Category: Tips

Working remotely may have eliminated nuisances like a daily commute, but it also means you’ve likely been hit with digital overload. Even if you are in the office every day, you may still have a cluttered digital life that is getting in the way of productivity and even adding to your daily stress level.

Cluttered digital lives affect us much in the same way as a cluttered home. It can take longer to find something you’re looking for, create anxiety and stress, and slow down your productivity. From messy desktops (quick – how many files are saved on your desktop right now?) to blurred lines between work and home, a cluttered digital life can start to interfere with your day-to-day.

How do you break the cycle of a cluttered digital life? Let’s take a look at how to declutter your digital life and what benefits you will enjoy after you go through the process.

Ways to Reduce Digital Clutter

If you suffer from a messy digital life, have tech fatigue, or merely want to improve your productivity at work, here are ways to declutter your digital life at work (and home, too!):

Create a Digital Separation: One of the biggest hurdles that has popped up over the last decade, and even more in the last two years, is a very blurry line between work and personal life for many workers. How many times have you been working on a project one minute, then the other minute you are emailing teachers about your child’s homework?

While multitasking is certainly admirable, jumping back and forth can create inefficiencies. Set aside time either that is most convenient during your day to focus on non-work-related digital tasks. While you may not be able to stick to this 100% of the time, it can help you reduce some of the digital “noise” in your life. 

Turn Off Notifications: The average smartphone user gets as many as 63.5 notifications per day. Add on top the countless desktop computer notifications from emails and websites you quickly understand how being connected through our digital lives creates unnecessary clutter.

If you constantly pickup up your smartphone to reply to a text message or check social media notifications or stop a task to respond to an email, consider turning off notifications during your workday. Most smartphones can “snooze” notifications or go into “do not disturb” mode.

Clean Your Desktop: You know that feeling when the entrance to your home is cluttered with shoes, sporting equipment, toys, and yard tools? It feels chaotic and unmanageable.

Your desktop is very similar to your foyer or entryway – it’s the first thing you see when you sit down at your desk. Cluttered desktops can create a sense of disorder. Instead of saving a file to your desktop out of convenience, save it in its proper place from the start.

Create a Folder System: A good folder structure can save you time and help improve productivity at work. Not sure where to start or how to organize your folders? It’s best to come up with a system that mimics how you work.

Do you work on one project at a time? Set up folders by project name. Work on a time-based system? Set folders up by month or quarter.

Pro tip – create a template that contains your desired folder structure and copy and paste it for each new project or task.

Delete Contents of Downloads Folder: Your downloads folder is a key factor in your computer’s operating system. Many people overlook their downloads folder when trying to free up space on their computer, however, this is a very easy task to do to help keep your computer running in tip-top shape.

Deleting digital files you don’t need is generally good maintenance and doesn’t harm your computer. Not sure where to find your downloads? Check out this step-by-step guide on where to find your files.

Clear Out Your Email Inbox: Ugh – the dreaded email inbox! Chances are you have hundreds of emails sitting in your inbox. This creates an unmanageable “to-do” list and not only can it be stressful it can also make things hard to find easily and quickly.

Just like your folder system for saved files, create a folder system within your email inbox to help you organize and sort emails. There are many ways to approach this task, either by sorting by sender, topic, or follow-up. Many email platforms have built-in tools to keep you organized, too. Outlook, for example, offers a “follow-up feature” that will let you tag certain emails and assign a deadline for follow-up.

While you may never get down to just a few emails, taking time to sort and organize what you have can help you get on the path to productivity!

Click the Unsubscribe Button: Speaking of cluttered inboxes, how many emails do you receive and immediately delete without reading? Even though this takes mere seconds, unsubscribing can save you time – and stress – in the long run. Imagine opening up your email on Monday morning and not having to sort through what needs attention and what can be deleted? Get that inbox under control and keep it that way.

Benefits of a Digital Declutter

A digital declutter not only helps create control and organization in your work and personal life, but it can also have other tangible benefits. Specific benefits of a digital declutter include:

  • Fewer Distractions and Improved Productivity: When you separate your work and personal digital life, turn off notifications and digitally declutter, you will be surprised how many fewer distractions you have in your 9-to-5 day. With fewer distractions, you will have more time to focus on the task in front of you.
  • Improved Computer Performance: Anytime you delete files from your computer, it frees up memory space and more memory space = improved performance. Delete old files, emails, and even unused programs and applications to help improve your computer’s performance.
  • Reduce Stress: The biggest advantage of any kind of decluttering, whether physically or digitally, is reducing the amount of stress in your life. We could all use that, right?

Managed IT Services for Businesses 

Are you ready to start a digital declutter at work but aren’t sure where to start? At Everound, we can help you devise a strategy to create digital efficiencies for you and your team members using customized cloud services storage solutions, systematic folder structures, and creating best-practices and systems for your entire organization.

As a managed IT services company, Everound focuses on your IT so you can focus on your business. We offer IT consulting, cyber security services, disaster recovery, hardware and software installation and maintenance, cloud storage solutions, and more. Reach out today to find out how we can help you improve the information technology at your business.

When it comes to protecting your data online, you can never be too cautious or safe. The building blocks of online cybersecurity begin with strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA), however nothing is failsafe. Strong passwords can be hard to remember if you aren’t using a password manager, and 2FA can still result in data breaches.

That’s where a hardware security key comes in. Hardware security keys provide an extra layer of protection when you are online. With a security key, no one can access your accounts unless they have BOTH your password and the physical security key.

Should you use a hardware security key for your business? Let’s take a deep dive into what a hardware security key does, the pros and cons of using them, and what are the most popular security keys on the market today.

What is a Hardware Security Key?

A hardware security key is a way to secure your computer without having to rely on a password. Hardware security keys (also called security keys, U2F keys, or physical security keys) work in a similar manner to 2FA and multi-factor authentication.

