Remote Working: What’s Your Data Backup Plan?

Remote Working: What’s Your Data Backup Plan?

Right now, your data backup plan might be something that’s furthest from your mind.

Your probably focusing on getting remote working set up for your workforce. For some businesses, remote working is quite routine, but for many others, it’s daunting and potentially disruptive in the short term.

But things will settle down, and once you’ve identified any issues, you’ll be back up to maximum productivity. You may even find that remote working increases productivity due to less distractions and better wellbeing.

However, your data backup plan must now become a priority. Businesses live or die by their business continuity plans, and if you’re not prepared for downtime or loss of data, you could find yourself in a difficult spot.

Why now?

Well, with your working arrangements changing so drastically, guaranteeing persistent access to your data is essential.

With your team working in a variety of places, and in different conditions, your regular backup plan might not be able to support the requirements of your team (Or maybe it can – but your won’t know unless you review it!)

The cost of downtime is enormous, and working remotely offers different sorts of challenges to those in the office.

For example, if someone falls sick and is unable to work, are you able to retrieve their work and pick up where they left off? Do you have the collaborative tools to deal with disruption like this?

What if a key member of staff suffers an electricity or broadband outage and they cannot work? Perhaps someone suffers a phishing or ransomware attack whilst working at home, potentially losing your data forever.

Perhaps you have a really strong data backup plan in your workplace but have never had reason to test it with large-scale remote working. The key message is this: caution and diligence are best practices in a time like this.

What is your current data backup plan?

The first place to start is looking at what you currently do.

Does someone do a manual backup of business data to tapes or an external drive? If so, are they still able to do this whilst you’re not on-site?

Regardless, manual backups like this are not recommended whether you’re working on-site as normal or working remotely.

People can be careless; perhaps your designated person fails to back your data up one day, and that day happens to be the day that you suffer a cyber attack or an outage. Maybe they get into a habit of not backing up for extended periods of time.

In short, manual backups are unreliable. Hardware can fail, people forget, and actually, backing up only once per day (at best) is not prudent. It’s an admission that you can afford to lose a whole day’s worth of work, which not many businesses can.

And if you don’t have a data backup plan at all? Well, it’s time to start looking at implementing one as soon as possible!

So, what should your data backup plan look like?

You need to look at what our business relies on, identifying the data that must be safeguarded is a routine step.

For example, consider the following:

Files and documents

Documents are among the first things considered when it comes to backing up data. And it’s easy to understand why. People rely on spreadsheets, PDF, and the confidential data contained within these in order to continue running as normal.

Working in SharePoint, Teams, and Office 365, we maintain much of our content in the cloud as well as on encrypted hard drives. But in addition to this, we run dedicated ‘Software-as-a-Service’ backup solutions to keep our data secure. After all, whilst it’s Microsoft’s responsibility to keep the service running, we’re responsible for the security of the data that we place in the cloud.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System

A CRM system is typically the lifeblood of a businesses’s operations, from admin, to sales & marketing, to service delivery staff – everyone is reliant on its availability. In addition to our CRM system being cloud-enabled, we use an additional backup solution to keep our customer data secure and always available.

VoIP Telephone System

Our internet-enabled telephone system is paramount to what we do – it not only keeps us connected to our customers, but also internally.

In addition to having backup technology to fall back on (diversifying your options are essential), we also utilize a similar data backup plan to our CRM system.

Email

The majority of business communications are sent via email, so we need our email clients running as normal, virtually all of the time. Downtime can result in lost business and confusion.

Email Continuity is a feature built into our email security solution. This means that on the rare occasion that our primary email client stops working, or becomes unavailable, we can replicate the entire email environment in the cloud, ensuring 100% uptime!

If you’re working in the cloud, your provider should offer some form of backup (in addition to your cloud copies). If they don’t, you can look at either moving providers or a 3rd party option. We can advise you on either option.

Critically, your data backup plan should be automatic and set to back up your data around-the-clock, rather than once daily. For example, one of our partner’s options allow you to back up your data as often as every 15 minutes, meaning you’re fully protected against downtime.

