5 Myths of IT Services Debunked

When reviewing your organization’s IT support options, it can be hard to discern fact from fiction. Below we discuss some of the most common misperceptions that we have encountered in our 19+ years in this business. We hope this helps you evaluate your options!

Myth #1: Antivirus Software will Protect You from a Data Breach

It is all too painfully commonplace to hear someone say that they have their data security addressed because they have antivirus software. It’s not an unreasonable thought process, to be fair. The problem is that the landscape of cybercrime has become so incredibly vast and complex over the years that no single approach is going to keep your organization protected. 

Since the rise of Covid-19, and with the massive move from the office to working from home, hackers and other opportunistic cybercriminals have unlocked a plethora of fraud opportunities. 

For example:

  • Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, reported cybercrime has increased by 300%. (IMC Grupo)
  • 20% of all organizations have experienced a security breach as a result of remote workers. (Malwarebytes)
  • The cost of a data breach currently averages $137,000. Small small and medium-sized organizations are the most common and vulnerable targets. (IBM)
  • Distractions while working from home is the most commonly cited cause for remote employees falling for phishing emails. (Tessian)

Even though working from home presents new risks to organization data and networks, it looks like remote work will be the new norm. The workforce has come to expect this type of flexibility.

The right IT Managed Service Provider can help you build on your antivirus software with layered security solutions. Your organization also needs staff training, cloud monitoring, and backup and disaster recovery strategies so that your data, and your client’s data, are safely locked down.

Myth #2: Internal IT and Managed IT cannot coexist

In-House IT teams can often be a Managed Service Provider’s best partners. They recognize the opportunity to outsource 24/7 monitoring, security awareness training, backup and disaster recovery, and day-to-day break/fix problem-solving. This frees up the in-house IT team to focus on the company’s mission. 

Myth #3: It is Possible to Stay Focused on Growing Your Business While Managing Your IT Yourself

You have heard this before, but we’ll gently remind you. You can’t do it all. At some time, your organization will grow to the tipping point when handling all of your technical challenges and strategies has diminishing returns. Sure, it may seem that you are saving money, but when you factor in the opportunity costs, are you?

Suppose IT is not that thing you do. In that case, the right IT Managed Service Provider can, in all likelihood, solve your IT issues more quickly, more effectively, and cheaper than you can.

With a team of dedicated, experienced IT professionals, you are free to focus on your core business. 

Myth #4 With Managed IT Services, You will Lose Control of Your Data and Networks 

The right managed IT service provider will work with your organization to create a tailored plan. They will protect your data, proactively manage your technology, and resolve your day-to-day IT issues quickly and courteously. 

You maintain control and ownership of your networks. 

Myth #5: All IT Managed Service Providers are the Same

Just as in any industry, not all Managed IT Service Providers offer the same quality of services and support. It is crucial to approach selecting the right Managed IT Service Provider armed with some knowledge. 

For this reason, we have created a list of questions to ask when looking for the right Managed IT Service Provider. 

You want an IT partner with experience, great customer relationships, and who can provide layered security solutions and effective proactive and reactive support.

Looking for additional IT support?

Xlingshot provides Network Security, Security Awareness Training, Virtual CIO services, and daily IT support to small and medium businesses and organizations.

Our approach to delivering the best possible IT service is centered on you. For a free consultation, please contact us today.

We know what it’s like to run a business, and we know your time is valuable. We can:

  • learn about your business
  • give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • provide free advice on your approach to IT solutions

And if you’d like, we can show you where and how we can help.

Get in Touch

Get Your Digital House in Order with a Tech Spring Clean

Most people think of Spring Cleaning as a late March/early April tradition but, guess what? Summer doesn’t officially start until June 20th. We can still squeeze in a lot more spring cleaning yet. 

We are all for tidying, decluttering, window washing, and the like for your spring cleaning game plan, but take a moment to reflect on the last time you cleaned up your tech. Have you ever? Would you even know where to start? 

Cleaning up your tech is more than organizing and consolidating files and updating your naming conventions. When you keep tabs on your data storage, permissions settings, and credit information, you are less vulnerable to fraud, identify theft, data loss, and data breaches.

As you’ve probably deduced, we have some direction for you. Below, check out our handy list of five things you can do to get your digital house in order. We’ll go over something fun, something easy, some prevention, some heavy lifting, and some reminders to keep the momentum going. Do all five or choose one or two that would make the biggest impact on your security and peace of mind. If you really want to earn a gold star, check out the spring cleaning list that we made last year too!

Let’s get started!

Tip 1: Something Fun

Digitize your old slides, videos, and photos

Do you still have old physical photos, slides, and videotapes around the house? You may have heard that there are services that will digitize your media for you, returning your originals and providing digital files. With the right equipment, you can even take on this project yourself, just be aware of the time it may take and the best practices for digitization projects, as identified by the National Archives and Records Administration. There are also lots of great how-to guidelines published by libraries and institutions that are easy to find with a quick search.

While this project may not help prevent identity theft or other security-related IT issues, it’s fun and you’ll be glad you did it.

Tip 2: Something Easy

Get a free credit report

With the tremendous rise in cybercrime and fraud, especially during the pandemic era, you are probably already aware of the importance of keeping tabs on your credit report. The idea is that if you are a victim of identity theft, you can catch it early on. There are several sites where you can get a free annual credit report without harming your scores. For more guidance on selecting the right vendor for this, check out this Federal Trade Commission article.