Instead of receiving an SMS text message, email or notification on an authenticator app with an authentication code, the way you use a hardware security key is similar to how a regular key functions. You insert the key, usually the size of a thumb drive, into the USB port of your computer and that’s it — no need to enter anything else from that point on.

Security keys house a small chip with the security protocols and codes that allow it to connect with servers, websites, and apps and will verify your identity. Security keys essentially ‘communicate’ with the server and confirm you are who you say you are. The keys support an open-source universal standard called FIDO U2F, which was developed by Google and Yubico for physical authentication tokens.

You can think of a hardware key just like a hotel room key. When you visit the front desk to check-in, the front desk associate codes your key to your room. Once you insert the key into the door, the data on the key tells the locking mechanism you have permission to enter the room. Hardware security keys work in the same way.

Pros and Cons of Hardware Security Keys

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to using a hardware security key. How do you know if they are a good choice to enhance cybersecurity at your business? Here are several points to consider:

Pros:

  • Convenience: Hardware security keys are incredibly easy to use. Most people working at a company in a role where they are required to use a computer are familiar with USB ports. Plus, you don’t need to install any extras like software or drivers and most people find hardware security keys are easier than using a password manager.
  • Hassle-Free Recovery: Even if you lose your hardware security key, you don’t need to worry about being locked out of your accounts. Hardware security keys have a fallback number or code you can use until you can acquire a new key. Just be sure to keep your backup code in a safe place.
  • Security: Hardware security keys are one of the most secure ways to protect your data. They cannot be reverse-engineered or intercepted and are a reliable choice.
  • Phishing Proof: Even people who are aware of cybercrime and are cautious online can fall victim to phishing. Hackers are savvy and can lure users into sharing their passwords or online credentials. With hardware security keys, this risk is eliminated.

Cons:

  • Cost: Even though hardware security keys are relatively inexpensive, costs can add up for a large organization. Considering the costs of a cyberattack can reach tens of thousands of dollars for a small business, the cost of hardware security keys is a justified expense.
  • Time/Learning Curve: Change can be a barrier to trying something new and different, particularly at an organization that hasn’t intentionally focused on cybersecurity. Hardware security keys, although easy to use, make take some time to be adopted by team members.
  • Risk of Being Lost or Misplaced: Because of their size, hardware security keys can be misplaced or lost. A good way to keep track of your key is to attach it to your car keys or another keyring. After all, it is a ‘key’ and can be stored alongside other more traditional keys.
  • Not Universally Supported: Most major websites support hardware security keys, but not all. While the technology is being rapidly adopted, some sites may not support them.

Best Security Keys on the Market

There are many hardware security keys on the market today for both business and personal use. Here are a few of our favorites for businesses that work with sensitive data like financials, customer information, and other highly confidential data.

  • Yubico Security Key Series: The Yubico Security Key series is compatible with most of the online services that businesses use, including Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, GitHub, and Dropbox. It’s available for USB-C ports as the Yubico Security Key C NFC and for USB-A ports as the Yubico Security Key NFC. The Yubico Security Key series is also affordable at approximately $25 each, making it a budget-friendly choice for businesses.
  • Yubico YubiKey 5 Series: The YubiKey 5 series is a step up from the Security Key series and supports a wider array of security protocols and is compatible with more online accounts. It also has more connection options including USB-A, USB-C, USB-C with NFC, and a dual-headed USB-C and Lightning-port model. Because this is an upgrade and provides additional features, the investment is higher at $45-$70 each, depending on which model you choose in the series.
  • CryptoTrust OnlyKey: OnlyKey has a few interesting features that other hardware security keys lack, notably an onboard keypad that is used to enter a PIN, and a password manager. It supports several methods of two-factor authentication including FIDO 2 U2F, Yubico OTP, and TOTP. Other features include encrypted backup, self-destruct (which wipes the device after a certain number of incorrect PIN attempts), and the ability to update the firmware in order to access new features. The price for the OnlyKey is around $45.
  • Kensington VeriMark: The Kensington VeriMark is FIDO U2F certified and offers a good balance of protocol support, cost, and most importantly, fingerprint scanning. The fingerprint technology combines biometric performance and 360° readability with anti-spoofing protection. The investment for this hardware security key is around $50 each.

Put Our Security Expertise to Work for Your Business 

As a managed IT services provider, Everound has the expertise and experience to help you protect your business data from cyber threats. While not every business may need to invest in hardware security keys, it makes sense for companies that deal with sensitive customer data, financial records, and any information that could be tempting to steal.

If you are unsure if hardware security keys are a good fit for your business, reach out today for a free cybersecurity assessment. We can take a look at your network infrastructure and business processes to assess how vulnerable – or secure – your business is from a cyberattack.

Our cybersecurity assessments are free and there is no obligation to engage in our services. Complete our online form or give us a call to learn more. Let us focus on your IT so you can focus on your business.

Still using ‘password’ as a password? Even if you aren’t, some of your colleagues may be a bit lax with their password management. Considering 61% of data breaches involve login information being compromised, password security should be a top priority at a business.

Password security is sometimes an overlooked area at a company but can be easily addressed by incorporating a password manager into your IT best practices. Password management software can not only help reduce security risks but it can also decrease the amount of time your team spends on password recovery and downtime.

Let’s take a look at the risks associated with password security, the benefits and features of a password manager, and a few of our favorite password managers that can be implemented in a business setting.

Password Security Risks

Cybercrime is not just a hobby anymore for hackers sitting in a basement. Cybercrime is a lucrative career for hackers – they know if they can get access to company data, they can sell it for a hefty price. One of the most targeted assets for a hacker is user passwords.

