Respond, Resume, Restore: Create a Disaster Recovery Plan for Your Business Data

create a disaster recovery plan_Now IT Connects_Clearwater_Minnesota

Minnesota’s storm season is fast-approaching. While you’re dusting off your weather radio, Now IT Connects hopes you consider preparing for another type of disaster, one that can strike any time of year.

Every business should have an IT disaster recovery plan. The plan covers how the business intends to bounce back from an event where their data, software, and hardware are compromised, stolen, or destroyed. Sounds like a disaster to us!

Your disaster recovery does not need to be complicated, but it should be thorough. IBM has a 13-point recovery plan template you can use to make sure all your bases are covered. We’ve distilled the basic elements down to three major action steps: respond, resume, restore.

Respond to the Disaster

The first section of your disaster recovery plan should cover how your organization will immediately respond to a disaster and who is responsible for each response. Often, businesses include an inventory of all of their hardware, software, applications, and other IT assets in their response plan. It helps to have the names and contact information of key staff members, too.

The respond step of your recovery plan should include all the actions you need to take immediately following the disaster. Examples include meeting with your recovery team, identifying compromised systems, and prioritizing essential systems and services.

Resume IT Operations

With your team in place and list of action steps, it’s time to implement your plan. What needs to happen so your organization can resume essential systems and services? Once you have recovered essential tools and data, notify staff members that they are able to resume work.

Restore IT Operations Completely

Once you have your essential systems and services back up and running, your disaster recovery team can start to restore the rest of your IT. Once everything has been restored completely, your recovery team should meet to review the plan and identify what worked well and what needs to be improved.

Prevent and Minimize Future Damage and Disruption

Once you have a disaster recovery plan in place, consider investing in tools that help you minimize damage and disruption from a disaster or prevent it altogether. If you currently back up your data on your premises, consider adding another layer of protection with cloud backup. Now IT Connects often recommends Microsoft Azure. Azure is off-site, cloud backup built for business. It is secure, compliant, and allows you to scale your business without sacrificing security or efficiency.

One of the most powerful disaster recovery tools on the market is Barracuda’s Intronis MSP platform. This allows us, your managed IT provider, to access and monitor your system remotely. We can often identify and address threats and issues before they become disasters.

We’d love the opportunity to help you create your IT disaster recovery plan and implement solutions to keep your data secure and your team productive. Contact Now IT Connects today to get started.


Microsoft OneDrive: The File Storage Tool You Have but Never Use

Microsoft OneDrive_NowIT Connects_Clearwater_Minnesota

Earlier this month, we shared some of our favorite but oft-overlooked collaboration tech tools. Today, we want to talk about the one tool most of our clients already have but never leverage: Microsoft OneDrive.

OneDrive is primarily a single-user tool that has file-sharing and collaborative capabilities. But that doesn’t make it the weakest link in the suite of Microsoft apps. Here’s why Now IT Connects loves OneDrive and why you should, too.

Create, Edit, View, and Share on the Go

Ever arrived at a meeting only to realize you forgot all the documents you were planning to review or share? With OneDrive, all of your files are at your fingertips. Access them on your phone, tablet, or laptop, even when you’re offline. Your changes and additions sync immediately across all your devices as long as you have an internet connection.

Keep Track of More Stuff

Not only can you add documents to OneDrive, you can use it to snap photos of your meeting notes, the business card of a networking connection, or work receipts for reimbursement. Never misplace a card or lose a receipt—OneDrive will have you covered.

Restore, Recover, and Protect Your Files

Ever save over a document you intended to save as a different file? We’re all busy, and it happens to the best of us. OneDrive can help you recover files that have been accidentally deleted or altered. You can also customize how you protect your OneDrive data so it’s always safe.

Yes, You Can Collaborate, Too

While we think OneDrive may become your personal favorite, it’s also a great way to collaborate with others. You can create links to files you wish to share with a client or supplier or invite team members to work on a document with you in real-time. You’ll even be able to see their cursors in your Word doc.

The Now IT Connects team would love to help you discover if you already have a OneDrive account and to help you set it up. Wondering what other Microsoft apps you may have already that you could utilize this year? Let’s schedule a time to find out.


