Reasons Your Business Needs a vCIO-Timbuktech

3 Reasons Your Business Needs a vCIO

“Should I let my employees use their personal devices for work?” 

“Will this new solution be a game-changer or a waste of my money?” 

“How do I defend my data against the next generation of cyber threats?” 

If you’ve asked any of these questions, you’re not alone – trying to prepare for the future while balancing day-to-day responsibilities is a tough task for even the most dedicated business owners. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an IT expert to tackle these challenges. A virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) offers expertise in a flexible, cost-effective manner that suits small and medium-sized businesses. 

Here are three reasons your business needs a vCIO: 

  1. Your employees need more flexibility. 

If you have employees who work remotely, while traveling or from home after business hours, you have a mobile workforce – whether you’re equipped for one or not. You need processes in place to maximize their productivity and secure business data across corporate and personal devices. Virtual CIOs help you consider factors such as applications, support, ownership, security and communication policies to develop a strategy that fits your business. Cisco reports that companies with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) processes save an average of $350 per year, per user – a vCIO can help you claim those savings for your organization with simple and secure access to data, tools and applications from any location.  

  1. New technology can solve your headaches. 

Technology is constantly evolving, but as a business owner, you probably don’t have time to research every emerging technology – or the insight to understand which ones will produce long-term results and which are just fads. Virtual CIOs are plugged into the rapidly-changing world of technology and can help you identify new developments that reduce costs and increase efficiency. By thoroughly understanding your business’s pain points, they are in an ideal position to recommend solutions that will help your team now and into the future. A vCIO can also periodically evaluate your existing technology to discover new opportunities and assist with putting together a business case for new solutions.   

  1. Cyberattacks are on the rise. 

The news is full of stories about the hacking of large companies – Marriott, Macy’s, The New York Times, and even tech companies such as Apple, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft. Unfortunately, hackers don’t just target big companies – a study by Symantec found that 36 percent of recent attacks targeted businesses with fewer than 250 employees. No matter the size of your organization, security is an essential factor for all businesses. A vCIO oversees risk assessments, data protection, training awareness and third-party security practices to mitigate the possibility of attacks or breaches. They can also handle identity and access management to allow only authorized users to access sensitive corporate data. 

 Virtual CIOs can handle other challenges, such as helping you resume operations after a disaster, overseeing special initiatives and keeping your IT costs from ballooning. To discuss how a vCIO can impact your business, contact us today. 


Finding the Right Cloud-Based Collaboration Tool for Your Business-Timbuktech

Finding the Right Cloud-Based Collaboration Tool for Your Business

The cloud hosts hundreds of tools and applications designed to improve security and collaboration, streamline operations and project management, and enhance your existing solutions. But, knowing which cloud-based tools are right for your business is harder than you think.
From the cost of the application to how well it integrates with your current services, a lot goes into the decision of adopting a new app or tool. Ease the burden of researching hundreds of products by using our chart to compare some of the leading cloud-based collaboration tools.

Instant Messenger Solutions

While on the surface Slack looks like a more expensive choice, their free subscription offers a stripped-down option for an unlimited number of users. Their free and paid options leverage a variety of features including synchronization, data security and encryption, iOS and Android apps, file sharing and browsing, voice and video calls, webhooks and more.

 

HipChat may not have as many features as Slack, but it provides a solid communication option for small businesses or organizations on a limited budget. With features like screen and file sharing, synchronization, and voice and video calling, HipChat makes it easy to share ideas across an unlimited number of chatrooms. But, they only offer a free 30-day trial version before you’re faced with the decision to buy a monthly subscription.

Office Suite Solutions

Microsoft has been in the cloud-documents game a little longer than Google, and their subscription plans show it. From Office 365 Business Essentials to Enterprise E5, Microsoft has a plan for any size business. Office 365 offers 1TB of file storage per user – and that’s over and above email storage in Outlook. Due to its popularity, Office 365 integrates with most existing solutions and also provides Yammer and Stream as services in its package.