Password security risks include:

  • Phishing/Sniffers/Keyloggers: One of the easiest ways for a hacker to get your password is for you to simply tell them. Hackers try to trick users into typing their passwords into a website they control (phishing), infiltrate unencrypted networks (sniffing), and tracking keystrokes either through hardware or software loggers (keylogging). These strategies are clever – and easy – ways for someone to access your passwords.
  • Weak passwords: People are predictable, but passwords shouldn’t be. When users choose predictable passwords that include public data like their children’s names and birthdates, or their middle name, or something easy to crack (password1234!), they are at risk for a cyber-attack.
  • Reuse of passwords: A Google survey found that more than 50% of users reuse their same password across multiple – if not all – accounts. When a hacker finds one password that works on an account, chances are they will try it across other platforms.
  • Compromised passwords: Once your password has been cracked by a hacker, there is a risk your password will end up online in a data breach. Once a hacker has your info, they can sell it on the dark web or include it in an intentional data leak. Compromised passwords should be changed immediately.

We understand choosing – and using – strong unique passwords can feel like a nuisance. After all, the average user has more than 100 different accounts that require a password for access which can be hard to manage without help. This is where the benefits and features of a password manager can be beneficial.

Benefits and Features of a Password Manager

A password manager is a cloud services software application designed to store and manage online logins and passwords, as well as other sensitive information like credit card numbers, frequent flyer information and private data. Passwords and other data are stored in an encrypted database and are only accessible to the user.

Features and benefits of a password manager include:

  • One password for everything: When using a password manager, you only have to remember one password – the password you choose to access your database. This is one of the main benefits of using a password manager as you don’t have to rely on a notebook or your memory to be able to log in to websites or applications.
  • Automatically generated passwords: Having a tough time thinking of a strong password that contains numbers, letters, and special characters? It can be tough to get creative with passwords! With a password manager, passwords are automatically generated in a way that avoids recognizable patterns. When utilizing this feature, it also prevents you from using the same password across multiple websites and applications.
  • More secure than other methods: Storing your passwords in a spreadsheet on your computer? If someone gets access to that spreadsheet, they can really do some damage. Password managers provide extra security than every other way of saving passwords (especially the old ‘write it on a Post-It note’ method).
  • Works across all devices: Depending on which password manager you choose, you can use your password manager across different devices including your computer, tablet, cell phone, and laptop. If you change your password for a website on your desktop, it will automatically replicate to the rest of your connected devices.
  • Can share with a trusted person: While passwords are meant to be kept to yourself, there may be instances where you want to share your credentials with a trusted person. If you are injured or ill and unable to access your accounts on your own, a password manager can help. Some password managers can even limit what your “trusted person” can see. For example, employees can share only their relevant work credentials with their employer and still keep personal data private. For business owners, this can be important if you have an employee out on medical leave or away from work for an extended period of time.

Top Password Managers

There are many password managers available for both business and personal use with common and unique features. Here are our favorites for enterprise password management solutions:

  • 1Password: 1Password makes it easy to store and sort your logins in a secure vault. 1Password offers secure sharing, custom groups and roles, account recovery, end-to-end data encryption, and customizable access polices for businesses. 1Password is also a good choice for personal use with family sharing plans available.
  • Bitwarden: Bitwarden is an open-source password manager for both business and personal use. Business features help companies share private data safely with coworkers, across departments, or with the entire company.
  • LastPass: LastPass is a good choice for organizations with team members who may be unfamiliar with password managers. Features include a comprehensive real-time reporting breakdown of employee password health for managers.

Put Our Cybersecurity Expertise to Work for Your Business 

Not sure which password management solution is right for your business? We can help you identify which product will work for your specific needs. With more than three decades of combined experience, our team of IT experts understands the importance of password security as one part of an overall cybersecurity plan.

As a full-service managed IT services provider, we focus on your information technology needs, so you can focus on your business. Reach out today to start a discussion about your IT needs, including adding a password manager and password security program at your business.

When you think of a patch, your first thought may be of a patch for a ripped pair of jeans. Once applied, the patch extends the life of the garment and covers up a vulnerable, worn area. In the information technology world, a computer patch functions in much the same way as a piece of fabric on a torn pair of jeans. A computer patch is a modification to a software program that is intended to improve security or performance or fix a bug or issue. It helps to repair an exposed flaw.

Computer patches are an integral part of keeping your information technology infrastructure operating smoothly and protecting your data from cyberthreats. What are the different types of computer patches and how do you find and install them? Let’s take a look at the most popular patches, how to find them, and what the consequences are for not patching regularly.

Types of Computer Patches

Over the course of a software program’s lifespan, it will run into “bugs.” A bug is a coding error in a computer program that can create a vulnerability. A patch is a software update that provides an immediate fix to a bug and allows the software developer to work on the issue for the next release of the software.

There are different kinds of computer patches available including:

  • Point Release: A point release patch from a software company is usually a minor update. Point releases correct bugs and feature minor enhancements to a program as opposed to adding to new features. The point release adds a decimal “point” to the software version number; for example, Version 4.2.06 and Version 4.2.07.
  • Security Patch: A security patch corrects errors in computer software code and addresses cyber vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are often discovered in the aftermath of a cyberattack and new security patches respond to the latest threats.
  • Service Pack: Service packs are bundles of patches released together and often contain new features in addition to bug fixes. Most operating systems and software programs provide service packs free of charge.
  • Monthly Rollup: Similar to services packs, monthly rollups contain multiple patches combined into a single update. Each rollup is cumulative, so users need to only install the latest rollup.
  • Hotfix: A hotfix, also known as a quick fix engineering update, addresses a specific issue found with the software. Hotfixes can typically be applied without restarting your computer. A hotfix is an update that cannot wait for a service pack or monthly rollup release.
  • Unofficial Patches: When a software product reaches its end-of-life (EOL), it is often no longer supported by the company that released it. Other developers may create their own patches to address bugs, but because these patches are not developed by the original developer, they are “unofficial.”