Tip 3: Some Prevention

Update your app permission settings

You may have noticed that your apps often know more about you than is absolutely necessary. A lot more. It’s not a bad idea to regularly check your app permission settings. This may help you maintain additional privacy on your devices while also giving you the opportunity to disable battery-sucking actions that run the background when you’re not even using the app. 

On your phone or tablet, you can check the privacy settings under Settings > Advanced > Privacy or simply Settings > Privacy. If your settings menu architecture is different from this, find the exact steps if you search the model of your phone and the words “change app permissions.”

Tip 4: Some Heavy Lifting

Clean up Your Desktop

“I just store all my files and links on my desktop… it’s so easy!” 

This is the mindset that leads to a very, very cluttered desktop. Sometimes it makes sense to temporarily store files on your desktop. However, desktop files are not typically backed up (assuming you have backups in place), and you will lose them if you do a system restore. Considering those desktop items are what you use most often, and most recently, losing them could be pretty devastating. No one likes data loss.

To get started, identify logical places to store your files, ideally on drives that have automated backup, cloud backup, or that you manually back up from time to time. Then, put shortcuts to the things you use the most on your desktop. The shortcut functions as a link, rather than storing the actual data on your desktop.

Tip 5: Some Reminders to Keep the Momentum Going

 Put Your Tech to Work for You

  • Create weekly, monthly, and quarterly reminders on your calendar to move photos and other large files from your phone, to back up your photos and data, and to change your passwords.
  • Invest a couple of hours into cleaning up your email inbox. You can create automated filters and inbox categories to sort and save your incoming mail.
  • Set a daily reminder to spend 5-10 minutes unsubscribing, deleting, and filing emails.

There are lots of other steps that you can take to carry out your digital spring cleaning. While this article was written for managing your home technology, you may also want help with your business tech as well. We can help! (It’s what we do.)

Looking for an IT Partner?

Are you looking for more support with your information security, network security, data backup, and Security Awareness Training? We help our customers train their staff and lock down their data and networks so that they are free to focus on what they do best: running the business. We implement reliable solutions that can scale, all while keeping costs under control.

Our approach to delivering the best possible IT service is centered on you. For a free consultation and security assessment, please contact us today.

We know what it’s like to run a business and we know your time is valuable. We can:

  • learn about your business
  • give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • provide free advice on your approach to IT security solutions

What are Managed Services?

While “Managed Services” is an IT industry term, there is no consensus on the exact definition. Many Managed Service Providers, also known as MSPs, are out there. 

Although there is no simple, neat definition, here is what most people are referencing when they talk about “Managed Services”:

  • Maintaining an organization’s technology, including computers, devices, printers, wifi Access points, et cetera.
  • Most commonly, people think of the break/fix element of Managed Services. I.e., waiting for something to break and then fixing it. Many other things are going on behind the scenes; most people are not aware of this. 
  • An MSP uses various tools to monitor your computers and devices remotely. The idea is to address minor issues before they become big problems.  
  • An effective Managed Services Provider will push out updates, fixes, and patches to your network, machines, and software. These updates, fixes, and patches address bugs and vulnerabilities that have come to light. 
  • Proactive maintenance is a large part of what MSPs should provide, though it is often invisible to MSP clients.
  • Most MSPs can work remotely. This means you don’t have to wait for them to come to your office each time you need help with your computer or one of your other devices.
  • “Ticketing” systems are a standard tool that most MSPs use to track their work and performance. 

Proactive Maintenance is Key

With tools that can monitor your computer’s critical functions 24/7, Managed Service Providers aim to catch minor problems before they turn into untenable beasts. The idea is to keep your unplanned downtime and system failure as close to never as possible. This is a departure from early IT support strategies, which involved checking systems about once a month, confirming that everything was working as planned, and then, otherwise, just waiting for something to break.

Managed Services Means Predictable Expenses

When working with a Managed Service Provider, your IT expenses are more predictable. Your MSP partner will work with you, your budget, and your organization’s needs to create a plan that anticipates support and builds in proactive maintenance to keep your organization’s break/fix needs to a minimum and your uptime and performance to a maximum.

How to choose the right Managed Service Provider for your business

Are you thinking about working with an MSP, but you don’t know where to start? Here are some pointers on what to look for in a Managed Service Provider:

 

  1. They need to be able to monitor and patch all of your equipment remotely. They also need to have a systematic way of doing this (not just when they remember to do it).
  2. They should be able to provide their response time and resolution time stats. This indicates that they are keeping an eye on providing efficient service.
  3. Choose an MSP with a ticketing system in place. This establishes efficiency, accountability, and trackability.
  4. Look for a company with team members who can communicate with non-IT people effectively. 
  5. Select an MSP partner who takes security very seriously. You want a layered approach to security that includes backup and disaster recovery to ensure that all bases are covered. 
  6. Look for an MSP partner who works across multiple industries. This ensures a broad knowledge base and will, ultimately, save you money.
  7. You should like them. This one’s a no-brainer!

For more insight on questions to ask when looking for the right MSP partner, check out this recent article.

Looking for an IT Support Partner?

We help our customers with their day-to-day support needs. We also help them improve all areas of security with scalable solutions to attain high productivity levels for their teams while keeping costs under control.

For a free consultation and IT security assessment, please contact us today. We know what it’s like to run a business, and we know your time is valuable.  

We can:

  • Learn about your business
  • Give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • Provide free advice on your approach to IT security

And if you’d like, we can show you where and how we can help.

Why Do You Need Managed IT Services?