Leverage the Collaboration Tools You Already Have

Collaborative tools for teams_Now IT Connects_Clearwater Minnesota

If you’re like us, you’re always on the lookout for your next collaboration tool. Many employees now work outside the office or spend time out on the road or in the field. Or, maybe you outsource some of your tasks to vendors. Finding tools that empower everyone to communicate, collaborate, and stay updated is more important than ever.

Often, our clients ask us for recommendations on collaboration tools that would work well for them. Usually, it’s an easy answer: the best tools are likely the ones you already have but don’t use! If you have Microsoft 365 (and at this point, if you don’t, let’s talk), then you’ve got several of our favorite collaboration tools already. All you need to do is identify and use them.

Outlook Tasks

Yes, Outlook is an email and contact management tool. But if that’s where your use of Outlook ends, we’ve got great news for you. It’s also a great tool for fostering team collaboration.

Outlook’s tasks function can help you get rid of paper to-do lists and sticky notes and get organized. Create a task and assign it to yourself or someone else in your contact list. Use its prioritizing feature to rank tasks by urgency. Add a start date, a due date, or both, then set reminders. If it’s a task you or someone on your team must repeat, you can set up recurrence, too. Pretty slick for an email application!

Outlook Calendar

Outlook’s calendar function is another collaboration tech tool. It goes way beyond setting aside time for a meeting. You can invite collaborators, share calendars, book meeting rooms, and RSVP right in the app.

You can also use Outlook calendar as a scheduler. Show yourself as busy or available so team members know when they can reach out. Invite people to a Skype meeting right from your calendar. Once your meeting is done, add notes from your OneNote app.

OneNote

Speaking of OneNote, it’s another collaboration tool you likely already have and don’t use. Microsoft bills it as a digital notebook. You can take text notes, draw, take and store photos and videos, and clip web pages to read later. OneNote allows you to share your notes and invite others to collaborate on notes, too. This makes it a great tool for creative teams that work remotely.

SharePoint

SharePoint is one of the most overlooked tools anyone with a Microsoft 365 account has at their fingertips. How nice would it be to have a single place you and your team could go to find and share files, share company news, ask questions, submit requests, and even track purchasing and production. Your team can access your company’s SharePoint site from their phones, keeping them connected wherever they are.

Microsoft Teams

Think of Teams as an internal instant messaging system, web conferencing platform, phones system, shift manager, and scheduling tool all rolled into one. The most robust version of Teams is an application for companies with Business Premium versions of Office 365. But you can get a free version of Teams with chat, file sharing, and video calling for free. Yup, free.

Datto Workplace, aka OneDrive on Steroids

We’ve talked about Workplace on our blog before. It’s a file sync & share (FSS) application designed just for business. Think of it as a Microsoft OneDrive on steroids. You can sync, access, and share files from your desktop or mobile device anytime, anywhere. But Workplace also provides highly secure infrastructure and data privacy tools that you can ramp up or dial back as you require. It also offers HIPAA and SOC 2 compliance for health care and financial companies.

Interested in integrating any of these tools into your workflows? Contact Now IT Connects and we’ll help you and your team get set up.


Who’s Afraid of the Dark (Web)?

dark web_Now IT Connects_Clearwater_Minnesota

Ever wonder what happened to all the data stolen in the 2017 Equifax breach? The attack affected more than 148 million Americans. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that your data was compromised.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the Equifax breach involved a single web server at the credit bureau. The server had out-of-date software, which allowed attackers to access it 9,000 times over 76 days (if you haven’t installed the latest updates on your servers or other hardware, contact us to eliminate this vulnerability at your business). In that time, attackers stole credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, email addresses, and dates of birth.

It’s been nearly two years since the Equifax breach. What happened to all that data? It’s likely it’s available for sale on the dark web (or will be at some point in the future).

What is the dark web?

The dark web is part of the internet. Its websites are built with the same code that mainstream sites are and can be accessed with popular search engines. The difference is the internet connection. You connect to the mainstream web directly through your internet service provider (ISP). Your ISP creates a tag to identify you and your network, called an IP address.

The dark web requires special software to access. This software does not establish a direct connection between your network and your ISP. Instead, it encrypts and routes the connection through several different servers across the world. This type of connection keeps the identities of the websites and users on the dark web private. It also makes it safer for bad actors to sell stolen data, drugs, and other illegal goods and services.

Who can access the dark web?