Computer patches can help keep your software running smoothly and protect your business from cyberthreats. Software patches are only useful, though, if you have a patch management process implemented. A patch management program outlines how your computer support team will find, download and install patches on a routine basis.

How Do You Find and Install Patches?

When patches become available, vendors will put them on their websites for downloading and installation. As part of your routine IT processes, check for updates at least once a month for installation to protect your business. Some cyber attackers will continue to target vulnerabilities long after patches are available, so it’s important to apply fixes monthly.

Some software will automatically check for patch updates, too. If automatic updating is available, take advantage of this service from your vendor. Automatic patches can contain critical fixes for security and usability.

Here are several tips to keep in mind when installing patch updates:

  • Only download and install patches from vendor websites. Never click on software update links in an email – this is a common phishing tactic used by cybercriminals.
  • Only install patches on a secure network. If you are attempting to install patches on a public network, use a VPN.
  • Microsoft, Oracle, and other software companies release patches on “Patch Tuesday.” Patch Tuesday occurs on the second Tuesday of the month, and sometimes the fourth Tuesday as well. Your IT team should be looking for these patches on a regular basis.

Consequences of Not Patching

If you are managing your business’ information technology needs on your own, you may be tempted to skip patch updates either because of time constraints or the process is outside your area of expertise. Skipping patch updates, though, can put your business at risk for:

  • Damaged Software: Nearly all software programs will experience a bug or issue at some point during its lifespan. A patch will help fix the bug and allow you to continue to use the software as intended. When you skip patches with critical fixes, the software can become damaged or malfunction. Patches are a great tool to keep your software at peak performance.
  • Security Risks: Cybercrime is at an all-time high, and one of the methods a criminal uses to access a company’s data is through a third-party application like software. Some malware can completely erase your data, or a cyber thief can install ransomware and lock your data behind a paywall. Patches can help you stay ahead of data loss and identity theft.
  • Loss of Compatibility: When users on a network have different versions of software, incompatibility issues can arise. When one has a patched version, and the other does not, sharing files can be challenging and cause inefficiencies.

While implementing a patch management program may feel overwhelming, the consequences of not doing so can be damaging. Patches should be a part of your regular information technology functions, either performed by your IT department or a trusted managed IT services provider like Everound. If you are not sure where to start with computer patching, reach out to us today for help.

Computer Patching Support with Everound 

Everound is a managed IT services company in Central Pennsylvania focused on helping businesses create operational efficiency through information technology. Our team can help your business develop a comprehensive patch management program to protect your business and its assets.

In addition to patch support, we provide other IT services including cloud services, cybersecurity, dark web monitoring, email security, hardware and software procurement, help desk services, IT consulting, business phone system design, and more. Let us focus on your IT so you can focus on your business.

Ready to Update to Windows 11? What You Need to Know

Microsoft is rolling out its latest update to its operating system, Windows 10. Sooner or later you will be asked whether or not you want to upgrade to the latest version, Windows 11. Do you know if your PC is ready for Windows 11, or should you stay with Windows 10?

For now, you won’t be forced to update, and installation is not automatic. Before agreeing and installing the update, you should be aware of the differences between Windows 10 and 11, and what challenges you could face if you update on an older PC.

What Is Different?

Differences between Windows 10 and 11

With each new update, Microsoft adds in new features and improves performance issues. The biggest change you will see is related to how the operating systems differ visually, and how those changes impact productivity.

Highlights on the latest update include:

  • Start Menu and Task Bar: The biggest notable difference with Windows 11 is the Start Menu and Task Bar. In Windows 11, the Start Menu and Task Bar are centered in the middle, much like you’d see on a MacOS. If this new layout isn’t appealing, you do have the option to move it to the left.
    The Start Menu in Windows 11 does look different than Windows 10. It’s a bit simpler and shows a static list of apps and your frequently accessed documents. You can expand and scroll through the app list and pin your favorites. This is like Windows 10, however, if you are accustomed to using the Live Tiles, you will be disappointed. The Live Tiles feature goes away with Windows 11. 
  • Snap Layouts for Multitasking: If you are a multitasker, you will like a new feature of Windows 11 – snap layouts that group your windows and save them to the taskbar. Snap layouts replace the drag-and-drop snap assist feature of Windows 10 and allow you to arrange your apps neatly on your desktop.
  • Performance: With Windows 11, Microsoft has made some notable performance improvements that could speed up your PC. The new operating system does a lot of work in memory management, giving the apps that are opened and running more CPU power than closed, dormant apps.
    An additional performance change is the way Windows 11 resumes from sleep mode and handles standby time. Compared to Windows 10, with Windows 11, your RAM will stay energized in sleep mode and will help your PC unsnooze up top 25% faster.
Review Before Updating

Potential Challenges When Updating to Windows 11

With any new software update, there are potential challenges and bugs. The release of Windows 11 is no exception. Many experts believe the release was a bit rushed, even with the clear improvements on some features related to productivity and performance.