Managed IT Services have helped thousands of organizations leverage their limited budget and resources to improve efficiency, security, service delivery, and professionalism. It’s a smart move and can help you take your business to the next level. Below we have listed some of the main benefits that our clients enjoy. 

Reduce Risk

During the pandemic era, hackers have found more opportunities to access valuable data and networks than ever before. The huge shift from working in an office to working from home has left many businesses struggling to keep up and tailor their operations. This shift has left business networks more vulnerable than ever before.

Not sure what we are talking about? Check out these stats:

  • There is a reported 300% increase in cybercrimes since the Coronavirus pandemic began.(IMC Grupo)
  • Remote workers have caused security breaches in 20% of all organizations. (Malwarebytes)
  • The pandemic era has brought the average cost of a data breach up to $137,000 (IBM)
  • “distractions” while working from home were cited by 47% of employees polled as a huge contributor to employees falling for phishing scams while working remotely.(Tessian)

 

Do you have staff working from home? Even for just some of the time? If so, your company’s networks and data could be at risk. A great IT Partner can help you establish layered security solutions with security awareness training at the top of the list.

The technicians, engineers, and strategists at effective Managed Service Providers have seen it all. In the ever-changing landscape of cybercrime, data and network breaches are on the rise. When you work with a Managed Service Provider that’s the right fit for your organization, you can reap the benefits of a network and data security plan that is tailored specifically to your organization’s budget, concerns, and needs. 

Stay focused on that thing you do

You have limited time, attention, and resources. At one time, maybe it made sense to handle your company’s IT needs internally, but there is a point at which your perceived “savings” have diminishing returns. Are you properly leveraging your limited resources if you are spending your time resetting passwords, troubleshooting problem printers, and figuring out how that random hacker got your password?

Is IT that thing you do? If not, then a Managed Service Provider can likely solve your IT issues more effectively, more quickly, and for less money than you can.  

When you have a team of dedicated professionals addressing your IT needs, you can focus on that thing you do, your core business.

Manage Your IT Costs

The goal is to reach the sweet spot of high productivity for your staff and technology while keeping costs under control. This is another reason why so many businesses turn to managed IT service providers. While many internal IT departments are siloed in their organization or industry, effectively managed service providers are quick and agile and can help you identify the quickest, most reliable, most cost-effective solutions for what your business needs. Why? Because they have seen it all. 

Reduce the Risk of a Bad Hire, Reduce Training Time 

If you have decided to handle your organization’s IT needs internally, you will need to know enough to recruit and hire the right staff. Then, as is the case with any new hire, you must train, manage, and retain them. 

These are more of the reasons for the popularity of outsourcing IT management to a Managed Service Provider. Not only are you outsourcing the actual IT problem solving, but you are also choosing a partner to handle IT staff hiring and management. You only have to make one hire- the right Managed Service Provider- and you get a dedicated and experienced crew who can hit the ground running.

Work with Broadly-Experienced Technicians Who Have Seen it all

We have all lost hours to solving some annoying IT problem. Maybe it’s a problem router or printer, maybe it’s dealing with setting up a new machine. Whatever it is, the likelihood is that a team of IT pros can do it much faster. Because of the broad experience that Managed Service Provider team members gain on the job, they are quick and agile to troubleshoot and know how to avoid the common pitfalls that can trip up so many. Plus, an effective MSP has their engineers and technicians working together as a team so that when you get one brain on it you are actually getting several.

Looking for an IT Support Partner?

We help our customers with their day-to-day support needs and we also help them improve all areas of security with scalable solutions so that they can attain high productivity levels for their teams while keeping costs under control.

For a free consultation and IT security assessment, please contact us today. We know what it’s like to run a business, and we know your time is valuable.  

We can:

  • Learn about your business
  • Give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • Provide free advice on your approach to IT security

And if you’d like, we can show you where and how we can help.

What are the Right Questions to Ask an IT Support Company for Small Business?

When interviewing prospective IT support partners, it can be helpful to approach the conversation with some knowledge of IT Management Strategy. If you like, you can read our full article on how to Build an IT Service Management Strategy

When thinking of IT support, most people think of “reactive” support, i.e. password changes, troubleshooting problem printers, et cetera. To keep your systems secure and IT costs low, it is important to think “layered” and “proactive”.

  • Layered Security can make the difference in whether your organization experiences a breach or not. Hackers will look for multiple ways of getting access to your data so that they can sell it or hold it for ransom. For this reason, it’s important to take preventive measures to ensure that your data is securely backed up and protected from every angle. Some examples of elements in a layered security strategy include:
    • Automated Cloud Backup
    • Cloud Monitoring
    • Remote Monitoring and Maintenance of servers, workstations, and other devices
    • Security Awareness Training for staff
  • Proactive support is an invisible but important factor to consider because effective proactive support will reduce your overall support needs, thus reducing both risk and cost. Some examples of proactive support include: 
    • Patching of operating systems and business applications
    • Active monitoring and remediation of antivirus software
    • Active firewall monitoring and maintenance
    • Timely system upgrades to ensure the latest software versions are in use, instead of legacy systems
  • Reactive Support is the type of work that most non-IT folk are familiar with. To measure how effective the reactive support that you receive is, you will want to look at response time and resolution time, as well as customer feedback stats. Some examples of reactive support include:
    • Password changes
    • Workstation setups
    • Making changes to access permissions
    • Dealing with problem printers

With this approach to IT Management Strategy in mind, below we have outlined some questions to ask prospective IT partners when you are deciding who you want to work with. We hope this is helpful to you and your organization!

