Strengthening Business Continuity Is Urgent For Financial Services

Strengthening Business Continuity Is Urgent For Financial Services

While most businesses handle at least some customer personally identifiable information on a daily basis, there is little more important than a client’s financial information which consists of what is likely a significant portion of their life savings. Firms that manage investment and savings accounts spend years cultivating relationships with their clients, with complete trust as one of the foundational pillars of these relationships. That’s why strengthening business continuity is so important for financial services organizations.

With data hacks on the rise, financial services organizations must do everything they can to ensure their client’s investments are safe and secure. This also means ensuring they are able to deliver continuous service such as deposits and withdrawals, and even simple account review 24/7/365. Financial services firms must also protect against identity theft and/or impersonation, which can even be more devastating to clients as these types of crimes affect not only their investments, but almost every other aspect of their daily life.

Business Continuity Defined  

In order to understand business continuity, it’s important to define it as it relates to data and information systems. In order for a firm to have continuity of services, they must have a complete solution, not just a plan for backup, but also recovery in the event of a disaster. This means client data is protected both on-premise and in the cloud in order to keep data safe and secure, even in the event of a device failure.

Do Your Backups Measure Up?

Companies still working under the impression that a daily back-up of all corporate data is sufficient, are at high risk for significant problems. This traditional way of viewing backups overlooks many gaps including instances such as when those in charge forget to perform a backup or the process fails in some way. Other potentially disastrous scenarios include losing an entire day’s worth of work after a failure and/or lack of backup validation, which is then discovered to be useless when needed for a restoration.

Other issues can occur from only keeping backups on-site, which means if a disaster such as a tornado, flood, or fire should occur, the backups become useless. Incomplete backups that only include raw data, rather than including other crucial data such as server configuration and application files means it could take several days to get fully back online in the event of a system failure. 

Finding the Optimal Solution

At this point, smaller financial services organizations may recognize they simply do not have the IT resources to implement the right protective strategies to safeguard their clients from irreparable financial harm. Fortunately, there is still a way to fully protect clients and their investments in the event of a disaster, whether natural or manmade. 

For smaller financial organizations, the ideal solution is to outsource their IT needs to a company that also has experience in the financial industry. By partnering with such a firm, smaller companies can be confident they are doing everything they can to protect not only all the valuable assets and information pertaining to their clients, but every online function related to operating their firm. 

An IT firm specializing in the financial industry can handle all compliance and regulatory issues that go along with protecting client data, as well as offering their expertise in the areas of timely hardware and software updates and maintenance, and ensuring the integrity of backups and their restoration process in the event that action becomes necessary. A specialized IT firm can also establish and provide continuous review and maintenance of system security practices within the financial firm. With a firm that specializes both in the IT and financial industries, financial services firms can have the best of both worlds and know they are doing everything they can to maintain the assets and the trust of their clients for decades to come.    

If you are a financial services firm and are ready to update your data backup strategy to industry standards, please contact us.

Astute CEOs Understand the Significance of Disaster Recovery

Astute CEOs Understand the Significance of Disaster Recovery

The pandemic has forced many companies to make significant changes in the way they conduct their business — especially the way in which their employees use corporate technology systems. While many companies adroitly managed a multitude of drastic changes within a short span of time, others organizations may have unknowingly left some gaps that could leave them vulnerable to significant issues — especially if they should experience a catastrophic event. This article will review four key areas that highlight the significance of disaster recovery should one occur in the middle of the pandemic.

Offsite Data Backup 

Even if a company had a solid plan in place regarding their offsite data backup before the pandemic, it’s still a good idea to determine if that plan will still be just as effective under current working conditions. Staff members responsible for data restoration after a disaster should verify that their plan to obtain and restore offsite data is still a smooth, functioning operation.

The Threat of Network Downtime

Since the pandemic, many companies shifted the bulk of their workforce to remote locations, and this has not gone unnoticed by data hackers and thieves. This shift noticeably increased the risk that criminals may gain access to critical apps and data on networks. While in the best of circumstances, it’s difficult to maintain continuity if a single app and its data has been compromised, in the worst case scenario, if hackers manage to bring down an entire network, or if a network is down from some type of natural disaster, companies can take a significant hit in lost revenue for every hour of downtime

Fortunately, there are BCDR products now available that will allow organizations to continue to run operations by way of backup instances of virtual servers — and in some instances they can extend this service to the cloud.

Increased Risk of Disaster  

While many companies and their employees are grateful they are still in business due to the fact they can operate remotely, having a dispersed workforce located in many different physical settings, does open up the increased possibility of a security attack. Hackers have long since taken note of the huge influx of remote workers and have increasingly focused their efforts on looking for any vulnerabilities that will allow them to gain access to systems that were formerly heavily secured.