Computer Customized Services, Inc. has over 30 years of industry experience helping companies like yours improve their IT infrastructure. Your business is priority to us and we’ll always be here for you when you have questions or concerns. Contact us to learn more about our solutions and what we can do for your business.

8 Tips for Effective Video Conference Meetings

8 Tips for Effective Video Conference Meetings

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused dozens of tech conferences and conventions to be cancelled over the last few weeks. Now companies are closing down their offices and asking employees to work from home. If you have been affected, chances are most of your in-person meetings have been changed to conference calls.

Working from home might sound great at first, but having to do all your own IT work can be a hassle. After all, the last thing you want is to have a technical issue right when it’s time to dial in. There’s no one to help troubleshoot your connection and it can really get in the way of a productive afternoon.

Make sure everything is right before the call begins. Here’s how to prepare for video conference calls from home, or wherever you might be working from.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

If you need to appear on camera during your call, make sure you know what’s going on around you. Close that window if you’re on a noisy street and flip on a light. PCMag’s lead camera analyst Jim Fisher stresses that “Soft fill on your face is all that matters.” Using a desk lamp with a shade should work, as long as you can avoid harsh, direct light. “If you’ve got big windows, face the windows so they light you up; otherwise the camera is going to struggle with exposure.”

Get Creative With How You Connect

Most companies have a favorite service they use, like Teams, Google Hangouts, or Zoom. If you’re working on a personal computer, all you have to do is download the appropriate desktop app or click a link and log into your account.

However, if you have to think fast and find the right video call service that fits your needs, remember that most mobile messaging apps have video capabilities. Apps like Facebook Messenger, Signal, Android Messages, and Google Hangouts, among others, allow for limited video calling. Many of these services also have web and desktops apps. Face Time also allows group chats and supports receiving phone calls on your computer.

Clear Out the Bandwidth Hogs

One of the downsides of video chats are the pixelated screens and choppy audio that comes with lackluster bandwidth. If you’re expecting a video call or three, make sure that smart devices in your home aren’t hogging the connection.

For instance, streaming video games or Disney+, the robot vacuum mapping your home, or hefty software programs running on your PC, could disrupt your video call at an inopportune time.

To start, check your internet speed to know what you’re working with and whether you’re getting what you pay for.

Log In Early

Don’t wait for the meeting to start to find out your connection is bad or your software doesn’t work properly; test it before the conference starts. You can do this in Zoom by using the program’s test feature. WebEx also has a Personal Room that can be used for testing.

In Skype, click your profile picture and select Settings>Audio & Video Settings, and there should be a camera preview under the Video section. You can also look for Sound Test Service in your Skype contacts to test audio quality.

Go With a Wired Connection

If Wi-Fi is still giving you trouble, fish out that dusty Ethernet cable for a direct connection, which should hopefully cut down on any potential speed issues or sudden dropouts while video conferencing. If your laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet port, pick up a cheap USB to Ethernet or Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter.

Avoid Feedback

Don’t rely on your computer’s iffy built-in mircophone and speakers. Find yourself a nice Bluetooth headset or even gaming headphones to use when you’re on a call. They connect easily to your computer while also offering comfortable over-ear fits with a strong microphone.

Don’t Forget a Charger

Long conference calls can drain a laptop battery pretty quick. And you don’t want to have to step away from the meeting to find your charger as battery warnings blink on your screen. Make sure your laptop is plugged in and charging. There are also some portable chargers powerful enough to recharge your laptop in a pinch.

Have a Backup Plan

No matter what program you use, have a backup plan in case something goes awry, whether that’s switching to an audio-only call or throwing in the towel and realizing you’re in a meeting that could’ve been an email.

Customized Computer Services, Inc. is a Managed IT Service Provider, we have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth Area for 30 years. Contact us to find out how we can help your business stay one step ahead with your IT.