 

While G Suite counts email toward your storage space, their Business plan offers unlimited storage if you buy more than five user accounts. For the right business, that provides the most cost-effective solution. G Suite is also extremely scalable and doesn’t restrict your plans to the number of users. Plus, you gain the option to create both G Suite and Office 365 documents – giving you the best of both worlds for a single price.

 

Video Conferencing Solutions

Cisco Webex starts at a steep price for an annual subscription, but as a leader in security, Cisco brings a multi-layered security solution that keeps users protected and messages encrypted. Webex doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Skype for Business, but it’s easy to navigate and provides a more reliable connection.

 

Skype for Business provides a variety of features from one-to-one video calls and voice messages to group screen sharing and more. With security solutions that keep unauthorized users out and data encrypted, you can feel safe conversing with clients, peers and prospects. Skype for Business seamlessly integrates with Office 365 and provides Microsoft plans like Business Essentials and Business Premium.

 

While the cloud may offer hundreds of different collaboration tools, not all of them are right for your business. We’ll help you evaluate your issues and determine which solutions are the perfect fit for your business.

 

For more information on the leading cloud-based collaboration tools and how they can influence your business, contact us today.


4 Ways to Meet Compliance with Innovative Cloud Technologies-Timbuktech

4 Ways to Meet Compliance with Innovative Cloud Technologies

According to IDC, no less than 60 percent of all IT spending and up to 70 percent of all software, services and tech spending will be cloud-based by 2020. Cloud-based solutions are on the up and up, and they’re not slowing down. Cloud is no longer a new concept – it’s a requirement for every business. But, that doesn’t mean that innovative cloud technologies can’t help you meet compliance easier than ever before.

As the cloud becomes a crucial part of every business’s operation, we’re finding new and different ways to leverage its capabilities. Meeting compliance is a driving factor for every company – from the medical industry to accounting. By following these four processes, you can make sure your business never risks noncompliance fines.

1.    Deploy a hybrid solution.

Don’t make the mistake of believing you can only choose public or private cloud solutions. For many companies, a hybrid solution provides the best of both worlds with the only con being its complexity. With an expert IT partner, you can take your hands off the reins and let your MSP take care of the technicalities while you rake in the benefits of having both private and public cloud solutions.

A hybrid cloud provides the security of a private cloud network with the cost-reduction of a public cloud solution. Plus, with features like cloud bursting which allows you to run applications within one environment and then tap into additional capacity during spikes, you can ensure you’re only paying for the resources you use – all while reducing operating costs and security risks.

2.    Fine-tune your cloud management strategy.

Multi-cloud solutions are the next step for many businesses. Multi-cloud involves controlling and running applications, workloads or data on multiple public, private or hybrid clouds. But, multi-cloud and other cloud environments are a complex process that requires strategic planning.

Regardless of which cloud environment you want to implement, you need to create a cloud management strategy that incorporates your short and long-term goals. By using this roadmap, you can chart out when you’ll need to upgrade or adopt new cloud environments, budget how much you’re spending monthly and yearly, and gain visibility on where you are in the process.

3.    Implement a multi-layered security solution.

Managing five, 10, 16 different cloud vendors on your own is not only difficult to do, it can leave you vulnerable to security threats and expensive mistakes. With new compliances like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looming, it’s critical that businesses take compliance seriously.

Gone are the days when your security protection was separate from your solutions. Building security into your cloud applications from the start is the best option to ensure true protection. This reduces your vulnerabilities and adds a layer of security to your existing plan. By padding that layer with proactive monitoring and other security solutions, you can be sure your customers’ private data is protected.

4.    Partner with a reliable MSP.

The right partner can mean the difference between a seamless, reliable cloud solution and frustrating problems that keep cropping up. When you partner with us, you can rest easy knowing the toughest choice is already out of the way.

We’ll walk through your cloud integration plan and determine which solutions are best for your business. Then, we proactively monitor and support your services, staying up to date with the latest compliance regulations and standards so you never have to sweat the small details.

For more information on how we can help you implement cloud solutions that make meeting compliance easier, contact us today.