Anyone with a little time and a little know-how can access the dark web. Some people use the dark web to ensure their internet searches remain private, while others use it to buy and sell illegal goods and services. Then, there are the white hats—users who access the dark web to identify its vulnerabilities and help shut down its sites. The dark web is often combed over by federal investigators, too.

Why should I care about the dark web?

Think about the Equifax breach for a moment. Cyber security experts believe the attackers who stole that information waited until outrage over the breach died down to use or sell the data they stole. On the dark web, you can purchase someone’s personal information or their entire identity, often for as little as $25. It’s possible your personal information is for sale on the dark web right now.

How can I protect myself from dark web bad actors?

The biggest defense against bad actors who may sell your data on the dark web is a robust and comprehensive cyber security plan. Network security, email protection, and cloud security are all important parts of your cyber security strategy. Now IT Connects can help you understand your vulnerabilities and implement a security plan to keep your data and your customers’ data protected. Don’t end up on the dark web. Contact the white hats at Now IT Connects today!


Don’t Leave Cyber Security Up to Luck This Year

As we predicted in January, cyber security remains a top concern of businesses in Minnesota and across the country. What have you done this year to keep your business’s sensitive data safe? If your answer is “Nothing yet!” we encourage you to give us a call to talk through why you can’t afford to ignore cyber threats.

If improving your business’s cyber security is one of your goals for 2019, here are a few tips you can implement this week.

Include Hardware and Software in Your Network Security Plan

Securing your network should be your top cyber security concern for your business. If your network is vulnerable to cyber-attacks, it compromises every element of your business. Your financial information—and that of your customers—could be stolen. Your supply chain or project management software could be hacked or held hostage by ransomware. Or, your entire network could go down, rendering every connected device useless. That’s a true cyber emergency.

From firewall appliances to anti-malware programs, a robust network security strategy includes both hardware and software solutions. Now IT Connects partners with the top names in cyber security to provide you with solutions that fit your unique needs.

Keep Your Email Secure

If you couldn’t access your email, or if the content of your inbox and folders suddenly disappeared, what would happen? How would you feel? Would your business grind to a halt? If your organization is like most businesses, panic would likely ensue.

Viruses, malware, and inadequate storage can hamstring email use and threaten the security of your messages and attachments. We partner with Microsoft and Barracuda to offer our clients cloud-based email storage and security. Not only does this allow you to access your emails from the cloud anywhere, anytime, it ensures you always have an email backup and are using the most up-to-date security tools.

Protect Your Information on the Cloud

The cloud isn’t just for email storage and backup. It provides a very stable, secure, and scalable way to store and back up all your business data. But without strong passwords, two-factor authentication, file protection, and other security measures, you could leave your cloud-based data exposed to threats.

Now IT Connects thoroughly vets every cloud-based service we offer to ensure every service provides strong cyber security protection without sacrificing the ability to share files and collaborate with your team online.

Consider Purchasing Cyber Security Insurance

If cyber security is part of your 2019 plan, consider adding cyber insurance to your business insurance policy. Insurance companies rarely include cyber security in your general or professional liability policy, but many offer separate cyber security coverage. Speak with your insurance agent to add this layer of protection to your cyber security plan.

Get Professional Advice and Service

Adequately protecting your business and your data from cyber-attacks is a complicated and ongoing process. The Now IT Connects team is here to help. Our experts can design and maintain a cyber security plan tailored specifically to meet the unique needs of your business to ensure you’re appropriately protected. Contact us to learn more about your cyber security options.


Meet a Few of Our Favorite Vendors

A Few of Our Favorite Vendors_Now IT Connects_Clearwater_Minnesota

The security and performance of your technologies depend on the integrity of the companies providing your IT solutions. We’d like to introduce you to a few of our favorite IT vendors. These are companies we trust to provide consistently high-quality performance and security for our customers. Don’t be surprised if one or all of these companies is part of your IT plan!

1. WatchGuard

WatchGuard is a Seattle-based company that has provided cyber security technologies to small and mid-sized businesses for more than 20 years. From multi-factor authentication and secure WiFi to a full line of Firebox firewall network security hardware, WatchGuard solutions protect the data and networks of many Now IT Connects customers.