If you are considering updating your Windows 10 PC to Windows 11, here are some potential challenges you could face:

 

  • Hardware May Not Support Update: If you have a new PC, chances are this will not be an issue. For older PCs and laptops, this is the biggest challenge of the new operating system. To run Windows 11, you’ll need an Intel Core 8th-gen processor or newer, or an AMD Ryzen 2000 processor or newer.
    This hardware requirement will be frustrating for users with PCs older than 4 years old. Still working on that laptop from 2016 or 2017? There’s a good chance you cannot update to Windows 11 without a workaround. Although you CAN install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware, Microsoft has hinted those unsupported users will not receive critical security updates.
  • You May Lose Some of Your Favorite Features: Die-hard Windows 10 fans may be disappointed to learn some of their favorite features went to the wayside in Windows 11. The S Mode feature, which restricts administrators and users from installing apps from outside the Microsoft Store, is now only available in the home edition. The voice helper Cortana is also being retired, and RIP to Internet Explorer.
  • Critical Hardware and Software May Not Be Compatible: Most devices and apps will continue to work – but “most” is not “all.” Before updating to Windows 11, it’s best to test compatibility on a separate device. Not sure how to make that happen? Drop us a note – we can help. Trying to troubleshoot a post-upgrade compatibility issue can be time-consuming and frustrating.
  • Windows 11 Bugs: An expected annoyance with any new update is some level of instability and bugs. Even with beta-testing, Windows 11 still may experience some bugs that could interfere with productivity. If you are concerned with any of the known issues with Windows 11, but are otherwise eager to move to the new operating system, you may want to wait until it is more mature.
We Focus on your IT, So You Can Focus on Your Business

Ask Everound About Windows 11

Unsure if you can – or should – update your PCs and laptops to Windows 11? Don’t fret – Everound can help! We offer a free IT infrastructure assessment and can develop a plan for you to keep your IT assets working at peak performance. We have decades of experience working with Microsoft products including operating systems, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Teams, and the entire Microsoft suite. Let us take a look to see if your computers have the minimum system requirements to move to Microsoft 11.

As a managed IT services provider, our team supports business owners with their information technology needs. We can serve as your IT department without the overhead of hiring staff in-house or can work with your existing IT teams as an additional support or resource. We specialize in cybersecurity, IT planning and strategy, network administration and monitoring, help desk support, hardware and software configuration and installation, and backup and disaster recovery. Reach out today for your free IT assessment. We focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.

VoIP for Business

Voice over internet protocol, or more commonly known as voice over IP or VoIP, is a type of technology that allows users to make phone calls over broadband internet. Unlike traditional phone systems, a VoIP system works by converting sound into digital voice communication and transferring it through Internet broadband.

Bottom line? If you have access to the Internet, you can call anyone in the United States or internationally with VoIP. VoIP works on any computer and offers advantages over public switched telephone networks (PSTN), also known as plain old telephone service (POTS) for business communications.

Helping Businesses Stay Connected

Advantages of VoIP for Business

There are many distinct advantages of switching to a VoIP system for business purposes. Let’s take a look at the top 8 advantages of VoIP vs. traditional hard-wired phone systems.

  1. Low Cost: Cost savings is one of the biggest advantages of using a VoIP service. VoIP telephone systems eliminate the need for individual telephone lines which can add costs over time. In addition, long-distance calls are less expensive with VoIP since you are utilizing your existing Internet connection.
  2. Higher Call Quality: When VoIP was introduced in the mid-90s, one of its disadvantages was poor call quality. With the advent of fast and stable Internet connections over the last two decades, the original quality issues have disappeared. VoIP calls are crisp and clear, with no latency issues, lags, or dropped calls.
  3. Portability: With VoIP, you can take your business phone number wherever you go, as long as you have a broadband connection. You no longer have to be tied down to a desk with VoIP – it goes where you go.
  4. Scalability: VoIP is a great choice for growing organizations. Adding an additional phone number takes minutes and does not require expensive hardware or a dedicated line. Does your business have a spike in seasonal employees or are you opening branch offices regularly? VoIP is an effective tool for growing businesses.
  5. Remote Workforce Friendly: Remote work has grown exponentially over the last two years. A VoIP phone system can support a remote workforce to help keep them connected to your business. VoIP enables both remote workers and office-based employees to be on the same system. Office-based employees can easily transfer a call from a customer to a remote worker, rather than instructing them to make another call to a separate phone number, and vice versa.
  6. Improved Customer Service: Have you ever missed an important call from a client? With VoIP, you can choose where your calls ring and how, and avoid missing important calls. For example, you can choose for the first few rings to go to your office. If you don’t answer, the call can be forwarded to a second and even third device, such as your mobile phone or tablet.
  7. Wide Array of Features: VoIP is great for making calls, but there are many other features that make VoIP a smart business decision. VoIP also includes video conferencing and conference calling that help both external and internal communications. Other features include auto-attendant, call forwarding, caller ID, voicemail-to-text, call recording, and extension dialing.
  8. Futureproofing: Older technologies such as ISDN are being phased out and businesses that use VoIP are using the modern standard for communications.
We focus on Your IT. You focus on your business.

Everound for your VoIP for Business Phone Systems

If your business is still utilizing old telecommunications technologies, Everound can help you select the right VoIP system for your business. As a managed IT services provider, we have experience helping both small businesses and large enterprises find the best solution for their needs. Our team can advise you on if switching makes sense and can help implement the changes in the most effective way possible to minimize any interruptions.

Ready to make the switch? Reach out today to discuss VoIP for your organization. We focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.

How to Choose the Right Firewall

When putting together a robust cybersecurity plan for your business, it’s critical to include adding a firewall to your plan. A firewall is a piece of hardware or software that is placed between your internal network and the external public Internet. A firewall is designed to stop malicious intrusions on your private network.

Which kind of firewall is right for your business? There are several different types of firewalls with different levels of protection. Let’s take a look at how to choose the right firewall by examining the different types, what you should consider when choosing one, and how Everound can help you choose the right firewall for your business.

