissipate. When fans and vents get blocked with dust the temperature continues to rise and components can bake themselves to failure. When the computer reaches a certain temperature the computer will automatically switch off (to try and cool down), however the more times this happens, the more likely your computer is to die.

5, Hard Drive Failure

Your data is stored on a hard drive and if you have a mechanical hard drive (most people do), it works a bit like a record player with a spinning ‘platter’ and a needle that reads it. General usage, small bumps, liquid, age, surges and overheating can all trigger hard drive failure. As well as making your computer unusable, hard drive failure means your data is also lost. While sudden breakage might leave you surprised, take note of any strange noises or repeated crashes and always back up your data.

Like a car, your computer needs to be serviced regularly. We can check your computer to make sure it is running right and will keep on working for you. Give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or drop us an email at support@dpcomputing.com.au.

4 Smart Reasons You Shouldn’t Have In-House IT

In house IT.It can be tempting to hire an in-house IT technician to take care of your network and set them up with a cozy office just down the hall, but is it the right decision for your business? If you are like most businesses, you’re always on the lookout for ways to save money while improving results. Sometimes this means expanding your staff to include a team of tech specialists to be at your beck and call, but this can often be an unnecessary expense that leaves you with highly paid employees twiddling their thumbs when not needed. For SMEs who are looking for the best of both worlds, we recommend Managed IT services.

Put simply, Managed IT is our solution which gives you that team of specialist technicians and network experts, without the ‘quick, look busy’ element – and at a fraction of the cost. Naturally, you’d rather see your IT budget working to support your growth and be kept as low as possible. That is our focus too, and why we don’t simply maintain and repair your systems, we proactively monitor to avoid downtime and work with you to ensure your IT increases productivity and efficiency. Whether you already have in-house IT staff and are auditing the value or are curious about what having external IT support might be like for you, we have put together a few factors to consider before making your choice:

Availability: Most employees work 9-5, but what happens if something goes wrong with your systems outside these hours? Your in-house technician won’t appreciate being woken at 1AM and being called in for an emergency. It is more likely that they simply won’t answer the call (or “hear” it), or if they do, expect some hefty contract renegotiation come the next business day. Managed IT is very different as we are ready for after hours issues and have support technicians ready. We know that every minute of downtime is affecting your revenue, plus your business reputation, so we prioritize getting your systems up and running ASAP. As a bonus, with our Managed IT these types of disasters are rare as we are constantly monitoring and correct and problems before they become an issue.

Total cost: One of the things that may have attracted you to having an in-house technician is the cost. Yes, you may be able to pay them a lower hourly rate but there are extra costs like hiring, training, sick leave, holidays, ongoing training and superannuation. Once you start adding up the cost of an in-house technician, you may find it is eating up your IT budget and leaving you scrambling to fill gaps you didn’t expect. Upgrades get delayed, opportunities missed, and IT expenses become a sore point. In comparison, Managed IT is one fixed monthly rate delivering enormous value, including access to specialists with a wide range of knowledge and experience.

Ongoing Training: Putting aside the fact your technician will often spend entire weeks away upgrading their skills and leaving you scrambling for support while they’re gone, those training costs quickly add up. With a salaried technician, you will have to pay all their ongoing training and certification costs (including travel and accommodation costs for industry conferences). We know how important it is to remain current, certified and skilled in new technologies, so we spend the money to invest in our technicians so that we can serve you better. We are also part of industry related associations and attend multiple conferences each year, all at our own expense (saving the end clients money).

Different goals: For most employees, a higher wage is the goal and many move jobs to achieve that. You may spend time and money training a salaried tech only to see him move on to a better paying job. In these modern times, switching jobs regularly is expected, with an average of only 3 years in each position. Considering how much it cost your business to acquire, train and upskill your technician, 3 years is an unreasonable ROI. Unlike an internal staff member our goals couldn’t be more different – we only aim to keep you a happy customer for as long as we can!

In the end, your business needs to find the right balance between profit and expertise. When you partner with our Managed IT, you’re securing availability, ever-increasing expertise and a commitment to your success. We work closely with you to provide the very best support and protect you against costly disasters by taking preemptive action to keep you safe and operational. There’s no doubt Managed IT is a better decision than hiring an in-house technician, and we’d be delighted to prove it to you.

Talk to us about Managed IT for your business. Contact us at support@dpcomputing.com.au or at 08 8326 4364.