Proactive Support

Effective proactive support will save you time and money.

Question to ask: How frequently do you roll out patch updates for the devices that you support?

A patch is a set of updates, changes, or corrections to a program or operating system. This can include security updates, fixing bugs, and code additions that improve your device’s functionality. When you ask this question, you are listening for a systematic approach to patching. 

By staying a step ahead of updates, your organization will need less reactive support, which will keep your IT costs under control.

 

Question to ask: What actions do you recommend and implement to prevent data breaches?

When you ask this question, you are listening for proactive actions with a layered approach. For example, at Xlingshot we recommend a combination of backup and disaster recovery solutions, remote monitoring and maintenance to identify and repair vulnerabilities before they turn into issues, and a robust Security Awareness Training for you and your staff because, statistically speaking, organization staff are the number one security vulnerability in an organization. These are just a few of the approaches to security that we recommend, all of our recommendations are tailored to the individual client. For more ideas on security measures to take, check out our free Security Checklist download. (link)

Question to ask: Tell us about your approach to remote monitoring and maintenance.

Again, with this question, you are listening to a systematic approach to remote monitoring and maintenance. As mentioned above, the purpose of remote monitoring and maintenance is to identify and correct vulnerabilities and bugs before they become actual problems. This will reinforce your organization’s data security as well as reduce IT costs by resolving issues while they are small and less time-consuming to address.

Question to ask: What safeguards do you recommend for data loss prevention?

When you ask this question, you are listening for proactive actions with a layered approach. This is a similar type of question to the one above about preventing data breaches. By asking similar questions from multiple angles, you are evaluating the breadth and depth of expertise of the person you are interviewing. You want to be sure to work with an IT partner with consistent, systematic approaches to layered, proactive security and disaster recovery.

Reactive Support

No matter how much amazing proactive support you have, the truth is that sometimes issues will arise. Effective reactive support will get you back up and running quickly with minimal time lost.

Question to ask: What are your current average response and resolution times?

When you have a problem, how quickly does your IT team respond to your challenge? How quickly can they resolve the problem once they are aware of it? By the time issues are brought to the attention of your IT support team, you and your staff have already lost valuable time and productivity. Whether you are working with an in-house IT support team or a managed service provider, these measurements are relevant.

Layered Security

Effective security is more than installing antivirus software, though many small and medium-sized businesses and organizations stop there. Unfortunately, hackers do not stop there. According to IBM, the average cost of data breach is currently at $137,000 and small and medium-sized businesses are particularly vulnerable to hackers because they often do not take the same security precautions that larger companies take. 

Question to ask: What kind of security awareness training can you provide my staff?

Lack of security awareness is the number one reason for data breaches. You want to work with an IT partner who can provide comprehensive security awareness training to you and your staff. You are listening for a formalized security training program with measurable results, testing, and point-of-failure follow-up training to ensure that your staff absorbs the information thoroughly and effectively.

Question to ask: What are your breach prevention strategies and what is your policy and process for when a breach occurs?

This is a repeat topic covered by another recommended question above. By focusing on data breach prevention, you are communicating that this is a top priority for your organization, which sets the tone for your working relationship with your new IT partner. Again, you are also learning more about the breadth and depth of the person’s expertise by asking about the topic of security from several different angles. 

Question to ask: What is your approach to security concerns raised by remote workers?

If your organization has a remote workforce, it is crucial to take additional security precautions to address this extra layer of vulnerability to your organization’s data. Here are some sobering statistics to give you an idea of the scale of this issue:

  • The FBI has reported a 300% increase in reported cybercrimes since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic (IMC Grupo)
  • 1 in 5 organizations have experienced a security breach caused by remote workers (Malwarebytes)
  • 47% of employees identified “distractions” as the reason for falling for a phishing scam while working from home (Tessian)

When interviewing a prospective IT partner, you want to be sure that you are working with an organization that recognizes the unique security challenges presented by remote staff.

Bonus Question 

In addition to proactive support, reactive support, and layered security, you want to make sure that you are working with an IT partner whose knowledge, experience, and professionalism you can trust. Here are some ideas for questions to help you assess these qualities in a prospective IT partner.

Question to ask: How much experience do you have in providing IT support? 

Xlingshot has been providing IT support to small to medium businesses and organizations for over 18 years.

Question to ask: What Industries to you typically support?

At Xlingshot, we support a variety of service-based industries. This broad experience helps us stay agile in the ever-changing landscape of IT security and support.

Question to ask: How long do your customers typically work with you?

At Xlingshot, we are proud to build long-term relationships with many of our customers. We find that by tailoring our services to the needs of each organization, our working relationships are productive, rewarding, and lasting.

Question to ask: How do you track customer satisfaction and what are your most recent stats on this?

We send customer surveys with each support ticket to ensure that we are always providing the best possible service. We take pride in our consistently positive feedback.

Looking for an IT Support Partner?

We help our customers with their day-to-day support needs and we also help them improve all areas of security with scalable solutions so that they can attain high productivity levels for their teams while keeping costs under control.

For a free consultation and IT security assessment, please contact us today. We know what it’s like to run a business, and we know your time is valuable.  

We can:

  • Learn about your business
  • Give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • Provide free advice on your approach to IT security

And if you’d like, we can show you where and how we can help. 

How to Prevent WiFi Hacking

WiFi hacking has been an issue to be aware of for quite some time. By gaining access to your WiFi network, a WiFi hacker can “borrow” your bandwidth, or worse, steal your money or identity.

