Small Businesses Now #1 Target for Hackers

A new report by cybersecurity firm 4iQ reveals data breach attacks to small businesses surged over 420% in 2018, exposing almost 15 billion identity records including credit card numbers, bank accounts, and email addresses. According to Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, small businesses now account for 58% of malware attack victims. In 2017, cyberattacks affected 61% of SMBs according to a Ponemon Institute report.

Why the increased threat to small businesses?

First, smaller companies are being increasingly targeted because they don’t have sophisticated security and larger companies are getting tougher and tougher to hack. Small companies are more vulnerable and often have valuable information. Second, the number of hackers has dramatically increased because the dark web has made powerful hacking tools available to anyone and a marketplace to easily sell stolen data.

Think your small business is below the radar and too small to be hacked?

Think again. Regardless of your industry or company size, you’ll likely have data thieves want to steal such as confidential customer information that can be easily sold to identity thieves on the dark web. Your database may also contain other kinds of confidential data such as customer credit card numbers, employee personal records, and trade secrets. Plus, hackers don’t just steal data, they can corrupt it or hold it for ransom (ransomware).

What you should do:

1. Make sure your employees are properly trained.

You need to have procedures for securing data. Most security problems, particularly at small companies, are caused by employee-related errors – clicking on bad websites, opening up infected files, etc.  Make sure your employees are well aware of potential problems to avoid putting your small business at risk.

At a minimum, employees should:

  • Change passwords on a regular basis
  • Not open emails, download files or click on links from suspicious sources
  • Ignore popup messages
  • Keep laptops secure (password protected and locked away at night)

2. Secure remote worker access.

If an employee or contractor is working remote, then they’re connecting to your network through online services which have a risk of being hacked. Even employees who bring their laptop home risk having their laptop lost or stolen.

3. Look for signs you may have been hacked.

  • Login problems. A hacker may have locked your account after too many unsuccessful attempts to log in. Or worse, they got in and changed the password locking you out.
  • Popup messages, anti-virus warnings, new toolbars, should raise concerns.
  • Slower network. Can be caused by hackers transferring files out of your network.
  • Fake or phishing emails sent to your employees.
  • High turnover and/or disgruntled ex-employees.

Some of the ways we help protect our clients from data breach threats:

  1. Multilevel security. It takes more than antivirus software to protect your business. We can recommend the best tools for your specific environment and budget and will use a multi-layered approach to implement and manage those tools for you.
  2. Affordable remote access solutions. Many companies think remote access tools are out of their reach. However, secure remote access is easy, offering you both the productivity and accessibility your employees need, while keeping your data and networks secure from threats.
  3. The best defense is a good offense. Our OneCare managed services plan offers companies the ability to proactively protect their networks.
  4. Responding to clients promptly. Each ticket that comes in is reviewed and escalated within 12 minutes, regardless of how the ticket is generated.

At Dataworks, we understand what threatens your business. Combating those threats requires a comprehensive approach to IT from a provider who will respond quickly every time you call. Don’t wait for trouble to strike your networks. Make sure your company is protected today.

Find out if you’re at risk. Contact us at (425) 687-6185 or online for an assessment.

Dataworks Certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council

Dataworks Consulting recently received national certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council–Pacific, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

“Woman-owned businesses are an essential role model and affirmation that inclusion is important to all. Women in IT were not always accepted, but now being woman-owned is a major advantage and we’re truly honored to be recognized by WBENC.” – Caroline Smith, founder and owner of Dataworks.

WBENC’s national standard of certification is a meticulous process that includes an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification confirms the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.

WBENC is the nation’s leader in women’s business development and the leading third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women, with more than 13,000 certified Women’s Business Enterprises. More than 1,000 corporations representing America’s most prestigious brands as well as many states, cities, and other entities accept WBENC Certification.

Need an IT hero? We’re here for you. We love to make IT work!

Budget for EOL in 2019

It’s that time of year again.

October is budget season. Advertising, hiring costs and accounting services may be high on your list, but have you factored system updates into your 2019 budget? It may not already be on your radar, but Microsoft Office has announced that Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 End-of-Life will be January 14, 2020.