Stop Malicious Intrusions

Types of Firewalls

There are many different types of firewall architectures and each works in slightly different ways to monitor the data coming in and out of your network. While this list is not inclusive of all types of firewalls, here are several common options to consider:

  • Packet filtering firewall: A packet filtering firewall is a network security technique that controls data flow to and from a network. It is a security mechanism that allows the movement of data “packets” across the network and controls their flow on the basis of a set of rules, protocols, IP addresses, and ports. Essentially, data passes through a network in the form of small pieces called data packets. These packets will only get through the firewall if they match the predefined filtering rules set in place.
  • Circuit level gateway firewall: Unlike a packet filtering firewall, a circuit-level gateway firewall does not inspect individual packets, but rather monitors the transmission control protocol (TCP) handshaking between the packets to determine whether a requested session is legitimate.
  • Application-level gateway (proxy firewall): An application gateway or application-level gateway (ALG) filters incoming node traffic to certain specifications which means only transmitted network application data is filtered.
  • Stateful inspection firewall: A stateful firewall, or stateful inspection firewall, keeps track and monitors the state of active network connections. It also analyzes incoming traffic and looks for potential data risks.
  • Next-gen firewall: A next-generation firewall (NGFW) combines a traditional firewall with other network device filtering functions.

Think of a firewall as the virtual wall that separates your internal data from external threats. Without an effective firewall in place, a network could be susceptible to malicious threats and data breaches. If your business isn’t protected by a firewall and you are unsure which kind is best for you, a managed services provider (MSP) like Everound can help you determine what considerations are important in your selection.

What Is Important to Protect?

Considerations When Choosing a Firewall

With several different options to choose from for a firewall, consider the following questions to find the best firewall to meet your needs:

  • What are your top threats? All firewalls offer a similar function – the monitoring of network traffic. How much network traffic do you have at your business? Are you sending and receiving large amounts of data? Are your employees at risk for accidentally opening a door to your network for malicious threats?
  • Does it have DoS/DDoS protection? DoS (denial of service) and DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks occur when a network is flooded by a machine or a group of machines with malicious intent. Both kinds of attacks can paralyze an organization and opting for a firewall with DoS/DDoS protection can help prevent downtime and lost data.
  • Does it send attack alerts? Some firewalls send real-time alerts when there is a potential threat or breach. Real-time alerts can inform you of when an attack was prevented and when an attack is occurring. With real-time alerts, you can stay ahead of a cyberattack and minimize impact.
  • Are you planning on scaling your business? Some small businesses don’t feel they need cybersecurity protection like firewalls, especially if they only have a few employees. Small businesses, though, can benefit from a firewall especially when starting to grow. Although media coverage focuses on cyber threats to large businesses, small businesses are also at risk.
  • Do you have remote or telecommuting employees? One of the biggest spikes in cyberattacks occurred when remote work increased during the pandemic. If you have a remote team of employees, a software firewall can help you prevent unwanted access to your network.
  • Do you need ongoing support? Before choosing a firewall, ask if the manufacturer has ongoing support. Will they help with installation and integration or are they only selling you the firewall itself? If you need ongoing support, opt for a firewall manufacturer that offers a go-to support specialist.
Protecting Your Data and Organization

Firewall Services with Everound

If you are considering adding a firewall to your cybersecurity plan and are unsure of which type is right for your business, reach out to Everound for help. Our team of cybersecurity experts has decades of experience working with business owners to select and install a firewall solution.

Everound also offers managed IT services and can support your business on an ongoing basis for your information technology needs. Reach out today to start a conversation about cybersecurity best practices including firewalls for your business. We offer a free cybersecurity risk assessment and can recommend the best firewall to protect your network from malicious traffic. We focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.

Ransomware attacks are on the rise and are making national and global news headlines and for good cause. In 2020, there was a 150% increase in attacks and a 300% increase in the amount of ransom paid. This increase does not appear to be slowing down either. To date, the amount of ransomware attacks in 2021 has surpassed all of last year. What is contributing to this increase?

While there are several factors that have contributed to the increase, one main reason was the immediate shift to remote work during 2020. Almost overnight, many businesses went 100% remote without a cybersecurity plan in place. Workers were utilizing their personal computers and laptops and logging on from home on unsecured VPN networks rather than connecting at the office through a secure network. Cybercriminals were able to exploit security weaknesses at both large and small businesses.

Do you know your risk for a ransomware attack at your business? Let’s take a look at how ransomware attacks have changed, who is at risk for an attack, and ways to reduce your risk.

More Sophisticated Attacks

How Ransomware Attacks Have Changed

When you think of a ransomware attack, you may think of a lone person sitting in a dark basement hacking into a company’s network trying to gain access to sensitive information. The hacker gains access to the company through phishing emails and once in the network, deploys malware that encrypts servers and sensitive company data. While this methodology still occurs, the entire process has evolved, is more organized, and is a massive, profitable business.

While there are still ‘lone wolves’ executing ransomware attacks, most data breaches occur at the hands of a group of sophisticated, strategic cybercriminals. These organizations, usually located in eastern Europe, are extraordinarily adept at infiltrating a company’s servers and planting ransomware. They extract as much sensitive company information as possible in order to demand ransom payments.

Another factor in the increase of ransomware attacks is ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS). Think of RaaS as a franchise model for ransomware attacks. Large-scale, organized groups of cyber criminals, such as DarkSide and REvil, franchise their capabilities such as encryption tools, communications, and ransom collections to independent hackers in exchange for a percentage of the collected ransom. This model has allowed ransomware attacks to be outsourced across the globe.

Is Your Business at Risk?

Who Is at Risk for an Attack?

Ransomware is a profitable business and ransom demands have escalated over the last two years. It’s no surprise that attackers are targeting large organizations who are likely to pay a ransom rather than have their business frozen for more than a day or two. Several different industries have been targeted recently including healthcare and critical infrastructure. The highly visible Colonial Pipeline attack crippled the company and the fuel supply chain on the East coast.

While large-scale ransomware attacks have made the news, there are many more that do not make national headlines. Small organizations are also at risk for an attack, especially by bots programmed to use a ‘shotgun approach’ at ransomware. These bots will scan thousands of company websites looking for email addresses, social media profiles, and any other personal data to use in a cyber attack.

