Would you be surprised about to learn that technology is an incredibly important asset to those in the coffee business? You might consider a small, cozy coffee shop to be in minimal need of a robust technology infrastructure but ask James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee based out of Oakland, California and you’ll get a very different perspective.
As businesses expand, there is a natural need to grow in certain areas to facilitate increased production, staffing, and logistics to handle the demand for the product or service. In many cases, bringing an outsourced IT service provider fulfills the need a company has to facilitate faster growth without the additional expense of upgrading hardware.
It’s important to ask the right questions before you sign a contract. Careless business owners might end up paying for more than they need and not getting services they want.
We’d like to help you avoid a situation like this; the purpose of today’s post is to highlight some valuable questions you should ask of any potential IT service provider before they lay a finger on anything related to your business.
Data Backup and Recovery
Data storage and backup solutions are incredibly important for small and medium-sized businesses. They’re essential for all businesses, but SMBs typically lack the financial resources to recover from a disaster.
It’s much easier to have a digital “reset” button available in the form of data backup in the event of a worst-case scenario. If a potential vendor is unable to provide back up and recovery services, don’t waste another second of your time.
Ask about how a potential provider would respond in the event you had a fire in the building; it’s important to know what steps are taking during a disaster recovery effort. Remember, data backup and recovery are two different concepts – backup is easier than recovery, so make sure you understand the process for both and what the responsibility for both parties will be during that process.
Existing Technology Report Card
Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about report cards, especially when that report card has to do with your overall technology infrastructure. In some cases, outdated technology won’t just limit your potential; it can also be hurting your existing business.
The sign of a quality technology vendor goes beyond the ability to explain and sell new technology.
A vendor worth partnering with should have a desire to understand your business as well as you do. Only through understanding your existing business and your goals can a vendor make an appropriate blueprint to help you overcome your business challenges.
You’ll want to ask why a vendor might recommend a particular type of technology for your business. Some vendors get commissions on technology products they sell to customers; while this isn’t a bad thing in all cases, you’ll want to be certain you’re still getting advice for technology that is vendor-agnostic and based on industry standards and best practices.
Are We Low Hanging Fruit for Hackers?
Depending on the cybersecurity studies you read, approximately one in five SMBs even consider cybersecurity a significant business priority. Within that group, less than half of the responders felt that they had adequate countermeasures in place against cybercrime.
During a consultation with any potential IT services provider, you’ll want to have a good understanding of the current vulnerabilities within your business and what they can do to help mitigate risk.
The most common security leaks for small businesses come from employees themselves, whether or not they mean any harm. In many cases, regular updates of software and commonly used operating systems can help mitigate risk, but employees often neglect to update these items on their own.
You’ll want to understand whether 24-hour, 7-day-a-week is available and what measures a potential vendor will be able to take if a system becomes compromised.
You should walk out of the meeting with a thorough understanding of firewall usage, anti-virus software, and malware protection services offered by any potential vendor.
Seriously, Are We Sitting Ducks?
We try to be as optimistic as possible, but when you review the stats, the deck is heavily stacked against SMBs when it comes to cyber-threats. No longer are hacking syndicates small operations run out of shady basements, well-funded cybercrime groups are popping up all over the world who want to profit from your misery – and they’re succeeding.
There’s no such thing as “too small” to be a target for cybercrime. Of the 82,000 new malware threats released each day, half are targeting businesses.
Somewhere on the front page of every major technology blog is bound to be a story about the latest data breach – not having protection in place and not educating your team about best-practices will eventually cost you money.
Since human-error is the number one immediate threat to businesses, an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) can be a great tool for business owners to educate their staff. Asking your vendor to help create a technology improvement plan that supports your AUP (or even helping create an AUP) can give you a good idea of their abilities.
You might think that those phishing emails from distant “relatives” promising large sums of cash are all ignored by now, but you’d be mistaken. An article from the Intel Peer Network reminds us of some shocking stats:
1 in 131. That’s how many emails worldwide contain malicious data—the highest it’s been in five years, according to Symantec’s 2017 Internet Security Report. You know what’s worse? These emails have an open rate of 30 percent. (Reputable marketers can only dream of such success!) Here are a couple of ideas to use to turn your employees into a “human firewall.”
Are BYOD Environments OK?
There is a long list of reasons that more businesses are adopting cloud networks, increased productivity is one of the primary drivers. But with this increased accessibility and flexibility comes additional risk.
As a general rule, if an employee’s personal device is being used to access company data it should be monitored and secured by the businesses IT department.
One of the biggest threats to cloud computing isn’t the cloud provider suffering a data breach – It’s that an employee with access to your network accesses this information with an infected device. Once that information is made available to a hacker, they have access to all your data and cloud applications.
You can’t control employees browsing or downloading habits all the time with an unsecured device, and one of the fastest ways that hackers can gain access is by duping users into downloading malicious software.
These can be in the form of games or other apps that might seem innocent on the surface.
It just so happens that Continuous has spent a lot of time creating a helpful guide for business owners who want to improve their IT security. The information in our recent guide can help you stay protected against cybercrime, data breaches and other types of cyber-attacks. On the concept of BYOD security:
But here’s the rub: Most employees won’t want you monitoring and policing their devices; nor will they like that you’ll wipe their device of all files if it’s lost or stolen. But that’s precisely what you’ll need to do to protect your company. We suggest that you only allow employees to access work-related files, cloud applications and e-mail via company-owned and monitored devices, and never allow employees to access these items on personal devices or public Wi-Fi.
Find out six other tips you can’t afford to overlook through the guide on our website!