We appreciate that WatchGuard does not sacrifice speed and performance when designing its security products. This means your firewalls, antispam, multi-factor authentication, and other security features keep your system safe without slowing performance so you and your team can get your work done without unnecessary lag time.

2. Barracuda

Barracuda is a cloud-based security company that protects email, apps, and any of your data stored on the cloud. We use Barracuda’s Intronis MSP platform to manage your day-to-day IT needs. Barracuda’s technologies empower us to be proactive in monitoring your network and quickly resolve any alerts and issues that may arise. We can even use the software to automate routine maintenance that keeps your network secure.

3. Datto Workplace

Datto Workplace—formerly Autotask—is a File Sync & Share (FSS) technology that enables your team to collaborate quickly and securely on the cloud. The Datto Workplace was built specifically for businesses, so it’s highly secure, compliant with HIPAA and SOC 2, and provides 99.9 percent uptime.

When your team uses Datto Workplace, they can access, change, and share files across all their devices, from their office computers to their mobile phones. However, you have control over who has access to the system. You can require permission to view and share files and restrict parts of your cloud to certain users, as needed. The system also records how files are being shared and used, making managing sensitive files a breeze.

These are just a few of the companies we trust to provide top-notch security and performance for our customers. Whether you are already a valued customer or you’re kicking our IT tires, for more information on WatchGuard, Barracuda, Datto Workplace, or any of our other trusted partners, contact Now IT Connects today.


Fall in Love with the Now IT Connects Team!

Have you fallen out of love with your IT support team? Are you a lonely heart looking for an IT team to support your network security, email, and managed services this year? Or, are you a happy client of Now IT Connects that’s interested in learning a little more about the team that supports you?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, we invite you to fall in love with the Now IT Connects team this Valentine’s day.

John Koshiol

John is the owner and CEO of Now IT Connects. He’s run the company for the last 15 years and looks forward to another 15 years of helping businesses keep their data secure and easy to use. When he’s not helping Now IT Connects customers, you’ll likely find John enjoying many outdoor activities, including hunting and fishing, golf, and shooting sports.

Bobbie Anacker

As the Now IT Connects administrative assistant, it’s likely that Bobbie’s smiling face or cheery “Hello!” will greet you at our door or on the phone. Bobbie has been part of the Now IT Connects team for a year. When not supporting Now IT Connects customers, Bobbie enjoys listening to music, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.

Justin Fellersen

Justin is our network manager. He installs and maintains the networks of our customers and our in-house network at our Clearwater, Minnesota, location. Justin has been part of the team for more than five years. Like John, Justin is an outdoorsman, enjoying hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and snowboarding.

Lloyd Sanquist

As a network engineer, Lloyd works alongside Justin to keep our customers’ networks safe and performing well. Lloyd’s served Now IT Connects customers since 2012. When not at work, Lloyd enjoys writing, camping, and playing video games.

Chris Imdieke

Chris is our second network engineer and has been part of our team for a little over a year. Chris works alongside Lloyd and Justin to support our customers’ networks and IT needs. After work, Chris enjoys playing video games and spending time with his family.

Ready to fall in love with your IT support team? We’d love to meet you! Give Now IT Connects a call today at 320-558-6300.


Now IT Connects’ New Favorite Things

Our Favorite Things_Now IT Connects_Clearwater_Minnesota

The Now IT Connects team is looking forward to learning more about three new IT products this year. From mesh network WiFi to multi-factor authentication for your entire network, here’s a look at the technologies we’re excited about in 2019.

1. Ubiquiti UniFi Mesh WiFi with Security Gateway and Cloud Key

UniFi Mesh WiFi technologies provide enterprise-level WiFi to locations across the globe from a single controller. This makes UniFi Mesh WiFi incredibly easy to scale. Opening a second or third location or expanding your current one? Simply install the hardware in your new space and sync it to the controller at your office.

If you think that controller is giant piece of software sitting in a closet, think again. The UniFi Cloud Key controller is about the size of a USB thumb drive and plugs into one of your ethernet ports. Once connected, you can control it and the rest of your mesh WiFi network through UniFi’s secure cloud network. And yes, there’s an app you can use to manage the WiFi of multiple sites wherever you are, whenever you need to.