Ransomware attacks are hitting close to home in Central Pennsylvania. Last year, the Duncannon borough in Perry County paid tens of thousands of dollars to hackers who held municipal data hostage. Although service was uninterrupted, the borough’s e-files, data, and emails were encrypted, and backup systems were compromised.

 

The bottom line – almost any organization is at risk for a ransomware attack. If you are a business owner, how do you reduce your risk for a cyber attack?

Start with Preparation

How to Reduce Your Risk

The best way to reduce your risk of a ransomware attack is to prepare for one. When you go through the process of preparing for a cyber attack, you will identify potential vulnerabilities and be able to address them prior to an attack.

Here are some key ways to prevent ransomware:

  • Create an incident response plan: A cybersecurity incident response plan helps companies prepare for, detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity incidents. The plan should address issues like malware detection, data theft, and service outages.
  • Invest in cybersecurity insurance: Cyber insurance is designed to mitigate losses from a variety of cyber incidents, including data breaches, business interruption, and network damage. It generally covers your business’ liability and helps in recovering compromised data. If you do not have cybersecurity insurance, your IT department, legal department, or your managed IT services provider can help you procure insurance.
  • Set up a secure texting channel: One of the first casualties of a cyber attack is internal communication via email. To ensure senior leadership can communicate without access to email, set up a secure texting app.
  • Use multifactor authentication (MFA): MFA is an electronic authentication process where a user is granted access to a website or application only after successfully providing two or more pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism. MFA processes reduce the risk of ransomware since it creates an additional barrier to access of data.
  • Provide regular cybersecurity training: Most network weaknesses and cyber attacks are caused by human error. Regular cybersecurity training can drastically reduce the risk of an attack.
  • Consult with a cybersecurity company: Cybercriminals have years of training and prep to be able to be successful at what they do and one of the best ways to stay ahead of an attack is to work with a company that specializes in cybersecurity. A reputable company will help you put a plan in place to reduce your risk of an attack as well as continuously monitor your network for suspicious activity.

While no company is 100% protected from becoming a victim of ransomware, you can reduce your risk by taking proactive steps and be prepared if an attack happens.

Keeping Your Data Safe

Everound for Your Cybersecurity Needs

Everound specializes in cybersecurity best practices for small businesses to large enterprises. Our team of cybersecurity experts can help you create an incident response plan, help procure cybersecurity insurance, and implement data protection strategies and programs to keep your information and network safe.

Reach out today to start a conversation about cybersecurity for your business. We can provide a free cybersecurity risk assessment and recommend next steps to protect your data. We focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.

Across almost every industry, computers are essential to keeping a business operating smoothly. Computers improve employee efficiency, accuracy, and can speed up many work processes. As a business owner, knowing when to replace your work computer can be challenging.

If you wait too long, you can incur expensive support and service costs, and if you replace desktops and laptops too soon, you aren’t maximizing your original investment. So, how do you know when to keep or replace your older PCs? Let’s take a look at the average lifespan of computers, our recommended refresh cycle for a business, and key indicators a computer is starting to fail.

How Long Should Your PC Last?

Average Lifespan of Computers

Like all electronics, computers will slow down and become less useful as they age. Environmental conditions, accidents, and normal wear and tear take their toll on both PCs and laptops, causing functional issues. Computers don’t last forever and having a replacement plan in place can help business owners plan for IT budget needs.

The average lifespan of a computer is typically three to five years. Desktop computers should last at least three years, and laptops, between three and five years. There are several factors that contribute to how long a computer will last for an employee including:

  • Environmental factors: Computers require a cool environment to work properly. When they become overheated, the fans will kick on to try to cool down the internal components. The fans can draw dust and other allergens inside the computer which can clog up vents and prevent air from flowing freely. Computers that are used in factory environments tend to have a much shorter lifespan than computers in a cool, clean office space.
  • Usage: One factor that contributes to your computer’s lifespan is the manner in which it is used. If you only use the computer for spreadsheets and word processing, you may be able to extend its life an extra year or so past the average lifespan of a PC. For more sophisticated tasks that require applications, you may find your older computer is slow and struggles to keep up with the increased processing demand.
  • Unsafe cybersecurity practices: Nothing shortens the lifespan of a computer quicker than unsafe cybersecurity practices. Even the newest PC can die quickly if infected with malware or viruses. If you are a business owner, be sure to follow best practices for cybersecurity to ensure your computers – and your investment – are protected. Regularly install updates and patches for your computers’ operating systems and be proactive with cybersecurity training for your team. Many malware attacks are successful because of human behaviors.

At Everound, we recommend business owners adopt a 25% refresh cycle with their computer inventory rather than replacing all computers at the same time. Essentially, instead of purchasing new computers for all workstations at once, business owners can replace 25% of them each year. This cost-effective strategy allows for hardware capital expenses to be budgeted over four years instead of one.

Know the Signs of an Aging Computer

Key Signs You Should Replace Your Computer

There are several key signs to watch for when considering if you need to replace your work computers including:

  • Security is out of date: If your current computers are incompatible with newer versions of their operating systems, it may be time to invest in new computers. When the operating system is incompatible, important security patches and updates will not be installed on your PC. Check your Windows and Mac machines for OS compatibility to make sure your security is up to date.
  • Increasing support costs: Are your team members consistently asking your go-to IT staff member for help troubleshooting issues? Even if this is an internal employee, there is a real support cost affecting your bottom line.
  • Noisy fans: Are the fans on your computer constantly running? This is a key indicator that your computer is running “hot” and its internal components are at risk for damage. If you’re running the latest versions of an application or operating system, these could be maxing out your computer hardware, causing it to run warmer than usual.
  • Applications take a long time to load: Applications may take longer on an older computer. If you’re running the most up-to-date version of an application, older hardware may not be able to keep up. Before installing software, check the compatibility to ensure it will work with your computer.
  • Slowed productivity and lost time: According to a study by Intel, employees are 19% less productive on a PC that is older than 5 years. If your work computers cause an hour of downtime per day for a month, that equates to 20 hours per month. What is the value of that lost time?