Companies must make sure they have thoroughly trained their employees on the do’s and don’t of good computing practices, including using strong passwords, not sharing computer equipment with family members, keeping any paper trails of confidential information under physical lock and key within the home, and not using their own smart phones or personal email to conduct work-related tasks. 

Other potential disasters which can disrupt business continuity include the use of unsecured Wi-Fi either within the home, or out in public. In addition, some employees may feel somewhat disconnected from their employment in general, and may dismiss a suspicious email or the look of a questionable website, when under normal circumstances they would have called the tech team working down the hall to come and investigate. Companies must train their employees to remain vigilant against attacks even though their physical surroundings and access to others within the company may be very different.  

Do you Have a Plan? 

Not only is it critical to have a plan for disaster recovery efforts during the pandemic, it’s also critical to know how effectively it works. In the rush to ensure that a company’s workforce was up and running as quickly as possible, the effect of all the changes this required upon an organization’s disaster recovery plan, may have been overlooked. 

Unfortunately, the threat of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood, or fire do not necessarily subside just because the world is experiencing a pandemic. Just as companies were required to make significant changes in the way they operate, they must also secure their ability to maintain business continuity even in the event of a natural disaster.

If you want to know how to determine if you’re ready for a disaster even during a pandemic, please contact us.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Benjamin Franklin was certainly correct when he coined the phrase, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This time-honored quote is just as true in today’s world of information technology, as it was true hundreds of years ago in completely different sets of circumstances.

When it comes to technology — specifically, data loss prevention, an ounce of preparedness can go a long way in either avoiding a data disaster altogether, or at least mitigating its impact if a business should ever encounter a man-made disaster.

What is Data Loss Prevention?

Data loss prevention is both a set of software technologies and an overall business strategy. Combined together, and both sharing the same goal of ensuring users are prohibited from sending vital or sensitive data to entities outside the sphere of their corporate network, companies can be assured they are doing everything they can to protect one of their most vital corporate resources — their data. 

Why is it Needed?

While some of the more obvious pieces of data that an employee would not share with others, such as employee social security numbers, birthdates, and proprietary information about a company’s key business processes, some information is not so black and white. A company may want to list an employee’s name and contact information somewhere on their website so they will be accessible to potential clients.

However, by making this information public, it also creates the potential for hackers to pose as the employee and then attempt to contact another employee within the company, perhaps asking for confidential information. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting employee doesn’t realize they’ve just been a victim of a phishing attack until it’s too late.

Making it Happen 

As today’s hackers become more sophisticated, the creation of a data loss prevention strategy means it’s critical for businesses to review every piece of data that employees deal with and determine the level of protection needed. Once a business reviews all the information that flows through their company, it’s time to turn to software technologies to make sure their data is continually protected.

Fortunately, there are fully automated software technologies available that can examine all of a company’s data, along with the organization’s policies for handling each data type. The software application then decides the level of protection required based upon the company’s outlined policies. If an employee attempts to pass along information to someone who is not cleared to receive the data, a warning message from the security software will pop up, alerting the employee to their incorrect action and the software will prevent the information from proceeding any further.

How to Find Help 

While it certainly sounds like a good idea to evaluate all corporate data, devise a strategy, and then find software that will fit within a company’s strategic plan, in reality, it’s a daunting task for most companies. Corporate leaders are simply not so immersed in the world of technology to stay focused on all the new and more complicated ways in which hackers attempt to steal data.

It just isn’t realistic to think a business whose focus is on running their organization in an entirely different industry, has the technological expertise to sift through all their data to determine the level of protection required for each piece of information. And it takes some expertise to marry the right security technologies to an individual company to ensure they have just the right amount of data protection they need.

Summary

If you would like to know more about creating a data loss prevention strategy, we can help. We can assist in evaluating your organization’s data, as well as select the right software applications that will provide the level of protection you need.

Please contact us today for more information.

Business Continuity – How to Avoid Disaster in 6 Steps

How to Avoid Disaster - 6 Steps to Business Continuity

Robert Burns was correct when he wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” As much as every business owner wants to (and should) plan for success, at the same time they should also understand their ability to continually thrive may very well depend on surviving an unexpected crisis. Businesses that create a business continuity plan will likely be able to meet the rare but tough challenges to thrive beyond a disaster.

What If?