Your Guide to Ethics & Privacy-Timbuktech

Your Guide to Ethics & Privacy

In his 2009 paper Digital Ethics, Richard Capurro described digital ethics as, “the impact of digital Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on our societies and the environment at large.” But, what does that mean for your business and customers?

What is Digital Ethics?
Whether you’re a small, local business or a seasoned global enterprise, you have a moral – and regulatory – obligation to protect your employees’ and customers’ confidential information. Part of understanding digital ethics is knowing how far is too far. Can you use your customers’ search history to send them emails about products they may be interested in buying? How about using video surveillance from your stores to create customer profiles and send shoppers emails about products they were looking at in store? Understanding digital ethics includes determining that line and being self-aware so you don’t cross it.

Questions to Ask Yourself
To figure out where the line is, you should first ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I have permission to use this information?
  • Can this information be used for malicious purposes?
  • Is this information helpful to customers (i.e., does it improve their experience)?

This year the EU passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act, which requires businesses to gain permission before using information obtained about customers. While the regulation only applies to protecting EU residents, it requires businesses all over the world to comply to protect any EU resident visiting their site. By asking the above questions, you can find the fine line between ethical and unethical behavior while meeting compliance rules set by GDPR.

Creating and Implementing a Plan
Once you know where the line is, you need to create a plan to protect your customers’ confidential information and keep your business safe. What security measures are in place to prevent cyber criminals from obtaining and selling your customers’ data? Do you have data backup and recovery plans and a multi-layered security solution to protect confidential data from every angle?

How We Can Help
As your managed services partner, we’ll help you protect your customers’ privacy by implementing a security solution that encrypts their data and keeps cyber criminals out. We begin by evaluating your systems and pinpointing vulnerabilities. Then, we gauge your goals to determine which security solutions are most effective for protecting your customers’ and employees’ confidential information, implement them, and support them post-deployment so you can focus on growing your business.

When it comes to understanding ethics and privacy, you don’t have to face it alone. From finding the fine line to deploying a solution that protects confidential data, we’ll help you implement a practical plan. Contact us today to get started.


5 Questions You Should be Asking Before the New Year-Timbuktech

5 Questions You Should be Asking Before the New Year

When it comes to enhancing the way you do business, you’ve probably got a lot of questions. From implementing new solutions to boosting your existing services, deciding what is best for your business can feel overwhelming.

Technology choices don’t have to be difficult. This year, we helped businesses across a variety of industries solve their unique challenges, and we did it by following tech trends and best practices. So, what tech trends should you expect for the coming year? Start by asking these five questions:

  1. Are you missing simple productivity enhancers?
    You don’t have to change your entire process to improve productivity. A study by Fujitsu Siemens Computers found that by installing multiple monitors at your workstations, you can improve productivity by 35 percent. Dual, triple or quadruple monitor setups not only give you remote access and flexibility but – in many cases – can cost the same (i.e. a laptop and one monitor compared to a desktop and two monitors).
  2. Are you still using old Microsoft products?
    By January 2020, Microsoft will no longer support Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server 2010. Outdated technology creates a hole in your security. By updating your software, you can improve your performance and productivity while keeping your business – and your customers’ confidential data – safe.
  3. Is your information being sold on the dark web?
    When it comes to your data being stolen, the dark web is a bustling marketplace for selling your confidential information. You need multi-layered security support designed to check for vulnerabilities, patch holes in your defenses and proactively protect your data from unauthorized users.
  4. Have you migrated to the cloud?
    Cloud computing is essential to improving productivity and efficiencies in the workplace, and that’s not stopping anytime soon. If you haven’t migrated your servers, applications or storage to the cloud, consider doing so now. It’s one of the easiest ways to reduce operating costs and improve the scalability of your business.
  5. Can your employees recognize fake emails?
    Phishing emails are increasingly appearing more legitimate. With sophisticated graphics and language, cybercriminals can make it look like anyone from your team is sending an email. Can your employees recognize the difference? With email security and encryption, you can protect your data from falling into the wrong hands.