If your PCs or laptops are experiencing any of the key indicators they need to be replaced, a managed IT service provider can help you determine the best path to replace hardware in a cost-efficient manner. Everound offers monthly managed IT service plans that help business owners assess and determine how to replace computers to maximize efficiency and productivity.

Keeping Your Team Supported

Everound for Your Hardware Needs

At Everound, we work with small businesses to large corporations on their IT needs including computer procurement, installation, hardware and software maintenance, and computer refresh plans. Our team of experienced IT professionals can help you determine the best course of action to keep your computers operating at peak performance. Reach out today for a free hardware assessment for your business. We focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.

While the shift to a remote workforce had been gradually evolving over the last decade, 2020 accelerated the move to remote work. Many businesses are now embracing either an entirely work-from-home culture or a hybrid model where employees split their time between an office and a remote location.

A recent survey from PwC reinforced what leaders and business owners have been hearing from their own teams – more than half of employees who were sent home to work during the pandemic prefer to continue to work from home at least 2 days a week. Nineteen percent of all employees surveyed prefer to work remotely entirely. The old paradigm of a 40-hour workweek, bookended with a morning and evening commute, is quickly changing.

The key to a successful remote workforce is a solid technology infrastructure and IT support. Technology plays a critical role in access to resources, collaboration, and most importantly, security. What current technologies can help a remote team? Let’s look at how technology supports a remote workforce.

Keeping Your Team Protected

Critical Cybersecurity for Remote Workers

A successful, efficient remote work platform requires several key technology resources that provide a seamless, secure work experience. With the staggering increase in cybercrime in 2020, the highest technology priority for any business, especially those with a remote team, is cybersecurity.

Last year more than 90% of companies worldwide experienced some form of a cyberattack whose aim was to steal passwords. For businesses with remote employees, a solid, strategically developed infrastructure can help prevent cyber threats while also providing ways for employees to work efficiently and stay connected.

Several technologies that are critical for a secure IT infrastructure include:

  • VPN: VPN, or a virtual private network, is a service that both encrypts data and hides IP addresses by bouncing network activity through a secure chain to another server miles away.
  • Network Security: Network security is the use of technologies to defend a network and network-accessible software and hardware from cyberattacks and misuse of company data. Depending on the type of business, network security can include firewalls, anti-malware, and data loss prevention (DLP).
  • Access Controls: For a remote team, access controls can help business owners allocate different levels of access to sensitive documents on a server. Access control is a security process that regulates who can view and use resources on a network. Access control minimizes risk to the business or organization and reduces the risk of a cyberthreat.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Multi-factor authentication is when a user must provide two or more pieces of evidence to gain access to a digital platform or resource. This extra layer of security is used to protect against hackers by ensuring that digital users are who they say they are.
Keeping Your Team Connected

Communication Technologies for a Remote Workforce

One of the challenges of the abrupt move to a remote workforce in 2020 was the immediate disruption to face-to-face communication and routine day-to-day conversations. Because nonverbal communication makes up 60-80% of communication, it’s important for businesses to integrate a visual platform for communication in addition to digital communication products (think chat programs like Slack).

Successful remote teams have several information technology resources available to them to encourage communication including:

  • Google Workspace: Google Workspace is a platform that provides several collaboration and workspace tools to make remote work easier for employees. Files can be shared on a secure platform, projects can be collaboratively edited from a central location, and communication tools that allow chatting and video and voice communication are available.
  • Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams is a platform that allows for instant communication, file sharing, and collaboration. Users can chat with the colleagues in real time, or even place a video phone call with one click. Files can be shared through chat, eliminating the need to send files as attachments via email. Other resources on Microsoft Teams include VOIP, screen sharing, webinars, and online meetings.
  • Video conferencing: Years ago, a video conference felt foreign to many employees. Video conferencing exploded in 2020, with several platforms breaking through as leaders. In addition to Google and Microsoft, Zoom has risen to the top with their easy-to-use platform for video conferencing. Many products can host hundreds of attendees with ease.
  • VOIP: The traditional landline phone system is becoming obsolete, especially without employees working from a shared office of location. VOIP, also known as voice over internet protocol, is a solution that connects users to each other immediately. VOIP is built in to several platforms including Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Keeping Your Team Supported

Support Services for Remote Workers

A robust remote work program not only includes the apps and services employees need to perform their job but also supports technologies challenges and backup and disaster recovery.

Several approaches to IT support services include:

  • Remote Help Desk: When employees are working in the same building as their information technology colleagues and have an IT challenge, they often walk to their office for a quick fix to resolve issues. With remote teams, minor technology challenges can become a huge frustration without the proper process and support in place. Having a remote help desk in place with an automated help desk ticketing system provides remote employees access to technology help.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery: While disaster recovery for on-premises infrastructure and data centers has become standard for most companies, moving applications to third-party cloud solutions to support remote work creates a unique challenge. When companies move to cloud-based applications such as file-sharing and storage, they need to do due diligence to ensure those vendors are following the best practices for disaster recovery to ensure their data is safe. Properly secured cloud-based solutions are a great way to backup and restore data in case of hard drive malfunctions, cyberattacks, and natural disasters.
We Focus On Your IT, So You Can Focus On Your Business.

Managed IT Services for a Remote Workforce

At Everound, we understand the unique information technology challenges of businesses with a remote workforce. We can help identify areas of improvement and customize solutions to help meet the needs of a fully remote or hybrid business model.
Interested in learning more? Reach out today for a free assessment to see if your current IT infrastructure is fully supporting your remote team. Let us focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.