 

With the rapid growth in remote working, WiFi hacking is a huge vulnerability for many businesses. If your employees are working from home even just occasionally, part-time, your networks and private data may be exposed through employees’ poorly-secured home WiFi networks. (Not to mention the inherent risk in working from coffee shops and other public places once the world is more opened up.)

 

For these reasons, we have put together a simple guide to get you started in WiFi hacking prevention. Think of this article as a roadmap. You may need to do some additional googling to get extra detail, but if you check all of these boxes, you will have reduced your vulnerability to WiFi hackers significantly.

 

How to Configure your WiFi network properly:

 

Update your WiFi Router Admin Credentials

Direct from the factory, most WiFi routers have the same login name and password. (Very often “admin for both!) Unless you change this factory setting, anyone can easily gain admin access to your network and make changes to your WiFi settings. Not ideal. Change those credentials when you set up your router, you’ll be glad you did.

Set up Strong WiFi Encryption

The basic level of WiFi encryption is called “WEP encryption.” This is better than nothing… but there are lots of tutorials online that show novice hackers how to get past WEP encryption and into your network. Ideally, you should configure your router to use WPA2+AES encryption.

Update your Router Monthly

Just like your computer or cell phone, your router also needs regular updates to address software bugs and weaknesses. Most routers of today will automatically update, but some will require a manual process. Find out which type you have and if it’s not automatic, be sure to set a monthly calendar reminder.

 

Hide Your Wifi Network

It’s fun to go to a crowded building and look at all of the WiFi network names that people come up with. Some are pretty clever and funny! When you see a list of Wifi network names (officially called Service Set Identifiers, or, SSIDs), you know that all of the ones that appear on the list are Wifi Networks that have not been hidden. Users can still join a network that does not show up on the list, but they must know the name of the network, which makes it less accessible.

 

Reduce Your Wifi Network Range

Sometimes preventing Wifi hacking is as simple as reducing your network range. This is especially impactful in higher-density living or working areas like an apartment or office buildings.

 

Set up MAC Filtering

All WiFi-enabled devices have what is called a “Media Access Control” identifier, or “MAC” for short. You can set your router to only communicate with specific MAC addresses, thus preventing others from using your WiFi network. (Heads up, savvy users can modify their MAC addresses to pose as other devices, so don’t get too comfortable.)

 

Disable the Wireless Admin Feature on your Router

This may be a little inconvenient for you, the user if you like to change your WiFi settings frequently, but it will prevent others from being able to communicate with your router. Once the Wireless Admin Feature is disabled on your router, only someone who is physically connected to your router with an ethernet cable can change the settings.

 

How to use WiFi safely:

 

Patch your devices

Most tech vendors respond to major breaches and other known malicious hacks quickly. This is what software updates, aka “patches” are for. So patch early and often, every chance you get and you will know that you are running the safest current version of your operating system and other programs.

 

Do not use Public WiFi

…Unless you have a virtual private network, or “VPN” for short. Then it’s ok. Public Wi-Fi is one of the easiest targets for hackers because public networks are rarely well-protected. 

 

Good option: Use a cellular hotspot instead of public networks

When you’re out and about and need an internet connection but don’t want to use a public network (as advised), try using your cell phone as a hot spot. Most smartphones today have this function enabled and it will keep you far more secure than any open network that you may find.

 

Use wired connections rather than wifi when possible

How do you prevent WiFi hacking? Don’t ’have WiFi! But seriously, if you can use a wired connection as much as possible it will not only reduce your risk but could also improve your connection.

Looking for more data security solutions?

We help our customers improve all areas of security with scalable solutions so that they can attain high productivity levels for their teams while keeping costs under control.

For a free consultation and IT security assessment, please contact us today. We know what it’s like to run a business, and we know your time is valuable.  

We can:

  • Learn about your business
  • Give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • Provide free advice on your approach to IT security

 

SMBs Need Cloud Monitoring Now More than Ever

The world, and your business, can change on a dime. Customers want what they want, and they want it now. We have all come to expect this. This need for instant gratification is not a new concept, of course. Still, the urgency of quick responses and reliable uptime continues to snowball as we are more and more reliant on the web for our businesses and lives. In a time when we are hyper-connected, the need for quick answers and instant satisfaction can be too much sometimes, too unnerving.

If your small-to-medium-sized business website fails to load or loads slowly, you can lose customers to your competitors. You will almost certainly lose prospective customers.

When is the last time you asked yourself these questions:

  • What are you doing to ensure that your business is reliably accessible and that your data is locked down? 
  • Is your business meeting the demands and expectations of your customers and prospects? 
  • How confident are you in your IT infrastructure
  • Can you say with confidence that your internal server, website,  and mobile applications function correctly, smoothly, and efficiently?
  • When your IT team clocks out, are you certain that your data and website are protected and functioning reliably and securely? 
  • How frequently do you have to call your IT team when they are recharging their batteries with family time, hobbies, or worst of all, when they’re sleeping?

If you have any doubts about any of these questions, you may be one of the many small-to-medium-sized business owners who could benefit from cloud monitoring. Not only can cloud monitoring address security and reliability concerns, but it can also improve your company’s productivity, service, reputation, and profitability.

What is the Cloud?