Coronavirus Forcing Your Workers to Stay Home? Quickly Shift to an At-Home Team in the Midst of Crisis

Coronavirus Forcing Your Workers to Stay Home? Quickly Shift to an At-Home Team in the Midst of Crisis

In the midst of the coronavirus, business owners are facing a host of new challenges. To slow the spread of the virus, you may have been asked to suspend services or allow your employees to work from home. At the same time, however, you also need to continue to bring in revenue, stay productive, and focus on growth as much as possible.

Making the shift from an in-office to a remote team quickly, especially at a time when everyone is dealing with untold stresses, can be difficult, and the right approach is essential. Check out these tips.

Decide What You Need to Stay Productive

Creating a remote team isn’t easy as handing your workers a laptop and telling them to check in once in a while. If you don’t have a current work-at-home policy, you need to create one from scratch, and you may need to adjust workflows, find new tools, and create new security policies. As you try to facilitate this shift, keep these types of questions in mind:

  • What can my employees accomplish from home?
  • Can they handle core business activities from home?
  • Even if my business is deemed essential, can I send some employees home?
  • What types of projects do I want to prioritize during this time?
  • What applications do I need to facilitate workflows and keep everyone connected?
  • How can my employees work from home without compromising the security of our network?
  • What can I do to make this new arrangement as productive and comfortable as possible for myself and my team?

Consider Providing Employee With Devices

Don’t necessarily encourage your employees to use their own devices when working from home. Their home computers and tablets have all kinds of music, videos, images, and other downloads that may be infected with malware, and their devices are usually not equipped with the same level of antivirus or malware software you use in your office.

To reduce the threat of cyberattacks, consider providing your team with company-approved and secured devices. However, if you already have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy for your office, you may want to continue having employees use their own devices because in this situation, you’ve already taken steps to secure those devices.

Help Your Workers Secure Their WiFi Access Points

As a general rule of thumb, your employees home WiFi networks are probably less secure than the WiFi you use in your office. To secure these access points, instruct your team to do the following:

  • Use stronger encryption
  • Create more complex passwords
  • Hide your network names
  • Use firewalls

To help your employees with these steps, you may want to create detailed tutorials or contact an IT managed services provider to help you.

Route Traffic Through a Two-Factor Authentication VPN

To secure your tech environment as much as possible, consider having your employees access your network through a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all the information passing from your employees’ computers to your network. Even if a hacker gets onto our employee’s WiFi network, they cannot see keystrokes or any of the data being transmitted.

Also, try to choose a VPN that supports dual-factor authentication. Then, your employees have to enter a username and a password, but they also have to use a second authenticator such as a code texted to their phone number or email address. This layer of security provides extra defense against cyber criminals.

Consult With an IT Managed Services Provider

Returning to business as normal may not be possible for a while, and a managed IT services provider can help identify the tools and processes you need to support your new networking environment, while also taking steps to ensure your network is as secure as possible.

In difficult times, you want your business to survive, but if possible, you should try to thrive. Our managed IT services can help you adapt to this quickly changing environment.

Customized Computer Services, Inc. (CCSI) has been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area for over 29 years providing computer, printer and Managed IT services. Contact us and find out how we can help your business.

The Benefits of Switching to Dark Mode

The Benefits of Switching to Dark Mode

According to Google more people are moving from the white screen mode to the dark screen mode on their PCs, phones and tablets.  A simple setup that lets you choose the background color of an app window to black.  Why is this move becoming more popular with PC and phone users?  Here are some reasons why some are moving to the dark screen.

Health and Well-being:

People are spending more time watching videos, browsing social media, on their tablets and smartphones. American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media, according to a new study by market-research group Nielsen. The exposure to brightly lit screens has resulted in more people experiencing what is referred to as Digital Eye Strain. Digital eye strain is painful dry eyes that you get from being exposed to bright white screens.

“Everyone can relate to being in a room where the lights are turned down and you’ve got this white screen blinding you,” said Sameer Samat, Google’s VP of product management for Android and Play, during an interview at Google I/O.

It’s not just Digital Eye Strain, there is more to it a cascade of underlying symptoms that affects the body.  Headaches and blurred vision are just some of the symptoms.  Other symptoms include insomnia due to suppression of melatonin, a hormone needed for sleep.