A positive thing about considering “what if”, is that brainstorming about the worst that can happen provides immense value in helping business owners prepare beforehand to meet a potential challenge. If you are a business owner, consider how prepared your company will be if ever faced with one of these unexpected crises:

  • Physical Damage – What if a natural disaster occurs such as a flood, fire, or an extensive power outage that results in physical damage to company building(s), equipment, inventory, etc.? Is your business prepared if such an event occurs?
  • A Lost Resource – Vital resources are not always physical. Sometimes a business might rely very heavily on a supplier or a key employee that makes a valuable contribution to the company. If one of your suppliers goes bankrupt or a valued employee decides to leave, is your company prepared for that?
  • Crime – Depending upon the type of business, a company could become a crime victim through theft of a physical asset, a virtual loss of data, or theft of intellectual property. Do you have a plan in place if your delivery truck is stolen or a hacker is holding your data for ransom?
  • Data Loss – Data loss can occur in a variety of ways. Online data thieves and hackers are always looking for companies to exploit. Poorly trained employees may make an error that results in a significant loss of data, or perhaps a disgruntled employee sabotages the company before they leave. Regardless of the reason for the loss, most companies would be significantly hampered by a loss of corporate data. 
  • Equipment Failure – Sometimes equipment fails as part of a natural disaster. Perhaps a fire or flood has destroyed a company’s telecom systems, core IT equipment, or perhaps an owner was neglectful in replacing old, outdated equipment in a timely manner. 
  • Lost Access – Sometimes an external resource has its own data breach which wreaks havoc on your ability to do business. Perhaps a bank account or credit card is frozen due to suspected fraud by a third party, or a fired employee removes the ability for employees to access corporate software systems. As a business owner, are you prepared for such events?

Preparing a Plan

No business needs to fall victim to an unexpected disaster. Avoiding a crisis is within reach of every company willing to prepare a plan for potential disaster. An ideal way to start preparing is by employing a six-step process designed to tackle every catastrophic challenge. The first step begins with an analysis of a company’s vulnerabilities and risks. The second step involves assessing one’s current state of readiness, along with identifying weak areas. Step three consists of constructing a plan designed to thoroughly cover every area of a business with regard to each potential crisis.

It should come as no surprise since communication is so important, that step four consists of communicating the plan to the entire team so everyone is thoroughly trained on how to respond to a disaster. Step five includes regular monitoring and updating of “the plan” since over time most businesses naturally change and evolve. Lastly, step six involves bringing a fresh perspective to the table by employing external help. A new perspective that can help fill in the gaps by providing an additional level of expertise.

If you would like to know more about how to ensure your business survives and thrives beyond every potential crisis, please contact us.

Office 365 vs. Office 2019 for Business

Office 365 vs. Office 2019 for Business
Office 365

Microsoft is an essential part of many business’ operations. Businesses rely on Microsoft Word for their word processing needs, Excel for spreadsheets and PowerPoint for presentations. The cloud has become an integral part of Microsoft’s offerings, and this had led the company to offer two different versions of Microsoft Office: 

  1. Office 365
  2. Office 2019

 Each version can be used for business, but which is ideal?

Office 365: Cloud-based

Office 365 is cloud-based, so you pay for a subscription either monthly or yearly. Cloud-based, Microsoft worries about updates, infrastructure and security. You or your employees simply log into Office on your web browser and can make Word documents, spreadsheets or any other file under the Office suite of products.

What’s nice about Office 365 is that it can be accessed anywhere on any Internet-connected device.

You can work on a document in the office, go home, and then work on the document some more. Automatic saving makes the process streamlined. Office 365 for business comes with the following office applications:

  • Access (only on PC)
  • Excel
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Word

All versions come with OneDrive, but the higher version comes with a few extras:

  • Exchange
  • SharePoint
  • Teams

You will receive a desktop version of Office applications with Office 365. The maximum number of users on the business plan is 300, so everyone in the office can have access to Office 365.

Office 2019: Standalone Version

Office 2019 is a standalone product, so it’s a one-time purchase. You won’t have to pay subscription fees, but you won’t have the benefit of online collaboration on the cloud. Licenses are valid for one PC or Mac, and fully-installed versions will include the following:

  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Word

You’ll need to update Office 2019, and all of your files will be stored on your computer or server. A disaster recovery plan should be in place when using the standalone version of Office 2019, or you risk losing your data if your hard drive fails, you get a virus, or data becomes corrupted.

Which Office is Best for Your Business?

If you don’t have the budget for Office 365, Office 2019 may be the best option. In most other cases, Office 365 will offer the most flexibility. Not only does Office 365 come with its own version for your PC or Mac, but it will also offer:

  • Regular updates from Microsoft (you never need to upgrade)
  • Cloud-based data storage
  • Ease of collaboration for larger teams
  • Linking directly to files in the cloud
  • Access to all applications on multiple devices

Office 2019 will need to be updated when Office 2020 is released, but you can continue using Office 2019 for as long as you wish.

Contact us today to develop an Office 365 solution for your small- or medium-sized business.