Did you Know?

System replacement can be a huge expense and undertaking, especially in small to midsize businesses. Such an undertaking, in fact, that it is tempting to ignore the problem altogether. However, that’s not a temptation you want to indulge! When Microsoft deems a product “end-of-life”, they no longer release security patches and updates. That means that every end-of-life operating system you have becomes a security risk. Hackers and malicious software creators know this. If you have regulatory compliance concerns, continuing to operate with these systems beyond their support lifespan will most likely put you out of compliance.

Given the challenges of year end and a new year, Dataworks recommends that all Server 2008 and Windows 7 systems be replaced well before the end of 2019.

Here are 4 Ways to Prepare For Windows 7 and Server 2008 End-of-Life Now

  • Identify what systems need to be upgraded. Older hardware and equipment may be unable to support operating system upgrades, and so we recommend system replacement rather than merely updating the operating system.
  • Develop a timeline and budget for system replacements now. If preparing for Windows 7 and 2008 End-of-Life are not there already, it’s time to get them in your 2019 budget. The sooner you can begin to plan for this transition, the more strategic you can be in budgeting.
  • If any old systems are business-critical and your business must run old systems, work with your IT provider to ensure that appropriate security measures are in place, namely segmentation. However, running outdated software and OS is never recommended.
  • Train employees in the new software. Training should accompany rollouts and your IT provider should offer training with new systems.

Budgets and end-of-year checklists are a headache. Taxes and paperwork aren’t even the tip of the iceberg. As a small to midsize business, you have to think about end-of-year bonuses and commissions, getting employees up to speed about their FSA funds, rounding out 401(k) contributions. The bottom line is, you do not want to be worrying about system replacements on top of year-end tasks. Start now on your system replacement plans.

As you add the final touches to your business’ 2019 budget, make sure to account for the replacement of any end of life systems as well as other technology platforms that need improvement. Consider outsourcing your IT to ensure these upgrades are done correctly and timely.  If you and your business are looking for assistance preparing for Windows 7 and Server 2008 End-of-Life, or improving any of your technology platforms, give us a call.

Make Your Construction Company Mobile – Like This Seattle Company

As the owner of a construction company, you must have your finger on the pulse of your projects. Not having an accurate picture of where you are in a project cycle and how the project is doing can be disastrous. When your projects don’t run smoothly, vendors don’t get paid and will stop working, critical deadlines are not met and sometimes jobsites grind to a halt. Without the visibility offered by mobile and web-based solutions, project managers have to wait for the other shoe to drop.  Costs get out of hand, turnover increases and invoicing is a constant challenge.

Construction companies increase their mobility

For one Eastside civil construction company, public works projects were not being executed as effectively or efficiently as they could be. Their off-site administration limped along with inconsistent connectivity and fragmented communication between project managers, field employees and the head office. As a result, their bottom line took a beating.

This client is not alone. These issues are the same for many construction companies we speak with. Half the company is in the main office and the other half is out on numerous job sites. Everyone needs to access files and share updates. To further complicate matters, time sheets, billing, emails and project documents are all housed on different platforms or accomplished manually. The next thing you know, you have duplicated efforts, miscommunication, and a lack of insight into projects. Management couldn’t make decisions easily, as they lacked real-time data. Employee time sheets weren’t always received on time and project managers wasted valuable billable hours sending and finding project information. The inefficiencies ultimately created increased costs, delayed their ability to bill for projects, caused frustration and left gaps.

As this company increased their project load and the mobility of their staff, their technology lagged. They needed a solution that could keep up with the pace of their business.

Mobile device management boosts construction project management

Using tablets with critical apps allows the company to estimate, design, manage and bill for projects in near real-time, whether they are in the main office or on the job site 45 minutes away.

With their new mobility tools, projects sites became an extension of the office. Executives could communicate effectively with site managers and in return, got real-time information that provided an accurate picture of job progress and milestones. Their project execution sped up and daily issues decreased. Project information was accessible from anywhere, employees could update time sheets from mobile devices, and project managers could accomplish everything as if they were at the corporate office.