2. HP Gen10 Server with Advanced iLO

HP’s new Gen10 servers use artificial intelligence and state-of-the-art hardware to deliver a high-performing, scalable, and incredibly secure business network solution. Gen10 servers use a hybrid cloud system to allow its AI-driven technology to keep your network secure and performing well. If you were curious how AI could transform your business, Gen10 servers will put an end to your wondering!

Gen10 servers use advanced encryption and ransomware blocking technology to keep your data and server infrastructure secure. The silicon within the hardware is fabricated to create a digital footprint for your server, which prevents bad actors from installing compromised firmware or breaching your own firmware.

3. WatchGuard Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication requires you to enter a password and then a code sent to your phone or email to log into an account. It’s becoming increasingly common for mobile banking and cloud computing services such as Dropbox. Now, multi-factor authentication is coming to one of our favorite security technology brands, WatchGuard.

WatchGuard’s AuthPoint technology empowers you to know who’s logging into your computer and mobile devices while asking those users to provide two or more pieces of identification. Users of your network simply download the AuthPoint app, which you then sync to your system through your WatchGuard dashboard. When they log into your network, cloud storage, or VPN, they are prompted to enter a password and then a one-time code the AuthPoint app generates for them. This type of authentication is highly secure yet simple to use, making network security effective and easy.

Those are our favorite new things for 2019! We look forward to sharing these state-of-the-art solutions with you and your team. If you have questions on these technologies or others, or if we can help implement these technologies into your IT plan, contact Now IT Connects today.


2019 IT Trends to Watch

2019 IT Trends to Watch_Now IT Connects_Clearwater_Minnesota

The IT world moves at the speed of light. It can be difficult to keep up with all the new tech, lingo, regulations, and cyber threats. That’s why Now IT Connects stays on top of these changes for you. We’re excited to share a few of the IT trends we’re watching this year.

ITaaS

The concept of ITaaS, or “IT as a service”, will continue to grow in 2019, and as an ITaaS provider, Now IT Connects couldn’t be happier! The ITaaS model empowers us to provide you with the hardware, software, cloud storage, and managed services you need, when you need it. This saves you money and makes managing your IT much more efficient, especially as your business grows. We look forward to expanding our ITaaS offerings in 2019.

“The Cloud” becomes “the Multicloud”

Cloud computing and cloud storage are IT trends that have been around for a few years now. But best practices on how to use the cloud are evolving. Companies used to have two options: build their own cloud network or data center, or purchase space on a cloud managed by another company, such as Microsoft or Amazon. Today, many companies are finding their computing, networking, and security needs are better met by a combination of private and public cloud solutions.

Enter the multicloud! The big providers of public cloud services are partnering with companies to create custom, hybrid cloud solutions. Expect public and private cloud providers to improve how their products integrate for a seamless user experience.

Blockchain Goes Mainstream

Blockchain is a technology used by the cryptocurrency industry (cryptocurrency is encrypted digital currency, such as bitcoin). Simply put, it’s a digital ledger that records and tracks data in units called blocks. The blocks are strung together chronologically and linearly. If someone wanted to change the data within a certain block, they would need to change not only that block, but every block that follows it. This is what makes blockchain a secure storage solution.

It’s confusing, we know, but we’re here to help! So to recap, blockchain is a tool to store and share digital information. It can store data about financial transactions (as it does for cryptocurrency), real estate transactions, or even supply chains. In 2019, we expect financial and health care institutions to incorporate this IT trend into their data storage solutions.

AI-Driven Tools

AI—artificial intelligence—is an exploding technology that has the potential to be a gamechanger in a wide range of industries. In 2019, AI will create new tools that automate the generation of code, applications and programs for developers. Does that mean developers are going to be replaced by robots? Probably not, but AI will make the job more efficient, which gives them more time to develop more tools and technologies.

More Debate on Digital Privacy

Cyber security and digital privacy will continue to be IT trends in 2019. We expect more debate and possibly regulation of who owns your personal information, who can use it, who can sell it, and who should be held responsible when your personal information is stolen.

We predict you’ll see more tech giant CEOs interviewed on the Hill and an increase in data breaches. If you don’t already have a cyber security plan or partner for your business, you can either cross your fingers that your data won’t be caught up in a possible breach or you can contact us to prepare yourself for a breach at your company.

That’s the Now IT Connects list of top IT trends to watch in 2019. Have questions? We’ve got answers. We can support all your IT needs this year. Contact us to learn more.