You have probably heard of “the cloud,” and you might already know that it doesn’t have anything to do with meteorology in the context of IT. Just in case, let’s clear up the terminology. “The cloud” refers to applications, software, and services that run online instead of locally on your computer. Examples of cloud services include Microsoft OneDrive, Netflix, Dropbox, and Spotify, to name just a few. By storing data and applications in the cloud, you can access everything you need from anywhere on the planet, as long as you have a device and an internet connection. One of the wonders of the modern world, right? 

According to leading research and advisory company Gartner, 94% of enterprises already use a cloud service. The chances are that you use multiple cloud services every day.

Having everything out there in the cloud has opened up myriad business and communication possibilities. But it also means that our businesses and lives are dependent on the reliability and security of this nebulous “cloud” in a way that is totally new, complicated, and at times, daunting. This is where cloud monitoring comes in. 

So, What is Cloud Monitoring? 

Cloud monitoring is a way for businesses to track the performance, security, and availability of websites, applications, servers, and other cloud infrastructure. There are many cloud monitoring solutions available. We recommend employing a suite of manual and automated tools to monitor, analyze, and report on your cloud assets. Cloud monitoring, often part of an overall IT management strategy, can help you or your IT administrator recognize and address anomalies and emerging issues, such as unauthorized changes, logins, and website defacement. This allows you to address problems while small before they have grown into something impossible to manage.

Why Cloud Monitoring is Essential

Cloud Monitoring services can detect possible breaches, can help IT administrators identify gaps in security, and can secure your network long before a cyberattack happens. 

Cloud monitoring can also help identify and correct errors- whether caused by humans or machines- to keep your applications running smoothly and preventing the end-user from experiencing gaps in service. This helps with improved sales and customer retention. Cloud monitoring is also one of the most agile solutions for keeping your small-to-medium-business website and applications running smoothly and consistently. 

How Cloud Monitoring Works

The most effective cloud monitoring is multi-faceted. Since cybersecurity is a constantly changing landscape, cloud monitoring services and tools should be reevaluated on a regular basis. Some of the primary functions included in a comprehensive cloud monitoring plan include:

  • Cloud Storage Monitoring
  • Virtual Network Monitoring
  • Virtual Machine Monitoring
  • Database Monitoring
  • Website Monitoring

These are just a few examples. Each organization has its own set of needs and problems to solve. To find out more about building a cloud monitoring plan that is tailored to the needs of your small-to-medium business, contact us today for a free consultation.

Looking for Additional IT Security Support?

We help our customers improve all areas of security with scalable solutions so that they can attain high productivity levels for their teams while keeping costs under control.

For a free consultation and IT security assessment, please contact us today. We know what it’s like to run a business, and we know your time is valuable.  

How we help: 

  • Learn about your business
  • Give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • Provide free advice on your approach to IT security

And if you’d like, we can show you where and how we can help. 

Interested in learning more? Give us a ring at (303) 410-2845 or fill out the form below. 

Smishing: What is it and How To Avoid Being a Victim?

What is Smishing?

Smishing is a type of phishing attack but instead of arriving by email, as phishing attacks generally do, they come via text message or SMS message. 

Smishing attempts are the fastest-growing type of phishing attacks because they are easy for hackers to carry out and their success rates are relatively high. According to Verizon’s 2020 Mobile Security Index, smishing attacks have gone up by more than 600% in the past year. This trend is projected to continue, especially as we move into the holiday season.

Experts believe that the reason for smishing’s high success rate is that most people are less wary of attacks via text message than they are when it comes by email. People are less likely to think that a text message from an unknown sender is a scam than an email from an unknown sender. 

Typically, the way a smishing attack works is a text message under false pretenses arrives, like “your FedEx delivery is delayed, click here for updates,” and it will include a link. The link takes you to a page where you are asked for personal information and/or login information. 

Smishing Examples

Here are some actual smishing examples…

  1. The banking angle:

FRM:USBANK

SUBJ: USBANK Unusual Activity!

MSG: Acc Frozen

TO UNLOCK GO =  http://fakelinkhere.site?USBANK

ID: EDGWGNDJSISJDKDNKWLSNFIFHDNDKSDICHSGFNASJKSINM

This approach is especially dangerous because when it works the hacker gets your bank account login information

  1. The credit card vague-but-urgent message approach:

FRM:AMEX@Message

SUBJ:Card Alert

MSG:Card Alert; Card Alert

http://www.fake.americanexpress-message.com

Just like with the banking threat, this one could give hackers access to your available credit, not ideal.

  1. The “you won something” approach:

Congrats Kelli! Your code

L6R-K8V8 printed on your 

Last receipt is among 7 we

Randomly picked for $1000

Walmart gift card promotion

https://fake.website.here.net

 

This one is too enticing isn’t it? If it’s too enticing, it’s probably fake.

 

  1. The fake Apple Support message:

Apple Support

Unusual Activity in your

Apple-ID. Update your

Account to protect your

Personal information.

 

https://fake.website.here.net

If you think there is anything wrong with your Apple account, just log in directly through Apple, no need to click on a link from a text message.

  1. Another too-good-to-be-true enticement: the paid survey:

Amazon 2020 resolutions:

1) Not to be too greedy 2) care

More about the customers. 

So, you’ll get $130 freebie 

for a survey, http://fakelink.amazon.net

This one seems so weird and funny but has, apparently, worked!

 

Where to report smishing

If you think you have received a smishing message you can file a complaint at no charge to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on their website. You can also contact local law enforcement to report scams.

How to protect Your Company from Smishing and Phishing

Security Awareness Training is the best way to protect yourself and your organization from smishing, phishing, and other types of cybercrime. When employees know to simply delete suspicious messages and resist the temptation to respond, they will be protecting themselves better and more effectively than any other preventive action that they can take. 