Dataworks also worked with the company to develop acceptable use policies on company devices, restricting the use of personal apps, keeping track of devices and instructing staff on how to protect the devices from theft. Since construction sites are notorious for being hard on their devices (an employee leaving an iPad on the hood of a truck and driving off is not a far-fetched story) Dataworks outfitted the devices with sturdy protective cases as well.

We’ve worked with several clients in the trades and we understand the business. Dataworks has the expertise to develop a complete mobile management strategy that addresses your unique challenges, needs and goals. Your company is already mobile and there are a lot of risks and inefficiencies inherent in your mobility. The best strategy includes the technology needed to be more efficient and reduce costs, as well as the procedures that control how employees handle devices and data.

Is your company already mobile? Make it work better for you with our help. Contact us online or call us at (425) 687-6185.

Every Effective Mobile Strategy Includes 6 Key Things

Employees using mobile devices at work is the new workplace reality, no matter what industry you’re in. This dependency on mobile devices means your company will experience the unique challenges and opportunities that “going mobile” brings. In the construction industry, you are already managing multiple job sites, remote employees and an ever-increasing amount of data. Adding mobile devices to the mix requires a new strategy to bring it all together, allowing you to seamlessly grow.

Whether your company’s data is on employee mobile devices already, or your company is moving in that direction, employees need quick access to emails, documents and applications.

If done right, going mobile lets you communicate with all your job sites, increase productivity and keep company information from getting into the hands of malicious hackers or after an employee separates from the company. If Mobile Data Management (MDM) isn’t on your radar, it should be. MDM is a major component in today’s tech-driven business ecosystem. It includes inventory control of devices, greater access to data on-the-go and better communication out in the field.

Employee turnover is often high in the construction industries. Not only that, but theft is a common occurrence on job sites. Job trailers and vehicles get broken into and devices left unattended walk off.

If you have mobile devices in use, it’s important to build a stronger mobile strategy to manage multiple job sites, communicate in the field and increase security.

Consider These 6 Key Things to Include in Your Mobile Management Strategy

1. Maintain control of company data. Company data on mobile devices (both personal and office issued) such as tablets, laptops and smart phones needs to be protected. You can control data on employee devices by limiting and increasing access options, and you can remotely wipe specific data in the event of device theft or employee turnover. This creates stronger barriers to malicious access.

2. Have consistent security measures in-office and on job sites. Your company should have the same security measures and requirements whether an employee is in the office or at different job sites. Password and device use policies are critical.

3. Keep track of devices with remote location tracking capabilities. Theft and employees leaving the company will have less impact if you can remotely track down equipment and immediately wipe data from phones, tablets and laptops when it walks away.

4. Communicate seamlessly with the field. Mobile can be a great tool to enhance communication across multiple job sites. Project managers and superintendents can use email communications with the main office, access documents and track project details without stepping foot into a trailer or having to spend twice the amount of time keying information into a computer at the end of the day.

5. Increase productivity even when you aren’t there to supervise. Your mobile devices should be setup to not include non-work-related apps on company phones and offer easier access to company emails, apps and data. Employees can track their hours, communicate faster and get more work done faster with critical data at their fingertips. Work gets done more efficiently with access to Office 365, email and business applications like time tracking and project management apps on their devices.

6. Protect the outside too. While mobile device management often focuses on the management of what’s on the device and how the device is used, it’s important to get a durable, sturdy protective case that can take as much of a beating as your crew is likely to dish out.

Mobile management can give your company the flexibility of employee mobility while keeping key company data secure. As your company grows, so does your need for mobility. You increase the number of remote offices and job sites, you have more employees working in the field and you have a lot more devices to keep track of and protect.

Whether you are aware of it or not, mobile device management is already an important part of your business – impacting your bottom line from the field with mobile devices becoming the standard in communication and data access points. Relying on mobile devices can feel like a challenge or they can be used to a company’s advantage with the right strategy. Make them your advantage.