A Standout Appearance:

After staring at bright white screens for years it may take your eyes some time to acclimate to dark mode.  Once you get use to the dark mode the colors seem to pop out on the dark background. According to the levels of contrast and performance of different color background more colors stand out on dark background than any other color.

Battery Saving:

Google’s VP of product management Sameer Samat also said that it will help conserve battery. He said, “there are few things that get you battery savings for free. Lighting up fewer OLED pixels will get you farther in the day.” For example, at 50% brightness, the Dark Mode interface in the YouTube app saves about 15% screen energy compared to a flat white background. At 100% screen brightness, the dark interface is saving a whopping 60% of screen energy. While OLED screens are mainly used by Android devices.  Apple will drop all LCD screens by 2020 and deliver all future generation devices with OLED screens. As both IOS and Android should get the native dark mode later in the year, it seems to be a promising upgrade to our phones battery life.

Drawbacks of Dark Mode:

The dark theme settings will not replace the bright white daytime screen mode. Bright white screens are apparently easiest to read in daylight and outside sunlight.  This is why an automatic switch from day and night is a must-have feature to eliminate switching manually between the two screens.

Customized Computer Services, Inc.  (CCSI) has served the Dallas-Fort Worth area for over 30 years.  Providing Managed IT and other IT related services. Contact us and find out how we can help your company with its information technology needs. 

Rogue Employee At Trend Micro Exposes Customer Data

Rogue Employee At Trend Micro Exposes Customer Data

Cyber-security company Trend Micro says the personal data of thousands of its customers has been exposed by a rogue member of staff.

The company says an employee sold information from its customer-support database, including names and phone numbers, to a third party.

It became suspicious after customers started receiving phone calls from scammers posing as Trend Micro staff.

The company says it has contacted those whose details were exposed.

Trend Micro said it believed approximately 70,000 of its 12 million customers had been affected.

“It’s every security firm’s nightmare for something like this to occur,” cyber-expert and writer Graham Cluley told BBC News.

“You can have all the security in place to prevent external hackers getting in but that doesn’t stop internal staff from taking data and using it for nefarious purposes,” he said.

“If a cyber-security firm like Trend Micro can fall victim to a security breach, it can happen to any company.”

Trend Micro provides cyber-security and anti-virus tools to consumers, businesses and organizations around the world.

In August 2019, it received reports many users of its home security software had been receiving scam phone calls.

The scammers knew so much information about their targets that Trend Micro suspected its customer support database had been breached.

It later found out its systems had not been attacked over the internet and it was instead facing a “malicious insider threat”.

“The suspect was a Trend Micro employee who improperly accessed the data with a clear criminal intent,” the company said in a blog post .

“Our investigation revealed that this employee sold the stolen information to a currently unknown third-party malicious actor.”

The company said it was working with police and the employee in question had been fired.

It said its customer-support staff would never call people “unexpectedly”.

“If a support call is to be made, it will be scheduled in advance. If you receive an unexpected phone call claiming to be from Trend Micro, hang up and report the incident to Trend Micro support using our official contact details below,” the company said.

Liability A UK ruling that suggests companies can be held responsible if their own staff leaks data.

It can be extremely hard on a company’s bottom line and public perception when isolated data breaches lead to litigation and public scrutiny of the company’s policies and procedures for data protection. To avoid being on the receiving end of unwanted litigation and publicity, shrink the window of opportunity for your employees to act maliciously.

Organizations can employ several mechanisms to protect against these and other threats: 1) removing local administrative access so that only enterprise administrators can access sensitive data; and 2) deploying software that locks any unauthorized applications from being introduced to the system; and 3) requiring all administrative actions to be logged; and 4) implementing role-based access controls. Keep in mind that company data and IT administrators and related independent contractors have the most access to data and computer systems, and as a result, represent the most significant threat to data security. 

Customized Computer Services, Inc. has served the DFW for over 30 years. we have help many of our clients et up protocol system to help companies protect their data from outside threats as well as internal threats.