Looking for additional Security Awareness Training?

At Xlingshot, we work with our clients to ensure that their networks are locked down and their staff is thoroughly trained on the latest in Security Awareness. We will take care of the training so that you are free to do what you do best: run your organization.

Our comprehensive Security Awareness Training includes baseline risk assessment and complete training on the mechanisms of spam, phishing, spear-phishing, malware, and social engineering. Included in the program are multiple refresher training and post-training phishing simulations with custom landing pages. Staffers who open the automated phishing emails are automatically enrolled in additional training until they no longer fail the simulations. 

Our approach to delivering the best possible IT service and Security Awareness Training is centered on you. For a free consultation please contact us today.

We know what it’s like to run a business and we know your time is valuable. We can:

  • learn about your business
  • give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • provide free advice on your approach to IT security and other IT solutions

Creative Ways to Boost Employee Morale While Working from Home

As we approach our 4th month in quarantine, much of the American workforce is still working from home. We wanted to share some easy ideas and accessible tools for boosting team morale and maintaining well-being while telecommuting. We hope these ideas give you some inspiration! For additional resources on managing a remote team, check out our free guidebook, Pivoting your Business to a Remote Work from Home Strategy during COVID-19.

Open up the Conversation

Everyone keeps talking about “the new normal.” What does the new normal look like in your organization? Now that you and your team have several months of experience in this arena, it is a great time to have a check-in meeting. It’s a good time to ask, “How are you?… How are you really?” Ask your team for their experience and insight on the unique challenges of working from home. This communicates that you care about them and can also uncover new innovations that you can apply. It may also be a chance for the team to bond and laugh over the challenges of too much “family time,” challenging pets as coworkers, and methods for managing virtual meeting fatigue. 

Now may also be a good time to update your organization’s remote work policies. Be sure to gather team insights on:

  • Accountability
  • Availability
  • Productivity
  • Security
  • Business Processes

Celebrating birthdays to boost morale during COVID-19

Do a Company Culture Check-In

The biggest fear that organization leaders have when teams transition to remote work is that company culture will suffer. How is your company culture holding up? 

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are 3 kinds of distance in remote collaboration: physical (place and time), operational (team size, bandwidth, and skill levels), and affinity (values, trust, and interdependency). The key to maintaining company culture is reducing the affinity distance.

Some ideas to get started:

  • Get face-to-face: Rather than email, text message, or voice calls, use video calls as much as possible. This will help you and your team build upon and maintain existing rapport.
  • You can never be too clear: Don’t assume that others understand your cues and shorthand. Spend the time to communicate with the intention of being ultra-clear, no matter the medium.
  • Create digital rituals: It is still important to “get together,” even if it’s a video chat, to bask in wins and successes, share a bit about team members’ lives outside of work, and celebrate important events.

Laugh Together

The health benefits of laughter are widely recognized and well-known. The Mayo Clinic tells us that laughter can enhance your intake of oxygen-rich air, increase endorphins in the brain, release dopamine, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension. 

Want to incorporate a little more humor into your management style but comedy is not your thing? Don’t worry. Research shows that, of all the things people laugh at, 80% is not really that funny. To maximize the effect, be sure to include the whole group because according to a University of Maryland study, we are 30x more likely to laugh with other people than when we are alone. 

Try to allow a little time in all of your virtual meetings and interactions for some humor to lighten the mood. Schedule it in, whenever possible. 

Users of Microsoft Teams can bring creative energy and sense of humor to group chats and one-on-one messages with emojis, GIFs and stickers for every occasion. These extras help to establish the tone and friendly intent in the absence of body language, facial expression, and the other benefits of in-person communication.

Keep Your Technology Running Smoothly

We hope that you now have some new ideas for boosting employee morale while working from home. Are you looking for more support with your information technology? We help our customers attain high productivity levels for their teams, improve data security, implement reliable solutions that can scale, all while keeping costs under control.

Our approach to delivering the best possible IT service is centered on you.  For a free consultation and technology assessment, please contact us today.

We know what it’s like to run a business and we know your time is valuable. We can:

  • learn about your business
  • give you some ideas on what improvements you can make right away
  • provide free advice on your approach to IT and remote work solutions

And if you’d like, we can show you where and how we can help.  Call (303)-410-2845 or email us at info@xlingshot.com.

6 IT Projects to Tackle While Quarantined at Home

It’s spring cleaning time and since you’re sheltering in place, there is no better time than now to get your digital house in order. We have come up with 6 easy at-home IT Projects that will increase your security, organization, and quality of life.

1. Update WiFi Passwords

Updating Your Passwords - Xlingshot

You’ve got your home WiFi all set up.  You’ve connected your Alexa, your Nest thermostat, and your Ring doorbell and everything works great. Then your lazy brother-in-law comes and crashes on your couch and mooches off your Internet.  He’s got your home WiFi password and passes it on to all of his friends.  Now they’re on your network, playing online poker and emailing Nigerian princes, and they have access to all of your devices and home.  

Changing your passwords is probably the easiest way to keep your network protected. 

Maybe this isn’t your exact situation, per se, but it’s still a good idea to practice WiFi security and change your home WiFi network password, every once in a while. The first time you do this it will be pretty annoying. Changing your password will break the wifi for your Alexa, TVs, Gaming Systems, and other home devices. To avoid this hassle in the future, set up a second network just for devices. Alternatively, you can create a guest network where the password can be changed frequently.