Dataworks offers affordable mobility solutions that won’t disrupt your company. Contact us online or call (425) 687-6185.

Successful Woman-Owned Dataworks Consulting Celebrates 16 Years

Dataworks consulting owner and CEO, Caroline Smith

Caroline Smith leads Seattle-based Information Technology company across gender barriers

Newcastle, WA, February 2018 — a woman-owned leading provider of technology services and support throughout the Puget Sound region, is celebrating 16 years strong. Founded in 2002, the company employs a diverse team of professionals with nearly 150 years of combined industry experience and operates with a clear mission: to empower small businesses through leveraging technology.

“Our continued success is a direct result of the hard work and dedication of our
diversified staff, which sometimes proved difficult in a male-dominated industry,” said visionary Caroline Smith, Founder and CEO. “Women in IT were not always accepted, but now being woman-owned is a major advantage. Our points of contact at client sites are two-thirds women, and they feel more comfortable talking to us and connecting with us, as opposed to even a male-led shop.”

Over the last 16 years, Dataworks has grown into a full service and comprehensive managed service provider, using a holistic approach to technology support. With
specialists covering every aspect of technology, from network design to Cloud services, each member of the team brings their own extensive and unique industry experience.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what Dataworks has achieved over these years,” continued Smith, “and I look forward to what the next 15 years brings.”



3 Hidden Costs IT Managed Services Providers Uncover

Female business owner is surprised to see the costs that having Managed IT services have saved her

As a business owner, you know recurring IT issues affect your bottom line. You may also know the benefits of switching to a managed IT services provider but are hesitant because of the cost and the lack of room for it in your budget.

Maybe you worry that time spent switching providers won’t be worth the investment. Or perhaps you already have an “IT guy” who you call when something goes wrong, and beyond that you don’t give it much thought.

While operational efficiency and increased security are always priorities, return on investment (ROI) now ranks as a top concern for small businesses. Even the latest trend analysis shows that organizations proactively seek higher ROI from managed services than what they can achieve with “do-it-yourself” IT.

Here are 3 reasons IT Managed Services Providers can eliminate hidden costs:

One IT expert can’t be good at everything – a team can

With technology evolving daily, you can’t count on one person for all your IT needs. Freeing up internal staff time to devote to higher value projects increases overall productivity and ultimately leads to a higher ROI. A full-service partner like Dataworks gives you access to a deep pool of experts well versed in the latest technology. Whether you need an expert who knows Microsoft or can get you into the cloud or who can explain the latest solutions that are benefiting your industry, it’s virtually impossible to hire someone who is adept in all the areas of expertise you need. Something will be left behind, and your business will pay for that absence.

Downtime increases employee frustration – IT managed services providers reduce downtime

Old equipment and recurring issues can take a toll on employees. You’re doing a major disservice to your staff when you fail to empower them with the tools they need to be successful. Why not spend those dollars on proactive solutions that eliminate ambiguity and provide a clear path forward? With a solution like OneCare from Dataworks, IT costs are more predictable, and our priority planning helps you budget for things like faster internet, extra monitors, automation and training that will maximize efficiency during the workday. Not having this level of planning is a hefty opportunity cost.

You could be teetering on the brink of disaster – and not know. How much will that cost?

Managed IT services is like health insurance for your business. Initially, you may have a hard time swallowing a new cost you can’t immediately realize. One surprise trip to the emergency room, though, leaves you singing a different tune. Opting for a break/fix solution because it’s cheaper on paper is like opting out of health insurance. One data breach, server fail or major virus could leave you with a bill that far surpasses your yearly tech budget. Your IT systems and data are vital assets, and you need to invest in their care or you will be facing bigger bills down the road.

It’s hard to quantify the total cost of lost time, slowed productivity and employee frustration. However, the cumulative effect adds up in the long run. Updating your technology and eliminating recurring IT issues is just the change you may need.

Who doesn’t want more return on investment for their IT budget? Contact Dataworks Consulting  at (425) 687-6185 to see how we can get you there.