When it comes to improving your business, your technology options are endless. But just because you can do anything doesn’t mean you should.

We’ll help you navigate the sea of IT opportunities and implement solutions for whatever the new year decides to bring you. Contact us today to answer these questions and discuss what tech changes you should be deploying.


Brilliant Tech Gifts for Home, Work and Play-Timbuktech

Brilliant Tech Gifts for Home, Work and Play

To make sure you have the flexibility you need to find a great gift for everyone on your list, here are some brilliant (and popular) tech gifts.

As you consider holiday gifts for all the people who make your business a success – your employees, customers and partners – answer these three questions.

  1. Do the people on your list like tech gifts (hint: most do)?
  2. Will your recipients use their gift at home, work or play?
  3. Will everyone on your list get the same gift?

Number three is a no-brainer – there’s no way that everyone gets the same gift. You need options. To make sure you have the flexibility you need to find a great gift for everyone on your list, here are some brilliant (and popular) tech gifts. Some are for work, some for home and others for play. Take a look and you’re bound to find a few of the gifts you need.

Home

Ring WiFi Smart Video Doorbell

Few things we do at home are as risky as opening the front door after a stranger rings the bell. Thanks to Ring, a homeowner can now greet whoever rings the bell via iPhone or Android, even if they aren’t at home. Ring takes the risk out of answering the door, and it starts at less than $100.

Nest Learning Thermostat

Quick question: who enjoys programming their thermostat? Answer: nobody. That’s why the Nest Learning Thermostat is so popular. It learns what temperature you like the house to be at what times and programs itself, while leaving you the option of changing temperature remotely. Simply brilliant and starts at less than $200.

Work

Blue Microphones

Ever get frustrated and tune out when teleconference audio is sub-standard? Give your partner with poor audio quality a Blue microphone and improve every call, conference call or recording they make. The entry level Blue Snowball iCE starts at less than $50. Your gift could make a huge impact without costing you a fortune.

Samsung Galaxy Note9 Factory Unlocked

For the on-the-go executive who doesn’t like iPads, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is a fantastic gift. It features Samsung’s largest phone screen and the S-Pen that can capture shots, scroll and play music remotely. A factory unlocked version is around $1,000.

Play

Beats by Dre Solo2 Luxe Edition Wireless Headphones

These headphones are for the person who appreciates beautifully designed products and loves the sound of HD audio with enhanced bass. With wireless and remote capabilities, the Beats by Dre Solo2 Luxe Edition Wireless Headphones combine looks, sound and ease of use for under $150.

Xbox or PS4

Know someone who loves to play Fortnite on their smartphone, iPad or laptop? An Xbox or PS4 gaming system will boost game performance (and make their experience even more enjoyable) while also providing streaming capability. A system with full HD video will run around $300, while one with 4K UHD will start at just under $400.

These tech gifts for home, work and play are perfect for the season and should cover most of the people on your list. With New Year’s rapidly approaching, the holiday season is also the right time to give your organization a gift.

What do you give a company? If productivity upgrades come to mind, consider an improved IT infrastructure that boosts the performance of everyone on your team. Contact us today and we’ll help you recognize which parts of your infrastructure present the best opportunities to improve productivity and drive growth.


Out With the Old, In With the New – Upgrade Your Tech with Section 179-Timbuktech

Out With the Old, In With the New – Upgrade Your Tech with Section 179

When new employees join your business, are they saddled with hand-me-down technology that’s seen better days? If you’ve tried to save money by stretching your computer capabilities over the course of a decade – only to be stuck when a computer “unexpectedly” stops working – Section 179 can help you break the cycle.

We see technology as a way to make life easier, yet when your tech begins to fail, it no longer serves its purpose. In fact, it creates new troubles and costs you more money in downtime and lack of productivity than it would cost to purchase shiny new equipment. Here’s the good news: the U.S. government understands this desire to save money by upgrading your equipment less often, and they’re combating it with Section 179.

 

What’s the Section 179 tax deduction?