Maybe you’re not worried about security, but what about bandwidth? By updating your WiFi password, you can ditch web squatters whose Tiger King binges are slowing down your connection. You can also reward your kids with the wifi password when they finish special COVID-19 chores.

Not sure where to start? Here’s the step-by-step process with pictures.

2. Organize Your Digital Files and Photo Library

Decluttering you office - Xlingshot

How long have you been thinking about organizing your thousands of photos and other digital files? What happens if your accounts are hacked, your phone falls in the toilet, or some other disaster happens that could wipe out your digital files? 

Now is a great time to start organizing and protecting your files, but the task may still seem daunting. Fear not, you can start your digital file organization from the couch with the photo gallery apps on your phone. For iPhone users, the Photos app has lots of options for organizing and finding your photos. Android users have similar options for managing digital photos

Once you’ve dipped a toe in the water, you may want to get fancy. There are lots of free and paid apps that can help you manage your photos and digital files. 

What is the best practice for digital organization? Who better to turn to than librarians? The Public Library Association recommends the following process for personal archiving:

  1. Identify the files
  2. Decide which files are important
  3. Organize the files
  4. Make copies and store them in different places 

Once you get started with a digital file organization, your momentum will snowball. Eventually, proper file organization, consistent naming conventions, tagging, labeling, and file backup will become easy habits that you don’t even have to think about.

3. Clear out old cables and obsolete devices

Clear out old cables and obsolete devices - Xlingshot

Everyone has that tangle of cords, cables and chargers for devices that they haven’t seen in years and probably don’t even own anymore. When it comes to the wire rat nest, there are two schools of thought. You have your boy scouts and girl scouts who think, “I’ll need one of these some day.” And you have your ostriches, who put their heads in the sand, reasoning “If I don’t think about them they’ll go away.” 

Whether you’re a scout or an ostrich, you’ll be glad when you have sorted and organized the mess. If you’re an advanced Eagle Scout, you may have already sorted your collection, so now is a good time to cull through and remove the VGA cables, Apple 30 pin chargers, and other obsolete accessories. 

Not sure where to start? Here is a quick keep/recycle list, for easy reference:

The Probably-Want-to-Keep List:

  • 2-prong and 3-prong power cords
  • 3.5 mm auxiliary
  • SATA cables
  • mini-USB
  • micro-USB
  • USB 3 Micro-B
  • Thunderbolt Port
  • Display Port

The “Probably-Safe-to-Recycle” List:

  • Coaxial Cable
  • S-Video
  • RCA/Composite
  • VGA
  • DVI (Digital Virtual Interface)
  • Apple 30 pin charger

If you need help identifying what’s what, check out this exhaustive guide of computer cables or this simple visual guide to computer cables and connectors

Once you have identified what you’re going to recycle, there are lots of places where you can donate or drop off your stuff. Colorado.gov has listed some of your local options here.

4. Clean that keyboard

Cleaning your keyword - Xlingshot

Not to gross you out or anything, but, your keyboard may have 400x more bacteria than a toilet seat. Here are 4 easy steps to clean your keyboard, you can do this for your mouse too!

  1. Shut down and unplug your computer.
  2. Gently shake your keyboard out while it is upside down to empty out crumbs and other debris. You can use a can of compressed air for this, as well. 
  3. Using a damp (not wet) Q-tip, clean in-between the keys. You can use isopropyl alcohol for this.
  4. Dampen a lint-free cloth with your favorite all-purpose cleaner or a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water for the final wipe-down.

5. Unsubscribe from SPAM

Reduce Your Spam - Xlingshot

Spam. We all get it. We all hate it. Yet – oddly – the tendency is to ignore the spam rather than dealing with it. Give yourself the gift of a manageable inbox and take some time to click unsubscribe.

The CAN-SPAM Act requires that senders of commercial emails “must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt-out of getting an email from you in the future” 

Be aware, however, that some Unsubscribe links at shady companies will use your “unsubscribe” response to simply confirm that you’re a real person. In cases such as these, you might be better off using a spam filter to block the content rather than confirming that you’re getting their emails by clicking Unsubscribe.

6. Simplify your social media

Simplify Your Social Media - Xlingshot

Social media has opened up a lot of conversations and opportunities, not to mention a wealth of funny memes and videos of animals being adorable. On the flip side, as we all know, social media can leave you feeling worse than before you logged in. 

Why not take some time to curate your social media experience? Unfollow companies, groups, and people that create stress, chaos and white noise in your life. Once the mess is cleared away, the cream will rise to the top. Here’s a to-do list to get you started on your journey to a better social media experience:

  1. List all of your social media accounts- LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  2. Identify your goals for each channel. Are you trying to make business contacts? Are you wanting to stay in touch with friends? Do you want to find recipes and laugh at silly videos? Are you following industry news and trends? Each channel offers differing possibilities and if you are approaching all social media with the same goals for each, you’re doing it wrong. 
  3. Weed out the connections, groups, subscriptions, follows, and likes that do not specifically serve the goals for that channel. (Alternatively, follow the KonMari trend and ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” If the answer is no, you must unfollow!)
  4. Consider setting daily social media time limits for yourself.

 

None of these projects are that challenging, it’s just finding the time to do it. Since we all have more free time on our hands due to sheltering in place, now is a great time to start. Choose the project you like most and see where the momentum takes you. Even a little progress can make a big difference.

Whether you take a stab at these projects or not, we would love to hear what you think!