Can Technology Increase Productivity?

man showing how technology can hurt productivity or technology can help productivity

Inside Intel Meltdown/Specter

Meltdown sign showing the dangers of Intel Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities for businesses

Intel, the world’s largest manufacturer of processors, has discovered a vulnerability in their processor design that could affect devices manufactured back as far as 20 years, according to GeekWire Magazine.

The Problem

Simply put, the processor of your computer is the brainpower that drives everything that happens in your computer.  Inside processors there is small, protected space called “kernel memory” which is dedicated to the most essential core components of your operating system (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.) and its interactions with the hardware.  It is intended to be off-limits to other software.  However, the design flaw has made it so that other software, including malicious software such as viruses and spyware, can actually access the kernel memory.

The fix

Due to the nature of the vulnerability, the fix will come from your devices’ operating system manufacturer in the form of security patches.  However, security patches that mitigate the risk of the Intel Meltdown flaw may conflict with your antivirus program.  This means that you will first need to ensure that antivirus definitions are up to date.  From there, you can move forward with security patches for operating systems as well as firmware updates from your computer’s manufacturer. Currently, there is no other option for mitigating the vulnerability.

Intel has noted that there may be a performance impact for computers that came with the first release of Windows 10, along with Windows 8 and Windows 7 systems.  The extent of the impact is not yet known and could vary dramatically from system to system. Newer Windows 10 systems should not experience any reduction in performance.

 

Concerned about how your systems and devices could be impacted? Contact Dataworks Consulting for guidance.

New Year, Same IT Problems? Time to Fix That

Fixing recurring IT issues in your business makes a great resolution this year.

Happy New Year! Are 2017’s IT issues still plaguing you? You know, your network still runs ridiculously slow. The printer keeps dropping off the network. Servers keep going down without rhyme or reason, and you keep having to call on your IT person to come and fix them.

New Year’s Resolution: fix your recurring IT issues for good

When issues like these keep happening and keep getting “fixed,” nothing is actually improving and it’s costing you a lot more than that bottle of aspirin in your desk drawer.

When your IT people only come around to fix things, it means you pay extra for after-hours support, have lapses in employee productivity and lose money every time. Every time something goes wrong, you have to shell out money to fix it as soon as possible. This, instead of using your IT dollars to improve your technology and add more efficiency for your business.

Recurring IT issues also create a company culture where employees are always upset because their computers are slow or it takes too long to do simple tasks. These process and workflow issues cause morale problems in the company. Work is frustrating enough – you don’t need to add to the frustration (especially if you want to keep good people at your company).

There’s a better way.

Your New Year’s resolution: fix recurring IT issues.  Have a managed IT services provider like Dataworks Consulting conduct an assessment of your technology infrastructure and pinpoint what’s causing your IT problems to keep happening. When we conduct these assessments, we look for things like bottlenecks and specific underlying root issues, and then present solutions to address the root causes.

5 recurring IT issues we solved through an assessment in 2017:

1. Reduced cost of telecommunications and increased bandwidth speed, getting the client more network speed for less money

2. Enhanced read/write speeds on data storage drives, getting the client’s staff access to information faster.

3. Improved firewall to work more effectively with the client’s internet connection speed and more efficiently manage the stream of information coming to the network.

4. Upgraded aging network switches, dramatically speeding up the internal network.

5. Replaced consumer-class wireless access points with wireless mesh networks, improving client’s security, network speed and connection continuity.

The second part of fixing recurring issues is to move to a Managed Services Provider model. You pay a small amount per user per month to have an IT company prevent these issues from taking you down, resolving recurring problems once and for all – and having the added relief of knowing there is 24/7/365 monitoring to prevent recurring issues from ever dragging you down again.

Change can be scary – and bringing in a new IT provider when you’re having issues can seem like adding more fuel to the fire. In reality, it should be what ends the chaos. Some IT providers just dive in and start making changes – not us.

We believe your IT partnership should be a two-way street. If you’re having recurring IT issues that’s a sign you’re on a one-way, dead-end road. It’s time to travel on a better road.

Switching IT providers can be painful, but we’re here to help you through it. There’s a way out – all you have to do is contact us.