Well, instead of waiting for your equipment to conk out on you, Section 179 lets you deduct the full price of any qualifying equipment or software purchased or leased during the year. In addition to purchases like commercial use vehicles and improvements to nonresidential property, this includes:

  • Business equipment that you purchase, finance or lease
  • Computers
  • Software with a non-exclusive license that has not been substantially modified
  • Office equipment like servers and printers, routers, network switches and network security appliances

Now, there’s no reason to put off upgrading your technology when you can write off the full amount. Businesses that buy, finance or lease less than $2.5 million in new or used businesses equipment qualify. After you reach the $2.5 million cap, the deduction decreases on a dollar for dollar basis up to $3.5 million. Just make sure that you put the equipment and software into use by December 31, 2018. For questions about your eligibility, consult with your accountant.

Not sure if you need an upgrade?

It depends on your usage, but a guide is five to seven years for computers, three to five years for hardware (like industrial printers and switches), and six to 10 years for other qualifying items like vehicles and furniture. If you notice a significant decline in performance or if downtime is hindering your workflow, it’s probably time for new equipment.

 Section 179 allows you to stay competitive in the market and support your customers effectively with up-to-date tech. Are you ready to take your technology to the next level? Contact us today to talk about the best options for your business.


Does Your Company Need a vCIO? Take Our Self-Assessment-Timbuktech

Does Your Company Need a vCIO? Take Our Self-Assessment

If you’ve never heard of a virtual CIO, you probably assume you don’t need one. But, virtual CIOs, or vCIOs, give companies the benefit of a high-level technology executive without the cost of hiring an in-house CIO. Virtual CIOs examine your current infrastructure, locate gaps in security and productivity, and implement solutions to improve your business operations.

 

Answer these questions to see whether your business could benefit from a vCIO:

If your network failed because of a natural disaster, cyber attack or employee error, how long would it take you to recover your mission-critical data?

A. A few hours to a couple of days. Everything is backed up to an accessible location.

B. A week to several months. Some of our data is in the cloud but not all of it, and we’re not sure how to restore it.

C. We would have to start from scratch.

 

Have you developed a strategic technology roadmap for the future of your business?

A. We know exactly which solutions align with our business goals to support our growth.

B. Sort of. We have an idea of where we want to go, but it’s not fully fleshed out.

C. We’re just trying to get through today.

 

When was the last time you conducted comprehensive assessments of your systems and network?

A. The results were good to excellent.

B. More than a year ago. Things have changed since then, but the foundation is strong.

C. Not since we started the company. Our assessments are no longer relevant.

 

How confident are you that you’re meeting the compliance standards for your industry?

A. Extremely confident. We have strict compliance standards in place and keep up with changes.

B. Moderately confident. We understand the rules for compliance but haven’t implemented processes to consistently hit the mark.

C. Not confident at all. We’re overwhelmed by the work involved in meeting compliance, or we don’t know which regulations apply to us.

 

How much insight do you get from the data you collect?

A. We know how to read our data and apply it to our real-world operations.

B. It could be more useful, but we don’t have the time or expertise to analyze it.

C. It’s just a jumble of numbers on a spreadsheet at this point.

 

Mostly As: Congratulations – your business has a fairly strong IT infrastructure. But, you could still use an expert to align your technology with your goals for the future. With the guidance and recommendations of a vCIO, you can make decisions about your technology with confidence.

Mostly Bs: The pieces are in place – now, you just need someone to bring them together. By enlisting the services of a virtual CIO, you can optimize your technology to save money, boost productivity and adapt to changes.

Mostly Cs: Unreliable technology is holding you back. A vCIO performs comprehensive assessments to identify weaknesses in your existing infrastructure and recommends ways to close security gaps, meet compliance standards, get the most from your data and more.

 

Whatever your industry or business size, a virtual CIO takes high-level IT planning off your plate. Contact us today to learn how a vCIO can take your business to the next level.


Security-Tips-Banks-Timbuktech

5 Security Tips EVERY Financial Institution Should Follow

If you know anything about banks or finances at all, you know that the two biggest things they manage are money and personal information. This means they then need the most up to date security measures to ensure that everyone’s money and information is in safe hands. Here are five of the biggest security tips to make sure everything is kept safe and sound.

Passwords

Easy enough, you need passwords in place to make sure the wrong people don’t get a peek at what you have stored away in your files. Make sure the password is strong and unique to make it more difficult to guess or figure out, and make sure that it is reset at least every month to increase your protection. Passwords should be mandatory to all employees and specialized passwords should be in place for those that have access to people’s information.

Encryption

Files should be heavily encrypted so that only those with the decryption key can see what they contain. This way, even if files are stolen or leaked, outsiders are unable to see their contents and they can be safely dealt with or retrieved before more harm can be done. Operating without encryption on your files is like buying a house with no roof. It still works to keep everything in one place, but if a storm comes along, you’ll lose a lot in the process.

Updates

Keep your software up to date at all times. Make sure the updates roll through when nobody is at work so it doesn’t interrupt their schedules, but if it has to be done during the day, give them a heads up so they can prepare their schedules accordingly. Updates are vital to keeping data safe and secure since older versions of your software could have exploitable bugs in the systems that potential thieves could take advantage of.

Education

Make sure all employees, yourself included, have been given the proper education on data protection and computer safety. Accidents happen even with as much preparation as possible, but if you educate them on how to avoid these accidents, the chances of them happening drastically reduce. This way everyone is held accountable and when a mistake happens, you know that they have had the proper training to know right from wrong.

Open Channels

Employees need room to breath and work freely. It may seem in your best interest to vet every site they go to to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks but it is actually hindering them in the long run. They may resort to other means to get the information they require which could backfire on you and them. Have some trust in your employees, give them the tools to succeed and trust that they know what is right and wrong in the workplace and if they are questioning the site they are using, to run it by you to see if it is fine or not.


Technology-Planning-Infrastructure-Timbuktech

5 Tips for Technology Planning for Infrastructure

Planning IT for infrastructure is difficult since there is so much that goes into it. Besides building and maintaining a portion of everyday life for many people, that maintenance is both physical and digital in nature. You have to be ready for anything that comes your way no matter what it might be, and have the foresight to prepare for any and all conflicts that may arise. In an age where predation is as simple as a few well managed keystrokes, there are always threats to your systems. Here are a few ways you can prepare for the worst in the best ways possible.

Protection Walls

While this may sound obvious, there needs to be layers to your security as you create it. Some information is more important than others, meaning it needs to go behind walls of safety to ensure it is protected from outside interference. Make sure there are grades of security that information is processed and stored through, like a sort of information mesh. Important information and data sifts to the bottom in the most secure areas while the lighter info is stored higher up. This layering deters hackers and would be thieves from taking the most important bits should worse come to worst.

Passwords

There should always be some form of passwords in place that are a requirement to access systems or data. This is a no-brainer but also needs to be regulated as well. The passwords should be unique to each system and should be changed every few months or even weeks depending on the data inside. Multiple failed attempts should cause a lockout so that you must request a new password or contact an admin to fix the issue.

Encryption

This applies to the first two points, but data should always be encrypted. This means that it is stored behind a difficult system that needs a specific function or key to understand. Otherwise, the information will look like a jumble of useless characters or be completely inaccessible. Always make sure that your information is encrypted so that if it is stolen, you have time to recover or they are simply unable to use it.

Proper Training

Systems can be difficult to learn, so training is usually close to follow. However, you should always make sure those left in charge know all the ins and outs of the position. They should know all the security measures and have access to specific portions of it, but not all of it at once. It’s important to trust your employees, but not the the extent that it could cause harm in the future.

Regulations

There are already rigid regulations in place to make sure that nothing goes wrong with your data in the long run. Make sure you are always up to date with the most recent regulations and security practices in the business so that you never run into disaster. Keep you and your infrastructure as safe as possible by following every guideline and you’ll never have to worry about a thing.